A’s bullpen squanders lead against White Sox

Friday turned out to be a good night for Oakland sports. Almost.

The A’s bullpen allowed five crucial runs late in Friday night’s game, blowing a strong performance from Oakland’s starter Jesse Hahn in a 7-6 loss to the Chicago White Sox Friday night.

With a 6-2 Oakland advantage in the seventh, it looked like a sure win. Even the A’s bullpen, which has been the worst in baseball this season, couldn’t blow four runs in only three innings.

Except that’s what happened. Outfielder Melky Cabrera singled to left, scoring catcher Geovany Soto. Then Cabrera and Adam Eaton scored when designated hitter Adam LaRoche reached second base with a blast to deep center.

Still trailing 6-5, Chicago didn’t let off the gas.

Right fielder Avisail Garcia doubled, scoring LaRoche and first baseman Jose Abreu, who was hit in the side by a Hahn fastball.

Francisco Rodriguez was charged with two runs, Fernando Abad with one, but the total scored put the White Sox over the top.

Photos by Jeffery Bennett/SFBay

The A’s got the lead with a big fourth inning, a home run from catcher Josh Phegley along with contributions from Eric Sogard, Billy Burns, Coco Crisp and others. They finished the fifth frame with five runs, and six runs at the end of six.

But Chicago’s late surge was just enough. Manager Bob Melvin said:

“It’s tough. … It seems like we’ve had quite a few of these, where an inch one way or another, a foot one way or another. One good at bat, one good play, and we end up winning the game. And we always end up losing it.”

The A’s fall to 13-24 on the season, 10-and-1/2 games behind the Astros in the AL West, and are now the worst team in baseball.

There’s almost no coming back from the deficit, since the A’s would likely need to win over 70 percent of the remaining games to have a shot at the wild card.

A pipe dream, the way the season has gone.

Perhaps the game’s final play summed up the A’s season thus far.

Stephen Vogt pinch-hit for Sogard, and was issued a free pass by reliever Zach Duke. Crisp blasted a pitch thrown low and in to deep right center, and Vogt was given the go-ahead to score.

Then he wasn’t.

At the final moment, third base coach Mike Gallego held up the stop sign, telling Vogt to put on the brakes and hurry back to third.

The throw home was cut off by Duke, who threw to third baseman Conor Gillaspie, who threw to Soto.

It was one of the quickest pickles that could come during the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and two runners in scoring position.

Perhaps the perfect analogy for the A’s season was right there, in front of nearly empty stands that were well-filled during the seventh inning.

And Gallego, who was making up for former mistakes involving a lack of aggressive play with the game on the line in the ninth inning, knows it. Melvin too.

The skipper said:

“Looking at it, I’m not sure anybody scores on that ball. It kicks right off the wall to (Eaton) right away, and I think originally Gallego is trying to be as aggressive as he can, trying to score the winning run.”

Melvin added:

“He had to hold him up at the last minute, and that’s where the confusion was.”

Melvin could have sent in a pinch runner for Vogt, with Max Muncy being the primary option, but chose to extend Vogt his faith.

And to be fair, Vogt was just following the lead of his coach. Doing what he’s taught to do.

But like the season, which even Shakespeare or George Orwell would read and call fiction, the ending was not fictitious. Neither is the record, or the odds that Oakland make the playoffs in 2015.

Notes

The A’s have committed an error in each of the last 12 games. They have 1-7 against left-handed starters, and finally snapped a 0-21 hitless streak with runners in scoring position on Friday. … Brett Lawrie, who was part of the Josh Donaldson trade, is 5-for-27 (.185) over his last seven games. He is batting .261 on the season, with a .634 OPS. … Oakland has won only two of their last 10 games and are 2-15 when the opposition scores first. They have also been without any walkoff magic this year, 0-18 when trailing after the eighth inning and only one win when trailing after the seventh inning.


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