Oakland Athletics

A’s find out just how easy it is to shut out Giants these days

A's Giants hat

It’s not like we really needed any further proof, but it wasn’t hard to tell on Monday night which Bay Area team is the best in baseball and which is in a seemingly never-ending swoon that has stretched beyond June.

Hint: the team that got shut out for the fourth time in eight games isn’t the best. They aren’t helping themselves, either.

Even though a final score of 5-0 almost looks like a blowout, the Giants more or less gifted the A’s all of their runs, or at least helped them start each of their run-scoring rallies.

Ryan Vogelsong for the Giants and Jesse Chavez for the A’s pitched well, both putting up zeros on the scoreboard through four innings. But the way things have been going for the Giants lately, one little misfortune leads to another, which leads to another, and before you know it, they’re facing an insurmountable deficit.

It was an innocent little hit-by-pitch which was the beginning of the end to Vogelsong’s night and the Giants’ chances of winning. Vogelsong hit Craig Gentry to begin the fifth inning. With Coco Crisp batting, Gentry stole second, then Crisp reached on a bunt single. Gentry went to third, John Jaso knocked him in with a ground ball to second, and voila – the A’s had a run without hitting a ball out of the infield.

Vogelsong started off the next inning with another hit-by-pitch – this time it was Josh Donaldson. A one-out single by Gentry knocked Vogelsong out of the game, and on the very first pitch thrown by reliever Juan Guttierez, Alberto Callaspo knocked in both runs with a double in the gap.

If three runs gifted by HBP wasn’t enough, how about two more in the seventh thanks to not one, but two errors by the usually sure-handed Brandon Crawford? Crawford committed back-to-back errors to lead off the inning; the first after a check-swing roller on the infield by Jaso went under the pitcher’s glove and forced Crawford to make a wild throw to first, and the second when Crawford threw low and wide to third on a ground ball in an attempt to nab Jaso. A sac fly and RBI single brought in two runs, and apparently even Crawford’s defense isn’t immune to the Giants’ struggles.

Eric’s game notes

— I mentioned early on how it was not hard to tell the difference between these two teams: the one that manages to put just two runners in scoring position all game is the team that squandered a 9.5 game division lead in three weeks, and the one that takes advantage of every opportunity handed to them (a HBP, an error) has the best record in baseball.

— While the A’s have a solid back-end of the bullpen, the same cannot be said about the Giants. Outside of Santiago Casilla and Jeremy Affeldt, I don’t think any Giants reliever is performing well at the moment.

Meanwhile, the A’s had it set up perfectly today – Chavez pitching six shutout innings before turning it over to Fernando Abad and Dan Otero – both of whom have sub-2.00 ERAs for the seventh and eighth innings. Ryan Cook, who might be the closer right now if he was on the Giants, but is a mere fourth or fifth reliever on the A’s, pitched a scoreless ninth.

— Those two HBPs may not have been called correctly. Gentry’s HBP in the fifth was reviewed, and although it was not overturned, he sure sold the call pretty well. When Donaldson was awarded first in the sixth, the ball appeared to hit both his hand and his bat. The umpire eventually ruled it a HBP because of the marks on Donaldson’s hand, although it could have been called a foul ball.

— You have to feel for Bruce Bochy, whose lineup today consisted of a rookie who may have been called up from the minors too soon, two outfielders hitting below .230, and a third baseman batting below the Mendoza line. Considering that, it’s no surprise that Chavez notched a career-high nine strikeouts tonight.

— Angel Hernandez – yes, the Angel Hernandez that A’s fans love – is part of the umpiring crew for this series, and even he made a tough, accurate call in favor of the A’s. That’s when you know things are going poorly for the Giants. Hernandez gave an emphatic out call in the seventh when Hunter Pence was thrown out at first after Stephen Vogt came off the bag, but stayed on it just long enough for the out.

— Considering Jim Harbaugh showed up for both Giants and A’s games recently, I’m surprised he wasn’t at this game, wearing one of those Giants-A’s split caps that everyone abhors.

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