A's Current Record: 34-38
One of the biggest factors in whether a team wins or loses is the performance of its starting pitcher. It really says a lot about how the A's are playing right now that Gio Gonzalez pitched so freaking well and the A's still lost. The title of this post isn't really an exaggeration; Gio was awesome and basically everything else the A's did was bad.
Gonzalez had arguably his most impressive start of the year, with his May 22 duel with Matt Cain being the other contender for that title. He pitched seven innings and struck out a season-high nine batters. He also walked only one. Almost as impressive was his ability to induce groundballs - and weak contact in general. The Reds managed just five flyballs and one line drive off of him. Unfortunately, a Cliff Pennington error to lead off the game led to the sole run that Gio gave up. When he's on -- and even sometimes when he's off -- Gio's stuff just looks extraordinarily hard to hit and that was certainly the case last night. Unfortunately, he was one of the few A's who was impressive last night.
As usual, the A's hitters were anemic. Despite striking out just twice against Reds starter Mike Leake, they managed only four singles and a double off of him, which resulted in a lone run. Nick Masset and Arthur Rhodes held the A's without a baserunner in the seventh and eighth and gave the ball to Reds closer Francisco Cordero with a one run lead. Luckily, Kevin Kouzmanoff was able to send the game into extra innings thanks to a solo homer in the bottom of the ninth, but the A's extra innings offensive performance was an exercise in frustration.
After the A's bullpen imploded and gave up four runs in the top of the 10th -- more on that later -- the A's got their first three men on base and Ryan Sweeney came to the plate as the tying run. All he did, though, was ground out, allowing a run to score, but then Kouzmanoff came up as the tying run. He also grounded out, bringing Jack Cust to the plate as the tying run. Cust struck out...shocking, I know.
Obviously, the A's wouldn't have been in such a tough spot if the bullpen didn't give up five runs in the ninth and tenth innings. Andrew Bailey got the first two outs of the ninth, but a walk-steal-single sequence gave the Reds a one run lead. In the tenth, after Kouz' homer, Michael Wuertz gave up a solo shot to Ramon Hernandez and retired one of the next two Reds. Not to be outdone, Cedrick Bowers came in and gave up back to back dingers to Joey Votto and Scott Rolen. This gave the Reds a four-run lead that the A's couldn't come back from, even given a pretty decent head start in the bottom of the inning.
It really stinks that Gio's great start was wasted. I guess the silver lining is that his performance indicates that he'll have more good starts in the future. Let's hope the A's provide him a little extra support next time out.