A's Current Record: 28-26
Last night's game roughly mirrored Tuesday night's game: A's jump out to early lead, A's get a lot of hits but can't tack on runs, A's give up lead, bullpen lets game get out of reach. Other than the inability to string their 12 hits together, there are two reasons why the A's lost this game; they managed to not walk once against Daisuke Matsuzaka and the bullpen was ineffective.
While there was certainly at least one (way, way, way, way) worse umpiring call yesterday, C.B. Bucknor put on the type of performance that earned him the title of worst umpire in 2003 and in 2006. Take a look at the called strike chart for Matsuzaka last night.
This is a bit of a mixed bag. Bucknor gave Dice-K a couple borderline pitches at the top of the zone, but also called two pitches that were clearly right in the zone balls. The red dot that is farthest left is the pitch Barton struck out on and was unhappy about in the fifth. On balance, this zone doesn't look too bad, a couple of missed calls both ways, with perhaps a bit of generosity on high strikes.
Take a look at the called strike chart for Ben Sheets, though.
Bucknor simply wasn't giving Sheets anything on the outside edge to righties; even pitches a good two or three inches over the plate were called balls. Sheets only walked one batter, but being squeezed on the corner probably forced him to pitch closer to the middle of the plate. I'm not accusing him of bias, as there's no motive for him to have been favoring the Red Sox, but his strike zone last night ended up hurting the A's.
The other factor that killed the A's was their bullpen, which has allowed the Red Sox to add runs late in both of the first two games of the series. I had assumed that they were worn out at the tail end of a 10 game east coast swing, but Bob Geren has done a good job spreading the innings around. The table below shows how many pitches the five main contributors of the A's pen has thrown each day since the roadtrip began.
As you can see, no reliever has pitched more than two days in a row, and each have gotten at least two days rest one or more times this trip. The travel and workload probably has taken some toll on the staff, but fatigue is likely not the reason for the bullpen's recent hiccups.
We'll see how the pen, and the rest of the team, holds up, as they don't have an off day until June 14. Although today's game caps off the long road trip, things don't get much easier when they return to Oakland. They start off with three against the Twins, then have four against the Angels.