John Axford’s Blown Save and Loss

May the Fourth has become Star Wars Day, so I did wear a red Star Wars shirt during the day.  I tried not to think of Donald Trump and enjoy a day off from work.  I did some grocery shopping and took the bus out to the Fruitvale BART station.  I got to my seat at the Coliseum and dozed off for a while.  The usher came by to verify that I wasn’t dead.  I guess the afternoon game following the night game has become too tiring for me.  I don’t know how the players can get through such a schedule.  The weather reporters had warned us of the possibility of rain, but it really didn’t seem that it was going to happen.  Stomper was dressed as Yoda, and as he was making his way round the field, the big-headed Dennis Eckersley threw a T-shirt my way, and I grabbed it.  It was tightly wrapped into a cylinder shape, and I saw that the front was an advertisement for Ballpark Poppers.  Sean Manaea was the starting pitcher for the A’s.  He started off well enough, getting the first six Mariners batters out.  The A’s got a single from Billy Burns and a double from Josh Reddick in the first inning, but they didn’t score because Jed Lowrie lined into a double play.  The team did nothing in the second inning.  Manaea allowed a single to start the third inning, and a Lowrie error got him into some trouble, but Manaea got the next three batters out.  After we heard “Start Me Up” during the inning break, Marcus Semien started the scoring in the game with a home run with one out.  Manaea managed to shut down the Mariners in the next inning, although he gave up a single and a walk, and a wild pitch moved the runners.  The A’s scored in the bottom of the inning when Reddick and Khris Davis singled, and Stephen Vogt and Billy Butler moved the runners with ground outs.  The score was 2-0.  Manaea got the first two batters out in the fifth inning, but then proceeded to allow five consecutive hits, the fourth of which was one of the most impressive home runs I’ve ever seen at the Coliseum, a shot that reached the seats on the second level above the luxury suites behind the centerfield wall.  I’ve seen only one other home run reach those sections.  Manaea struck out the next batter to end the inning, and it was the end of his afternoon, too.  He had thrown 75 pitches in five innings, and he was leaving behind in the score, 4-2.  In the bottom of the inning, Yonder Alonso and Marcus Semien both singled, bringing up Billy Burns attempting to bunt.  He did, but Felix Hernandez hesitated with a glance at third base, giving Burns the time to make it safely to first base.  Lowrie singled to bring in one run.  Reddick hit a ball back to Hernandez, who fumbled the ball, allowing the tying run to score.  Davis hit a ball to the left side of the infield, but the third baseman couldn’t come up with it for an error and two more runs scored.  The Mariners made a pitching change.  Vogt lined out to first, and Butler and Chris Coghlan both singled, both driving in one run.  There was still only one out with the opportunity for more runs, but Alonso grounded out and Semien flied out to right.  Unfortunately, the A’s offense got cold, making twelve consecutive outs after that Coghlan hit.  In the sixth inning, Ryan Dull came into the game and struck out the first batter, but then gave up a home run on the next pitch.  After a single, a stolen base, a throwing error, and a fly ball, suddenly the score was 8-6.  Dull gave up a double, and then Bob Melvin brought in Sean Doolittle, who got the last out with a line drive to left field.  In the Big Head race, Dennis Eckersley managed to win for only the 13th time.  The fan next to me said goodbye to me, telling me he would probably see me again in two weeks.  He was probably still feeling good that this was a game was a win for the home team.  Doolittle walked the first batter of the seventh inning, which was a bad sign.  He got one out on a force play, but then threw a wild pitch and gave up a single for one more run, making the score 8-7.  It feels like I’ve seen the A’s pitchers throw a lot of wild pitches this season.  John Axford replaced Doolittle and got to a 3-2 count on the next batter before getting a 1-3 out.  Axford got to a 3-1 count to his second batter when he gave up a home run, making the score 9-8 in favor of the Mariners.  The fans couldn’t believe what they were seeing.  The inning finally ended with a ground ball to third.  The problem when the top of the seventh inning is a bad one for the home team is that the seventh inning stretch doesn’t feel like a time to celebrate.  We heard Stevie Wonder’s “Uptight.”  Axford continued to pitch, getting through the top of the eighth inning without allowing any more runs, although he gave up two singles with two outs.  The A’s still weren’t doing anything on offense, and they were running out of outs.  Ryan Madson came in to pitch the top of the ninth inning.  He allowed a single and a double to the first two batters.  With the next batter who hit home runs his previous two times up, Madson intentionally walked him after getting to a 3-0 count.  With the score threatening to get out of reach, Madson got a strikeout, a 6-2 out at the plate, and a fly ball to center to keep the Mariners from scoring.  We saw the John Belushi Animal House video clip, but we had a bad feeling about the bottom of the ninth.  Billy Burns grounded out to the shortstop.  Lowrie walked on a 3-2 pitch, and Tyler Ladendorf came in as a pinch-runner.  Reddick had two hits on the day, but he hit into a force play for the second out.  It came down to Khris Davis, but he couldn’t come up with the hit, hitting a ball to second for the last out of the game.  It was another discouraging loss, and the A’s had the worst home record in the American League.  It made me feel terrible that I took the day off from work to witness such a loss.  What I got out of the trip was a bit of pre-game sleep and a shirt.  All the A’s pitchers except Madson gave up at least one run, and Madson struggled mightily to get out of his inning.  It was certainly a waste of a lot of runs scored against Felix Hernandez.  The game started at 12:37 with a game time temperature of 62 degrees, and it ended at 3:47.  Instead of heading straight home, I went over to Target to buy a bath rug, a storage box, and a pillow case.  I went to the laundromat to get my socks and jeans clean, and then I bought a beef burrito and sat down to watch “Portlandia” to end my day.  Some of the people who died on May 5 include Napoleon Bonaparte (1821), Bret Harte (1902), Frank Tashlin (1972), Cal Tjader (1982), and Dana Wynter (2011).  Today is a birthday for Adele (28), Brian Williams (57), John Rhys-Davies (72), and Michael Murphy (78).  According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for May 5, “Union Pacific,” directed by Cecil B. DeMille and starring Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrea, was released in 1939.  In 1980, “America’s Top 10,” hosted by Casey Kasem, made its debut.  In 1995, “French Kiss,” directed by Lawrence Kasdan and starring Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline, was released.  In 2000, Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton were married in Las Vegas.

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