Sandoval blast buries A’s in extra innings

Monday night’s game didn’t end in nine innings, and the A’s couldn’t muster enough once more.

Oakland traded runs with the Red Sox all night before Angel Castro gave up the game-winning home run to Pablo Sandoval in the 11th inning, barely escaping the clutch of Josh Reddick‘s glove to drive home the final nail in Oakland’s 5-4 loss.

Scott Kazmir started for the A’s, allowing two runs on four hits and four walks, and lasting six innings. He received three runs of support, but the A’s bullpen did what they’ve been doing too often lately — give away the lead.

Designated hitter Billy Butler knocked in outfielder Billy Burns in the third inning, and shortstop Marcus Semien hit into a double play that scored pinch runner Max Muncy in the fourth, and Butler came around on a Stephen Vogt single in the fifth.

But reliever Evan Scribner took over for Kazmir after the sixth inning, and recorded only two outs while surrendering two runs on three hits.

Tyler Clippard pitched two scoreless innings before the A’s brought in Castro for the 11th, just a few days after being called up from Triple-A Nashville.

Castro (L, 0-1, 5.40 ERA) made a youngster’s mistake, pitching Sandoval in the zone when he was ahead in the count. Sandoval took full advantage with his only hit of the night, the game-winner.

Oakland’s bullpen is sporting a dreadful 12.63 ERA this season, excluding Jesse Chavez, who has served as a starter more often than reliever. Monday was the A’s 11th bullpen loss of the year.

It’s become quite clear that the A’s pitching staff is nowhere near as good as some thought they were.

Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay

Catcher Stephen Vogt said:

“It’s perpetual frustration. … It’s not like we’re out there, and we’re a bad team. They just scored one more run than we did.”

The Oakland pitching staff been a relative strength in past seasons, and when the A’s hitting was well above league average. Those days appear to be over, at least for the time being.

Kazmir said:

“We just have to be positive. We can’t make it bigger than it is.”

What it actually is, though, is uglier than even the holdovers from last season seem to remember. The A’s haven’t risen to a true winning record dating back to last July, and this season is worse than some of the initial numbers might signal.

The A’s winning percentage, .353 after Monday’s loss, looks more like a good batting average. And certainly not Oakland’s batting average.

Over the current six-game losing streak, the A’s are hitting .221 and have drawn only 13 walks. Their 12-22 record signals their worst start since 1994, which ultimately became a losing season.

Oakland’s freefall has some positives: Shortstop Marcus Semien, who was acquired for pitcher Jeff Samardzija over the winter, is playing at an All-Star level.

Semien went 0-for-6 Monday, but is batting .307 on the season, with five home runs and six stolen bases, 18 runs and 14 RBI.

Butler, too, has hit safely in six of the last eight games after a multi-game hitless streak stretching from late April to early May. He went 3-for-6 Monday evening, with one run and one RBI.

But for whatever reason, the good just can’t come for everyone at the same time. And the good that is coming just isn’t good enough.

They’re trying to stay positive, pointing out the things that worked, and leaving out the negative. Vogt, who’s become a leader on a very young roster, won’t necessarily call out any one aspect of Oakland’s game.

Melvin hasn’t quite stayed the same course, but he is having trouble putting his nose to it. He said:

“It’s the same story here, it’s getting tough to explain. It seems like we’ve played this game so many times this year. It’s a little surreal.”

Melvin is right. The A’s lost their sixth extra-inning game, with no wins in any game lasting more than nine innings. And the A’s don’t have much for answers.

Notes

Edward Mujica made his A’s debut, pitching a scoreless eighth inning after being acquired from the Red Sox over the weekend. … First baseman Ike Davis left the game in the fourth inning with a strained left quad, Melvin saying that it’s not likely Davis will need to go on the disabled list. … Kazmir threw 111 pitches Monday night, 68 for strikes, but only struck out three batters while walking four. … Oakland is 4-for-10 at home this season, after scorning their fan base with a number of trades involving fan favorites. … The A’s have won only two of their last 10 games, and have lost more than five straight for only the second time in four years.


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