The A’s had their best shot Tuesday night with Brett Lawrie at the dish, the bases loaded, and two outs.
Lawrie worked his way into a 3-1 count in the sixth inning, facing a pitcher who only throws 42 percent of his pitches in the zone, and the odds overwhelmingly in his favor should he choose to not swing the bat.
Instead, with the wind blowing in hard from left field to the backstop, Lawrie swung at a low breaking pitch from Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa, which dribbled into third baseman Nolan Arenado‘s glove and on to second for the third out of the inning.
While the A’s made a few mistakes in the game and were trailing by one run, Lawrie blew the best shot the A’s were going to get all night, and Oakland lost to Colorado 2-1.
The bases were loaded, and with large sample of pitchers both great and awful, we know that pitchers only throw into the zone half of the time.
But Lawrie, as the A’s have — or haven’t — done all season, failed to capitalize on a situation where the A’s could have at least tied the game, and extended their chances at taking a lead. Futile efforts in close games have been a big part of the 2015 season.
The play stymied a potential rally, instead ending an inning where the A’s may have won the game. Manager Bob Melvin said:
“It is (frustrating). When you have close games like that, low scoring games, there’s usually one inning where you have a great opportunity to actually get a big hit and break it open. We weren’t able to do it.”
The inning’s second out came just after outfielder Billy Burns stole third base. Stephen Vogt was at first, when Ben Zobrist hit into a fielder’s choice.
Burns, a natural burner with the instinct to run on contact and rely on his strengths, was caught in a run down that lasted longer than most. Vogt advanced to third and Zobrist to second, though, with Burns returning to third base safely.
The play was destined to be an out, but not Vogt, who is out by rule with two runners on the bag.
Another costly mistake came in the seventh inning, reliever Fernando Rodriguez issued a wild pitch runners at the corners, Wilin Rosario scoring the game’s decisive run on the play.
It was a frustrating blemish on an otherwise excellent night for Rodriguez, who pitched two innings and struck out five with two hits and no walks.
Frustrating too for A’s starter Chris Bassitt (L, 0-1, 2.87 ERA), who made a spot start with Sonny Gray hospitalized, the A’s terming his illness “flu like,” and allowing only one run through five innings.
Photos by Jeffery Bennett/SFBay
Bassitt cruised along, and didn’t allow much until his final inning. In fact, it took the Rockies until the fourth inning to even get a hit off the 26-year-old righty.
He mixed his speeds up, though he was critical of a breaking pitch to outfielder Charlie Blackmon, which was hit to right for the game’s first run, but hasn’t felt better in a long time, he says:
“What I’m working on is pounding the zone with my fastball low, and everything else kind of works from there. Just continue that and hope for the best.”
Tuesday was Bassitt’s first start with the A’s, though he’s pitched 10-2/3 innings of relief, allowing four earned runs. He found out he would be coming to Oakland at 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, and was on a flight by 5:30 a.m.
The lack of sleep didn’t help, but it may not have hurt either. He prepared for the game on short notice, being used to throwing side sessions in between starts, but considering the first three innings, was remarkable in his first A’s start.
It was Oakland’s only run of the game, though with some discipline at the plate from Lawrie, may have become the equalizer.
Perhaps some of the mishaps, and the loss, will overshadow what Bassitt’s start means for the club long-term. Known for his movement, Bassitt was able to hit 97 mph, and is showing the tools of a player who could soon make the A’s rotation more than formidable, downright feared, even without Jesse Chavez or Scott Kazmir.
But there’s also another silver lining: the A’s bullpen has been awful this season, the league’s worst by ERA, and Bassitt can earn a role there while the club works out trades involving pitchers they’re expected to make.
Bassitt, along with Kendall Graveman and Gray, could become a terrific 1-2-3 front line for Oakland, and Bassitt has been showing that down in Nashville.
His 3.41 ERA in June for the Sounds isn’t stellar, but it’s certainly worthy. And he’s a guy to watch closely, particularly with trade season looming.
It’s becoming more an more evident with each passing day that the trade deadline is coming up, with roughly 15 major league scouts in attendance for the night’s game. The A’s are expected to move pitchers Scott Kazmir and Tyler Clippard, possibly Jesse Chavez too, along with Zobrist and catcher Stephen Vogt.
The loss takes Oakland 10 games below .500, 35-45, with one more game remaining in the three-game series hosting Colorado.
Sonny Gray remained in the hospital by the time Tuesday’s game ended, and while the team is saying he’s in with flu like symptoms, it’s very rare for even high-caliber athletes to remain in care for one night, let alone two. The A’s are hoping for an update Wednesday morning.