It was a maddening game.
You load the bases with nobody out in the sixth inning against the other team’s number nine starter and the last reliever in its bullpen and a veteran righthander whose last nine appearances had been in eight losses, and a fourth pitcher in the frame is summoned after the previous two walked the only batter each would face.
You come away with only one run.
The next inning, after allowing the other team to tie the game on a walk, sacrifice bunt, sacrifice fly, and wild pitch, you load the bases yourself again, this time with one out, scoring on a throwing error but coming away with nothing more.
At that point, you’ve outhit the other guys, 10-3 (and among their three hits were an infield single and a .187/.287/.307-hitting backup catcher’s home run), but you have only a one-run lead.
You’re then gifted an out and a base when the other team decides to follow a leadoff double with a bunt attempt that’s botched by a journeyman who had executed exactly one sacrifice bunt since 2008 (and it came in AAA).
You still hang onto that one-run lead and would have maintained it had your pitcher not failed to beat the number nine hitter to the bag, which kept the inning alive and allowed the next hitter to shoot the sixth straight four-seamer he saw up the middle for a two-run single, bat-flipping and arm-gliding his way to first as the lead changed hands.
But hey, there’s still time. Leadoff walk to start the eighth, and you’re in business. Then, on the other team’s best reliever’s season-high 32nd pitch, you rocket a blast that has a shot to land in the bullpen, but the other team’s defensively beleaguered right fielder times things surprisingly right and leaves his feet and hauls it in and that’s not supposed to happen when it’s that right fielder.
Another chance in the ninth, with 4-5-6 due to hit. Two strikeouts, but after that a single to left, and then, with the tying run on base, perhaps your hottest hitter battles their closer for seven pitches.
That battle sucked.
Because if Seth Smith hadn’t watched the sixth pitch go by for ball three, running the count full with two outs, Josh Donaldson wouldn’t have been running with the next pitch, and if Josh Donaldson hadn’t been running with the next pitch, a loopy curve over the plate, he might have taken third on Smith’s dumped single to center, but he certainly wouldn’t have tried to score. And if defensive replacement Craig Gentry, basically playing on the warning track, hadn’t had the ball clank off his torso as he charged in to play the Smith single, Donaldson certainly doesn’t even think about what to do next as he approached third, and third base coach Mike Gallego probably doesn’t even need to tell Donaldson what to do, but the ball clanked off Craig Gentry’s torso and Josh Donaldson, running with the pitch since the count was 3-2 with two outs, decided what he was going to do, in spite of Mike Gallego giving him the stop sign to direct him to do the thing he didn’t do, and take a look at the replay and you’ll think to yourself that you’ve never seen a more despondent, detached-looking third base coach as the potential game-tying run or game-losing out raced by him heading toward the plate, and if you’ve ever read “Infinite Jest” you probably figured out by this point that I’m reading it right now and am inescapably in its clutches as I write maddening sentences like this one.
And Gentry makes a good throw and Elvis Andrus makes a brilliant throw and A.J. Pierzynski blocks the plate and swipes the tag across Josh Donaldson’s just-arriving, twisting front leg and if any of those things took a hundredth of a second longer or ended up an extra foot off target, then Oakland’s beloved former third base coach isn’t hollering and leaping out of the home team’s dugout like a school kid while his 36-year-old catcher who watched the game until the 7th and his 38-year-old closer who watched the game until the 9th holler and leap behind home plate as their teammates rush toward them and the rest of us holler and leap wherever we are when we see it all happen, perfectly.
A perfectly maddening day, if you’re an A’s fan.
It was a loss that felt like so many of Texas’s this season.
It was a loss that allowed the struggling Rangers to pull back within a game of the division lead, as close as they’ve been in nine days. A loss that permitted Texas to win consecutive games for the first time since June 9-10 and to win a series, after having dropped four series in a row.
The A’s hadn’t dropped consecutive series in more than a month. They have now, losing two of three games at home to Seattle despite beating elite righthander Hisashi Iwakuma, which sounds bad enough until you realize that Oakland came into Texas and beat Yu Darvish – but lost the three games started by Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm and Josh Lindblom . . . Rangers starters number seven, eight, and nine.
Nothing about that game or that series is going to chip away at Oakland’s swagger, but it sure feels like Texas got some of its back.
And it feels very good to dish out a heavy dose of maddening, and not be on the wrong end of it for once.