Those in attendance for the traditional opening night of the Oakland Athletics on April 4 bore witness to the 11th opening-day loss in the last 12 home openers.
The first blow of the eventual 4-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox was dealt nearly seven hours before the scheduled first pitch as the A’s projected starting pitcher (and ace) Sonny Gray was scratched due to food poisoning.
According to various news reports, Gray was quoted as saying it might have been the lingering effects of a 24-hour flu bug.
The A’s No. 2 starter, Rich Hill, filled in for Gray and battled Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale.
Though the disappointment of not being able to see Gray pitch stung, there was a much more palpable sense of angst in regards to the sloppy defense. Fans groaned during a third inning that saw two errors committed by Oakland.
Hill committed the first error on a pickoff attempt that sailed over the head of first baseman Mark Canha and allowed the Chicago runner to get to third. After a triple scored the runner, Jose Abreu would double to left field.
Down 2-0 with two outs in the inning and two men on base, Melky Cabrera hit a grounder up the middle. A’s shortstop Marcus Semien made a nice play moving to his left and, staying on his feet, threw the ball to Canha. The throw was slightly high and Canha had the ball ricochet out of his glove and both runners scored on the play.
Instead of ending the inning down 2-0, the A’s headed into the bottom half of the inning down 4-0.
Oakland would rally for three runs in the bottom half of the third, but the self-inflicted wounds in the field would be enough to keep A’s from victory on yet another opening night as they went on to lose, 4-3.
Defense was a major problem last season and was a big focus for them during spring training. Semien is particularly under the spotlight after leading all of baseball with 35 errors. Oakland as a team also led the MLB in errors committed by a team with 126.
If the A’s look to rebound and compete in a strong American League West division, they will have to be sharper in the field.
Brandon Romo is a Laney Tower staff writer. E-mail him at bgromo(at)gmail.com.