The Oakland A’s have lost nine straight against the American League East.
Friday’s 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays became the latest in a stretch of performances where the A’s just couldn’t get it done.
Oakland starter Chris Bassitt (L, 1-5, 2.48 ERA) is used to that when he starts. In his eight starts this season, Bassitt has lasted more than five innings and allowed no more than three runs.
Yet he’s only won one game.
He allowed one versus the Rays, and fell one out shy of notching a full seven innings Friday, the Rays winning in the ninth inning and against Oakland’s bullpen.
Friday night was the same song and dance that has the A’s last in the American League and not far from last in all of baseball.
Only the Marlins, Reds, Phillies and Rockies trail Oakland, despite the best starting pitcher ERA in the league, still, which remains anchored by Sonny Gray.
Bassitt, too though, a dynamic young pitcher who has shown nothing but confidence and determination, and arguably the toughest self evaluator in the American League.
That play would, for the most part, decide the game. Because the A’s couldn’t hit Drew Smyly (W, 1-2, 3.42) if he was two inches away and painted neon green.
Smyly dominated A’s batters, recording 14 outs in the first four innings, only two more than the minimum. He started getting worked a little more in the fifth, and pulled with two down in the sixth, but Tampa’s bullpen kept the shutdown movement alive.
Rays reliever Brandon Gomes struck out two of the four batters he faced and didn’t allow a single baserunner.
Steven Geltz, too, didn’t allow a thing in the eighth inning, getting first baseman Mark Canha to go down swinging in the process.
But the A’s didn’t get enough.
Not enough behind Crisp’s potentially game winning single, not enough breaks favoring Oakland, not enough bullpen support.
Desmond Jennings saved the game for Tampa just a half inning before Crisp nearly won it for Oakland.
He hit a towering bomb into the left field bleachers, a blast that looked as though it might not stop going for at least the time it takes for a pitcher to get to the showers.
Tampa had enough Friday night, just enough at just the right times.
What’s a real bummer for Bassitt is the lack of run support he received is becoming so common that, even though there’s nothing more than tough luck, it’s hard to wonder if the A’s are hexed when he’s toeing the rubber.
There’s surely no curse — even if you believe in such things, and baseball is a superstitious sport — Bassitt has kept the A’s in ballgames that they wouldn’t be in at all.
He’s one major reason that A’s fans can legitimately imagine a bright 2016 season. Oakland has one of the best stables of young starting pitching in all of baseball, probably the best.
But their bullpen, despite some major improvements, hasn’t been the lights-out force that it has been over the past few seasons.
The A’s offense is picking up as well, but it’s difficult to consider them a solid unit moving forward. Which is why Joey Wendle should become the next young face quickly propelled into coliseum stardom soon.
Wendle opened the night with Nashville tied for the Pacific Coast League in hits for the A’s AAA affiliate. He finished the night with sole possession of the title.
Wendle can play a little bit of everything in the middle infield, and while power has never been his forte, he’s quietly put together one of the most impressive seasons for any A’s AAA affiliate.
Fans will get a chance to see him at the coliseum once roster expansion begins in September, along with a few others they’re already familiar with.
A silver lining to an otherwise awful season is that A’s fans can finally get a deeper glimpse into what general manager Billy Beane has tracked in over the last two seasons.
So while the end point is near for the 2015 Oakland A’s, with Bassitt comes more depth, development, and potential difference makers.
So the A’s can do more than enough.