No relief for A’s, except for Puk

After the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, Tuesday marked the first day of 2021 in which I followed a painfully familiar working-day routine.

  1. Alarm clock on my phone wakes me up.
  2. Tap on the MLB At Bat app.
  3. Quietly repeat ‘please, please, please, please etc’ as I wait for the app to load up the score from the A’s game that took place whilst I was asleep.
  4. Say “aww, shit”.
  5. Chuck my phone back onto my bedside table and start the day in a huff.

That routine takes place whenever the A’s lose a night-game, but Step 3 was more desperate than usual given the way we were swept up by the Astros.

Monday night was a chance to banish the bad vibes and get our season underway with a joyful win over the LA Dodgers. It didn’t happen, with the A’s losing 10-3, and we’re now hoping that the sixth time is a charm to get our first win on the board.

Frustration continues

In my blog yesterday I put forward the idea of Daulton Jefferies being called up to be a potential long-relief option in the bullpen, not least due to the possibility of Frankie Montas leaving his start early after his recent finger issue.

It turned out that A.J. Puk was the promoted pitcher, in response to Chad Pinder being placed on the Injured List, but unfortunately the rest of the prediction came true.

Watching parts of the game back over lunch today, Frankie seemed to start out well enough in terms of his stuff, yet he found some trouble and the second and third innings got out of hand.

It’s so frustrating because the games so far look terrible when you cast an eye at the final score, yet there have been moments early on in all of them when a play here or there might have made a difference.

In this one, Matt Chapman had a chance – a very difficult one, but “Ain’t Nobody Like Matt Chapman”, as we like to sing – to get us out of the second inning with just one run allowed. The difference between Chappy producing some magic there, snagging a groundball and then beating Chris Taylor to third base, and the next batter, Corey Seager, clearing the bases with a double was big on the scoreboard and vast on the A’s morale.

As we all know, making those moments count is what baseball – and indeed most sports – at the highest level is all about. The Dodgers and Astros are quality teams and you have to take your chances when they come along as, if you don’t put them under pressure, they are likely to do so instead. As a fan it’s difficult to watch it and not get a feeling of “here we go again”, but it’s important that the players don’t look at it that way. The only people who can turn this around is them and we know they have the talent to do it.

At least Puk pitched well

No one demonstrated the talent on our team better than Puk last night. He must have been disappointed not to get the final rotation spot on the Opening Day roster; however he seemed determined to take his chance when it came and that’s exactly the reaction you want.

The impressive 3.1 innings pitched by Puk hopefully were a sign of better things to come, both for him and the team. As in Spring Training, the blazing 97-98 MPH fastball wasn’t on show and he sat around 93-94 MPH yesterday, so this may be a different version of A.J. than the one that caught everyone’s attention as a prospect.

If he’s able to stay healthy from now on then he can still be very effective from the left side with that sort of velocity, although it does perhaps put more emphasis on the development of his change-up as a weapon against right-handed hitters. His change-up yesterday was thrown at 90 MPH, which isn’t really enough separation from the 94 MPH fastball to fool hitters once they’ve seen it a few times, although he only used it twice so maybe I shouldn’t overanalyse that just yet.

Just having him out on the mound was a very welcome sight and, let’s be honest, that counts for a lot when most of the first five games hasn’t made for pleasant viewing.

Next up

Attempt number six at getting our first win of the season is another night-game start against the Dodgers. First pitch is 2.40 am UK time.

Fingers crossed that my reaction to checking the score when I wake up will be different to this morning’s rude awakening.

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