Game 125 wrapup: Deflating night for A’s could have long-term consequences

The A’s lost a game on Tuesday night, and it was an ugly loss. The eighth inning has to rank up there among the worst they’ve played this season. But this is baseball. Teams, even ones who achieve postseason success, suffer losses they want to forget about.

But if the injury to Derek Norris knocks him out for some time, this is the type of game that could be felt a little longer. A’s manager Bob Melvin confirmed after the game that Norris has a fractice left big toe. Norris didn’t speak with the media, but was seen limping heavily through the locker room after the game.

Melvin didn’t know yet if Norris would need to go on the disabled list. One would certainly think so. Broken toes are tricky. There’s really not much you can do to them. They just have to heal on their own, typically. But a toe, especially a big toe, is pretty key for a catcher. They spend all game in the squat and in case you’ve never been in a squat, there’s a lot of pressure being placed on the toe. Factor in the potential for taking a really painful foul ball off the toe (and that happens fairly often) and it seems pretty likely that Norris will be gone at least until early September.

The A’s are already without catcher John Jaso, who may not play again this season thanks to lingering concussion symptoms. That would put the catching position in the hands of Stephen Vogt. He’s been fine is his limited time with the A’s. He’s only batting .231 in 65 at-bats, but on this team, that’s about par for the course. Norris is only batting .232, although he had been hitting .393 in his past 13 games.

Here’s what Ryan Cook, who had a bad night on the mound, had to say about Norris: “He’s plays a pretty integral role on our team. What he does behind the plate is special. The way he’s been swinging it as of late is obviously a big loss to any team.”

And from tonight’s starter Sonny Gray (who was outstanding, more on him later): “He’s great. We go over the game plan before the game. He seems to know the game plan before we even go over it. He’s a guy that I trust.”

I’d imagine there would be some news tomorrow on if Norris indeed needs to go on the DL.

– The terrible eighth inning cost Gray a chance at this second Major League win. Relievers hate giving up leads any time, but especially when a guy pitches as well as Gray did. The rookie right-hander really made just one mistake, a two-run homer he served up to Nick Franklin in the third. He didn’t allow another hit after that and retired 13 of the final 14 batters he faced and allowed just two runs, two hits and struck out seven.

Here’s what reliever Sean Doolittle, who was charged with the loss after allowing four runs while not recording an out, had to say:

“He pitched his (butt) off. He goes seven innings and gives us a chance to win. All we got to do is get six outs and they got (five) runs before we even got one out. We made a mess of that eighth inning. You’re offense gives you four runs and Sonny goes out and does his job, we felt like that was a game we should’ve won. Just not the right night, not the right time of year to have an inning like that.”

As disappointing as the loss is for the A’s, the Gray development has to be exciting. Before the game, Melvin praised the way he’s been handled, from getting his feet wet earlier this season with those relief appearances to now adding him to the rotation. He’s pitching with confidence and seems like a guy who can be relied upon down the stretch. Gray credited his confidence to the team he has around him.

“I’m on a really good team,” Gray said. “With the guys that we’re able to put behind me and lately the first innings we’re having, it’s great. This is just a disappointing way to end the game.”

– There’s not much more reason to go too deep into the eighth inning. It’s all covered in the game story, which is posted here and should be updated soon. There was some decent chatter in the press box and on Twitter regarding the ball hit to Cespedes. I thought it was an error and my Twitter followers seemed to agree. However, many of the people that cover MLB quite a bit more than me didn’t feel as strongly, or at least weren’t quite as surprised with the ruling of double. The argument was how far Cespedes had to run and because of the distance he covered, it moved into the realm of a play requiring extraordinary effort.

Here’s Bob Melvin’s take: “He went a long way to get it, he just couldn’t keep it in his glove. When the ball was originally hit I didn’t think he’d get to it. It would’ve been a nice play but it just didn’t stay in his glove.”

Doolittle, the pitcher on the mound for the play, said he thought Cespedes was going to get to it but blamed himself for what happened.

“He took one half step with it in his glove and it just shot up,” Doolittle said. “At the end of the day, I threw a ball right down the middle to a good fastball hitter and he turned on it.”

– And then there’s the play at the plate in which Norris got hurt. It was a big play in the game in pushing across an extra run. And it was definitely a close play, one that Melvin went on the field to argue (this time next year I suppose he would just go out to ask for a review). A review wouldn’t have helped. Franklin beat Norris’ tag to the plate and scored. Even Cook conceded as much after watching the replay.

It looked like it was far from a violent collision at home, yet both the runner and the catcher left the game after the play. Franklin had a laceration in his left knee that required stitches and of course Norris has the fractured left big toe. The Mariners definitely got the better end of that, especially since a run scored on the play.

– That’s it for me until next time. Hickey is back here for the day game tomorrow to close out this Mariners series.


Jimmy Durkin

Jimmy Durkin is a sports writer for the Bay Area News Group.