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A’s sunk in 21st one-run loss of 2015

It’s no surprise: Casino odds don’t favor the A’s in close ballgames.

As Oakland suited up against the Mariners Sunday, though, the opposite was true. Perhaps it was a simple oddsmaker’s trap, because the A’s lost another one-run ballgame, 2-1, falling to 6-21 in such games, even while avoiding any fielding errors.

Oakland got to Seattle starter Mike Montgomery (W, 4-2, 1.62 ERA) in the third, breaking his streak of 20 scoreless innings when Sam Fuld whacked a home run to left field.

The A’s, though, on the back of Chris Bassitt (L, 0-2, 2.95 ERA), couldn’t maintain the lead. Again.

Outfielder Seth Smith connected sent a breaking pitch to left field, with a full count and two down. Runners at second and third scored easily; Robinson Cano had been hit by a pitch earlier on, and Cruz doubled on the next at bat, scoring Seattle’s two runs.

Bassitt’s pitch wasn’t terrible. It was low and a little outside of the zone. But the left-handed Smith liked it enough to chip it, and the ball might have been the best pitch to hit of any in the at-bat.

Which is how well Bassitt threw the ball. He said:

“Overall, pretty good. One pitch got me. … Cano, 1-2, curveball. Hit him, can’t really do. And then Cruz, hit a ball that I threw exactly where I wanted to throw. And he just beat me to it.”

The pitch to Smith was nothing more than a hitter doing what major league hitters do sometimes. Bassitt received some much earned praise from Manager Bob Melvin:

“He pitched great. He’s done exactly what we’ve asked him to do … He’s throwing the ball over the plate. He’s throwing strikes. He did well. Gives up two runs, and a lot of times, you’re in a good position if you only give up two runs.”

Reliever Fernando Rodriguez added some praise for the young starter:

“Great job. He kept everybody off-balance. Helped me with his pitches, they’re electric. When he’s around the zone, it makes our job a lot easier.”

Rodriguez came in and pitched the seventh and eighth inning, also recording the first out of the ninth. He didn’t allow a single baserunner while recording four strikeouts.

Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay

Oakland’s pitching for the day, from the starter to the fourth man to take the mound, was excellent. But in a day where a win would have brought them one step closer to relevance, the offense couldn’t do what it needed to do.

Oakland is now nine games below .500 and six games back in the American League Wild Card race — dead last.

Other than Billy Burns extending a new hitting streak to three games, little positive can be said of the A’s offense. Bob Melvin disagrees, pointing to some overall numbers that are elusive, even when searching for them.

He has a point on run differential, the A’s posting a plus-49, which is seventh in all of baseball. Except a lot of those positive numbers come in blowout wins, and the negatives come on close losses.

It’s true, the A’s on Sunday were facing one of the best rookie arms in baseball right now. Possibly the best. But their best certainly wasn’t on display one day after taking a win over Felix Hernandez one night prior.

The A’s fought back; resiliency being the normal word used after close losses, for one reason or another.

Josh Reddick, on a two-out at-bat with an even 2-2 count, hit a corkscrew grounder that bounced off the top of shortstop Brad Miller‘s glove, reaching base with a hit.

Ike Davis pinch hit for Brett Lawrie, with Oakland playing the matchups versus right-handed closer Fernando Rodney. Davis worked a full countand took ball four, a check-swing that was checked in the nick of time.

Mark Canha, though, on an 0-2 count, grounded to third base and was thrown out at first.

The final half-inning could replace every one of the season for Oakland, and only the keenest of eyes would notice. Runners in scoring position, and no dice, just two more stranded in a game where a base hit could win it.

Oakland has just one walkoff win in a 2015 just past the halfway point. Melvin won’t throw anybody under the bus, and that’s generally his forte.

But the way things have gone, he really doesn’t have to. Only one everyday starter has an OPS over .800, catcher Stephen Vogt, while Josh Reddick, who normally sits versus lefty pitching, is just a hair over at .808.

Defense seemed to get better for about a week, until falling back into the spiral it has been in all season. The only difference is different players accumulating errors.

One positive — when the notion that a sell-off is imminent — is the success of Oakland’s young starters, Kendall Graveman, Jesse Hahn, and Bassitt, are performing exceptionally well.

The veterans, though, particularly those on short contracts or who appear expendable, are not doing enough. The A’s are 38-47, and seeing less total improvement by the day.

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