In a response to Spinal Tap’s release, “Shark Sandwich”, a critic gave the band a two word review. The Swingin’ A’s code of conduct forbids me from quoting said review but anyone familiar with it may apply it to the series finale between the Oakland Athletics and the Angels as Scott Kazmir melted into a puddle of insecurity in front of a national audience and 36,000 fans.
Kazmir opened the game with a quick, six pitch, one-two-three inning and everyone in the park huddled up to their new unicornbackpack and braced themselves for a stellar start. That was until the second inning when Kazmir gave up three runs to the Angels but, still, fans were confident that even a slumping A’s team could come up with three runs. Then the third inning came and Kazmir gave the A’s offense two more runs to overcome and managed to stay in the game long enough to tack on two more in the fourth. When you couple that with two earned runs by Jesse Chavez, who came in as a potential long reliever for Kazmir in the fourth, A’s pitchers allowed the Angels to have a 9-0 lead going in to the seventh inning.
It was in that magical seventh inning that the rally began and hope was restored among what remained of the 36,000 fans. Josh Reddick opened the inning with a single and was driven in by a home run off the bat of Alberto Callaspo. You read that right, Callaspo got his fourth home run of the year tonight and two batters later, Andy Parino sent one over the right field wall for his first of the year.
Anyone with a basic understanding of mathematics quickly realized that the A’s only needed a repeat of the seventh inning in the eighth and ninth to tie the game up but, with the exception of a Eric Sogard sac fly that brought in Derek Norris, it was not to be and the A’s dropped the final game of the series 9-4.
The good news that can be taken from this game is that with four runs, ten hits and no errors, the A’s did enough offensively to beat any team in the league under a more regular pitching outing by any of their starters. If Kazmir is on top of his game next weekend against the Angels, four runs should be plenty to win the game. Sadly, though, the Angels only needed three more hits to get five more runs so producing runs is still showing to be a struggle for Oakland.
Fans can also take solace that tonight’s lineup was missing Gentry, Donaldson, Jaso, and Lowrie, all of whom can add to the offense when healthy. Fans should also be happy that the A’s took two out of three and gained a game in the standings because, based on their playing prior to this series, it could have easily been zero out of three and down by five games. Today’s loss was brutal and heartbreaking and no fan wants to watch an excellent pitcher like Kazmir suffer on the mound but we must all remember that Kazmir is one of the best pitchers in the game this year and in his last 10 starts is 5-3 and Sunday was his first outing shorter than 5 innings in that same range.
While I do not worry about Kazmir or his ability to dominate on the mound, I am concerned with Brandon Moss who, in August, is hitting .158 with 0 home runs and only .179 since the all star break. His slump has gone on long enough, as I’m sure he’d readily agree, and he desperately needs a big hit to get his confidence up. More than Cespedes leaving, Moss’ dry spell may prove devastating to the A’s in these final weeks of the season.
The Athletics head to Houston for a three game set while the Angels head to Miami before meeting the A’s in Anaheim for a four game set next weekend. A lot can change between now and then.