I’m gonna ask you to imagine that you’re an A’s fan for a few minutes.
(And it’s not meant as a humblebrag that there are probably three times as many of you reading this as there were in O.co Coliseum last night.)
You have the best record in the American League, and are playing at home against the team in the division you most need to beat.
You’ve already lost the series opener, even though you had their ace on the ropes that night.
You draw a Rangers rookie pitcher in this one, a college shortstop at a small school just three years ago who had five games of experience above Class A coming into 2014. Once you force him from what was his second big league start and get into the more vulnerable flank of the Texas pen, you first see a non-roster invite who hadn’t appeared in the big leagues since 2009 and didn’t pitch anywhere in 2013. And then a waiver claim. And then another waiver claim.
The Rangers’ hottest hitter leaves the game after the third inning with a back injury and is replaced by a kid who isn’t ready for the big leagues, leaving Texas having to go the final two-thirds of the game with Luis Sardinas, Donnie Murphy, Robinson Chirinos, Leonys Martin, Josh Wilson, and Michael Choice batting 5-6-7-8-9-1, with four of the six in roles they’re not ideally suited for, and there’s a handful of DFA’s and waiver claims in those bios, too.
You scratch out a couple runs in the fourth that you shouldn’t have gotten, when Wilson misplays a bounder that an eighth-grader can’t misplay.
You open the sixth with a double off the wall and a single to short left, and don’t score.
You find yourself in a spot in the ninth, when your closer (sporting a 1.69 ERA), entrusted with a one-run lead, allows a pinch-double to a hitter who was 0 for his last 8 with four strikeouts, but after two bunts, the second of which involved a botched sign and an easy out at the plate, you have the Rangers’ number nine hitter — who not only came into the game 1 for his last 11 but also had an easily calculable 0 for 18 split against right-handed pitchers for the season — down to his and his team’s final strike . . . .
. . . and he doubles on a ball that you, as an Oakland fan, believe Yoenis Cespedes had a reasonable opportunity to catch.
Then, facing the untested rookie that you traded for a 30-year-old backup outfielder in the winter because you didn’t think the untested rookie was quite ready to be meaningfully tested, your closer allows a single up the middle to turn what a minute earlier was a 4-3 lead that was a strike away from becoming a 4-3 win into a 5-4 deficit.
But you do have Ranger destroyer Coco Crisp (3 for 4 the night before and 1 for 3 in this one), Jed Lowrie, and the formidable Josh Donaldson due up, facing a fallback closer who had thrown a season-high 20 pitches the previous night and would be pitching on back-to-back nights for only the second time this season — after doing so only five times in 2013.
A quiet, 10-pitch ninth.
And another loss to Texas. A lost game, and a lost series. With a Sonny Gray-Martin Perez matchup on deck that, if it goes the Rangers’ way, will have the A’s in second place all of a sudden to a grossly decimated team that has now won four straight series.
As Scott Lucas pointed out on Twitter, 10 of the 17 players Texas used in the game last night weren’t on the 40-man roster in October.
And five of them weren’t on the 40 a month ago.
But back to you pretending you’re one of those A’s fans.
You’re the best team in the league. Playing at home. With a patient, savvy, opportunistic offense facing a kid who barely pitched in college and couldn’t even be described as battle-tested in AA.
Against what looks like a spring training “B” game lineup.
Kevin Kouzmanoff leaves the game early, after which Pedro Figueroa leaves the game early, a night after Shin-Soo Choo had left the game early, which is not to be confused with Oakland A’s baseball fans, who simply never show up.
A defense-first journeyman infielder gifts you two runs, as a result of which the two-time defending AL champs are staked to a lead in the fourth that holds up until there are two outs (one of which was gifted) and two strikes in the ninth inning against that defense-first journeyman infielder, the ninth-place hitter in a lineup in which he shouldn’t even be that, and the ball is in your reliable closer’s hand, the particular hand against which that defense-first journeyman infielder hadn’t hit safely all season coming into the game.
You’re a pitch away from evening the series up against the team right behind you in the standings, a team that’s more than just hanging in the race early on in spite of a ridiculous swarm of injuries that won’t encumber it forever.
Your closer doesn’t beat the defense-first journeyman infielder with two outs and two strikes, and your veteran left fielder isn’t able to make his glove the first thing that the ball hits.
The prospect you traded a few months ago then beats your closer himself, a few minutes after which the exact three hitters you want up in the bottom of the ninth each quickly gets beaten by the other team’s closer on the second night of an uncommon back-to-back, a veteran who is only their closer because the guy they wanted to seize that role failed to, not because of injury like so many of his teammates but instead because he just didn’t pitch well enough.
Still, their closer is a fallback with a lot more stature in the game than a bunch of the fill-in’s on that team who beat you Tuesday night, 5-4.
Man, what a brutal loss. Just brutal.