A’s bullpen loses another one


The A’s nearly broke their streak.

After losing nine consecutive games to American League West teams, Oakland decided to make an effort to turn the streak in another direction.

Blown Sonny Gray starts.

A’s starter Sonny Gray (ND, 12-5, 2.10 ERA) wasn’t lights out, but received the run support other pitchers on Oakland’s roster haven’t.

Gray allowed three runs, all on homers to Logan Forsythe, Asdrubal Cabrera and John Jaso. He got four runs from his own club, so it wasn’t a big deal.

Until Cabrera doubled off reliever Pat Venditte, scoring Forsythe and Tim Beckham, who came in the game as a pinch runner for first baseman Daniel Nava.

The Rays took a 5-4 lead and their bullpen kept it safe.

They did what relievers do when they play for winning teams. They recorded three consecutive outs.

The A’s have had a problem doing it for the better part of the year. Oakland’s bullpen has helped remind fans of just how difficult it is to pitch to big league hitters, and maybe also reminded general manager Billy Beane of how much of a difference it can make.

The A’s came over from Kansas City nearly half a century ago, after being scandalized and made the laughingstock of baseball for a period.

They had been rumored to be in cahoots with the Yankees at the time, which has since been verified, the A’s really were the Yankees farm system.

When Charlie Finley bought the team in 1960, he tried desperately to move the A’s out of Kansas City. After the Raiders moved into the Oakland Coliseum, the A’s followed suit.

The A’s won just as much as the Raiders during that period, too, even more considering the three consecutive titles.

But the days of Finley and the Swingin’ A’s have been over for some time. And the A’s bullpen has been just as bad as the bullpen from when Finley bought the club.

It’s the product of players being dealt, players not being retained.

That’s not just saying that the bullpen would be better — especially since we know it would be, Luke Gregerson is playing a premium role for a contender in Houston and Pat Neshek is too.

The A’s have let players walk away too many times. And this is the result. The Coliseum that helped Finley move out of Kansas City, and into a new era, can’t even fill the stands on a night including Star Wars and fireworks.

Sure, the A’s called it a sellout. It was, I’m sure. But thousands of fans decided to spend their August evening doing something else after dropping a few greenbacks to see a good show.

This is where one can try to get creative and spur some sort of Star Wars reference. But Oakland’s bullpen just makes it difficult.

The A’s bullpen took the fun out of Star Wars Saturday night. That’s tough to do.

What’s more, while there are plenty of reasons to believe the A’s will improve in the near future, the biggest question mark, the largest impediment, is the fact that there’s no reason to predict improvement in the bullpen.

Like the Death Star, an X Wing and a young kid with an aggressive attitude and panache. Unfortunately, though, this doesn’t end the same way.

The kid dies. He’s killed by Vader, and then misery prevails. Oakland’s bullpen is Vader in this version.

What’s probably worse for the A’s, they just don’t win on fireworks night. Oakland has been winless in every single fireworks game of the season.

Super hero fireworks ended in a loss that the pen owns. Independence Day fireworks ended in a bad loss. A bad game.

And Star Wars fireworks included Vader’s theme music during the show. Not the rebel theme song, despite the best pyrotechnic display of the season, without a close challenger.

If the A’s played better defense, at third base and in the bullpen specifically, there’s a chance they’d be a contender. A totally legitimate shot.

Marcus Semien caught heat for several mistakes this season, and rightfully so. Brett Lawrie, though, after home town calls to the tenth power, leads baseball in errors committed at third.

He commits what could be called an error at least once per game.

Even on offense, Saturday included a double by Lawrie after a throw to Forsythe was bobbled and Lawrie was only halfway to second when the ball was fumbled.

But what’s really the most consistent thing, though Lawrie’s mistakes are pretty close, is the bullpen’s ability to blow leads. It doesn’t matter now, the A’s are in last place and it’s the end of August.

But it will matter after October. When free agency begins and the A’s, ideally, finish their churn which started last offseason.

The league leaders in bullpen losses need to figure it out. Because they did have the team ready to compete, though maybe not all the way as they hoped, and subtle changes could make all the difference.

But the not so subtle change is down the left field line.

Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Athletics.

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