OAKLAND -- How many times is a 400-foot single a symbol of a bad night at the office?
It was Monday as they As dropped a historicseason opener to the Cleveland Indians 2-0 a night of inspiration and futility distilled down to one star-crossed swing.
In the bottom of the eighth, As third baseman Josh Donaldson crushed a Cody Allen pitch to the deepest part of this cavernous yard 400 feet away from where Donaldson took a mighty swing.
It looked gone. It looked like the As would break a 0-0 tie and break nine straight years of losing openers.
But somehow, Donaldsons blast bounced off the top of the wall and back into play. Somehow, As first baseman Daric Barton could only advance from second to third base where he remained stranded.
Somehow Jed Lowrie and Brandon Moss couldnt bring Barton home.
Somehow, the As lost their 10th straight Opening Day game a major-league record.
Its interesting symbolism, of course. Its a funny record in a sport ruled by records, stats and advanced metrics.
But it doesnt mean anything.
The As have gone on to the win the American League West three times in their span of opening day losses and look to be the front-runners to repeat again this season.
The only player even left in the As organization from 2004, the last time the As won a season opener, is Barton. And hes spent more time in Sacramento than he has in Oakland during those years.
In truth, this loss was just a loss with 161 games left to play.
Despite the defeat, the As did what they do: They often pitched great when they needed big outs.
Their defense, while not brilliant, was good in key moments as when right fielder Josh Reddick threw home strongly to prevent Michael Brantley from scoring on a Ryan Raburn single in the sixth.
But it was Sonny Gray, the youngest member of the As, who embodied Oaklands very realistic hopes of attaining a third straight West crown.
Even with As ace Jarrod Parker lost for the season to arm surgery, Gray represents a depth of quality pitching that division rivals cant match at least at the start of this season.
In his 10 regular-season starts last season, Gray showed flashes of excellence and an aces courage in pressure moments.
Monday, he showed another side the ability to keep his team in the game when he doesnt really have it.
In this case, keeping his team in the game meant not allowing a run in six innings to match a more efficient Justin Masterson, the Indians starter.
The Indians touched Gray with base runners in every inning but one. Gray began the game with two walks and flirted with other three-ball counts. He was missing low and occasionally leaving his pitches up and getting crushed as when Brantley hit a massive double to right-center field that would have been a home run in many other parks.
In each jam, however, Gray found the grit to see him out of it. In the first and fourth innings, he left Indians runners stranded at third. In the fifth, Yan Gomes reached second base but Gray struck out Nick Swisher and got Jason Kipnis to ground the ball to first where Barton fielded who tossed to Gray for the force.
Then in a critical sixth, with Grays pitch count hovering near 100, one expected manager Bob Melvin to get the youngster after Brantleys massive double and Raburns immediate single.
Melvin stayed put and was rewarded but not before an extraordinary moment of luck and athleticism.
Asdrubal Cabrera lashed what looked like a go-ahead single up the middle, but it hit off of Grays leg, who quickly spotted it, threw home to get Raburn, who was out following a collision with As catcher John Jaso.
There was some question of whether Jaso blocked the plate without the ball, in violation of new rules seeking to curb dangerous home plate collisions.
The play stood. Grays shutout was preserved, and then he dramatically struck out David Murphy to end the threat.
Suddenly, this As franchise is older with no rookies for the first time since 2006, two 30-year-olds in the starting rotation for the first time since 2010 and with only one player under the age of 25: Gray.
The As bats were quiet Monday. Aside from Donaldson, only leadoff man CoCo Crisp hit the ball with any authority. The sourest note, however, was the dismal debut of new closer Jim Johnson who surrendered two runs and heard boos as he left the mound.
Given how deeply As fans loved departed closer Grant Balfour, Johnson better hope his loss like the As new standard of Opening Day losses is just an anomaly that means nothing in the long run.
Call The Bees Marcos Breton, (916) 321-1096.