The Oakland Athletics, led by Bob Melvin, spent this Saturday afternoon descending into the heart of the Phillies lost season. As the weekend approached, I imagine the A's and their fans saw the Phillies as an opportunity to extract wins without regard for the impact on the team or its environment. After all, what are losses to an organization that relies so heavily on its elders, cannot see past tradition, and considers pelvic gesture a form of public discourse? But in the clash of civilizations, the land on which the clash takes place is not neutral. A journey into the heart of the Phillies, even in the O.co Coliseum, portends bewilderment and transformation.
Like all journeys, this one began well. Drew Pomeranz dominated the Phillies hitters. He allowed them to reach base only on his terms: 5 IP, 6 Ks, 2 BBs, 1 HBP, 1 H, 0 R. The Phillies could only advance on his say so and after the first inning he mostly just said, "No," strafing any daring hitter like a missile laden cowboy.
But Melvin could not tarry with Pomeranz all game. Whether due to Pomeranz's youth, recent injury, limitation to two pitches, or lack of endurance, he left after just 5 IPs and 86 pitches, despite dominating the Phillies lineup. And since Jerome Williams had matched Pomeranz in results, albeit not in performance, Melvin had to hope that the bullpen could hold out long enough that the A's offense--stretched thin by injury, the long season, and overexposure--might score even once to push the A's ahead.
But the deeper the A's trekked into the Phillies lineup the closer they came to losing their senses. How could a lineup of mostly undisciplined, swing-and-miss hitters present a threat? So Dan Otero must have thought when he encountered Freddy Galvis. No matter how hot Galvis has been (127 wRC+ in August and September!), he can't possibly keep running into extra base hits. And when Galvis came to the plate, Otero just needed one out to escape an Asche double. There was no way the score would break zeros. But then, Galvis posed the following question to Otero:
Otero, his mind boggled and his arm partially numb, served up a perfect fly-out-to-end-the-inning pitch until Josh Reddick turned around. The ball drifted over the A's make-shift defensive barrier--err, um, wall--and the Phillies took a 2-0 lead. Returning to the dugout, removed by Melvin, Otero still wondered how that ball left the yard, why he hadn't buried the pitch down-and-in, and how Galvis had made contact at all. And then, he saw himself surrounded by ifs.
The A's could no longer pretend that they held the upper hand. Innings were running out and outs were running in. Melvin could use his bench to improve his chances to escape the humiliation of losing to the Phillies led by Jerome Williams, while they--the A's--are in the midst of a tight playoff race, but those options have been worse than the starting lineup. And the starting lineup had yet to score. The irrationality, the history, the malevolence of spoiling hopes overwhelmed the Melvin's A's as they stared into the darkness of the Phillies heart.
And, so, the A's succumbed. And Melvin, contained in the dugout by the suggestion of a cage, could only watch the A's flail back into a virtual tie for the last wildcard (and the first incidentally) in the American League. The team once crowned a lock for AL West now stands on the brink of, well, something like this:
Fangraph of Ken Giles' First Save Congrats!
[Inspired by an exchange with BudInTN in the game thread.]