(OAKLAND) -- The fact the Oakland Athletics left a whopping 14 men on base today against the Detroit Tigers doesn't tell the entire story of their 5-4 loss to the visitors from the Midwest. It was the way it happened too many times that really tells the facts of the day.
Three different times, the A's put multiple runners on base with no one out and failed to score. Three times. It was that ugly, on a day when the Tigers starter, Rick Porcello, walked six men and hit another batter in less than six innings. Overall, Oakland drew nine walks and registered nine hits, but they could only score two runs until a late rally in the ninth put the winning run on first base.
But a 2-for-14 effort with runners in scoring position eventually doomed the A's to another close loss, something they have struggled with this season: overall, Oakland is a mere 11-15 in games decided by two runs or less. That'll have to get better as the year progresses to crunch time.
With one third of the schedule now gone, the A's sit atop the American League West with a 32-22 record and two-game lead on the Los Angeles Angels. The Oakland run differential sits at +100 even, and no other team in the majors is even at +50 this season so far.
Losing a lot of close games keeps that number high, of course, while keeping the win total artificially low. And today, well ... it was just unsightly at times.
- In the second inning, the A's loaded the bases with nobody out, but Eric Sogard hit into a double play (1-2-3) before Coco Crisp grounded out to end the threat;
- In the fifth inning, Oakland started the frame with two singles, but the heart of the lineup failed to do anything with it as Josh Donaldson struck out, Brandon Moss fouled out, and Yoenis Cespedes flied out after just missing a home run on a liner to left that was slightly foul;
- In the seventh inning, the A's got two walks to start the inning, but Cespedes struck out, Alberto Callaspo grounded out, and Josh Reddick popped out.
Those were the lowlights. But trailing 5-2 in the ninth, as noted, Oakland did get the winning run on base before Jed Lowrie grounded out to end the game -- with two more runners on base.
A's starter Jesse Chavez was off from the start, loading the bases in the first inning with one out. But he persevered through six mostly-choppy innings, leaving with just a 3-2 deficit at the time and still keeping the Oakland offense within reach.
However, other than Nick Punto's surprise, two-run home run in the fourth, the A's hitters never made Porcello pay for his suckitude, and that was the game in a nutshell. It's pretty bad when the opposing pitcher walks more batters than innings pitched while striking out fewer batters than he walks -- and still beats you.
Now Oakland must right itself from this recent decent that includes six losses in the last eight contests. With the Angels coming to town for a three-game set starting Friday night, the A's face a big swing weekend: they sweep, the division lead could be very big, and if they get swept, the division lead will be gone.