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SAN FRANCISCO — The A’s invasion came by air, sea and land on Friday night.

Three airplanes circled the skies above AT&T Park a couple hours before the game, towing banners that read “’68 TIL INFINITY,” “HELLA HISTORY” and “ROOTED IN OAKLAND,” the taglines the Athletics have been using to promote the idea that they belong in the East Bay and wouldn’t leave for all the money in the world. A little later, A’s president Dave Kaval tweet-documented his ride across the bay in a boat with California Assemblyman Rob Bonta. Kaval wore a captain’s hat and tossed green “McCovey Cove Takeover” shirts to eager A’s landlubbers.

The land campaign began at 7:15 p.m., when Oakland’s Marcus Semien dug into the box and stared down Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner.

This part of the invasion didn’t go so well for the A’s. It was sort of their Bay of Pigs, in fact, especially when the Giants went nuts for five runs in the seventh inning. SF wound up cruising to a 7-1 win.

The A’s entered the game as one of the hottest teams in baseball, with 13 wins in their past 16 games and recent series victories against the first-place Indians and Astros. But they couldn’t get past their Bay Area rival in the first of six consecutive head-to-head games. They fell 11 games behind Houston in the American League West, and remain 6½ behind the Mariners in the wild-card race.

The A’s annual habit is to dump star players at the trade deadline. The speculation on local sports radio this year is that the team might actually be a buyer rather a seller in 2018, and team executive vice president Billy Beane suggested as much to The Athletic on Friday.

Is it overstatement to suggest that one loss could change that? Yeah, but not by much. Every defeat makes it less likely that Beane will go after, say, a middle-of-the-rotation starter before the deadline.

This grim reality is in stark contrast to Kaval’s chirpy optimism.

I don’t want to knock Kaval, because I think he really is trying. He has done about all a guy could do in his short tenure to reintroduce the heroes of the Athletics’ past (including the rechristening of the Oakland Coliseum diamond as Rickey Henderson Field), to connect the organization to the community and to improve the ballpark experience for fans.

Kaval has been less successful on the stadium front, with some embarrassing public setbacks. But like I said, I think he’s trying.

The point is, you can’t blind people with airplane banners and boat rides.

“I’ve never seen an organization invest so much in such a petty useless campaign,” one guy wrote on my Twitter timeline.

“Starting to think Dave Kaval is the new PT Barnum,” another said.

It’s too bad that the A’s are provoking such cynicism, because they’re a good team, and a fun one — as that recent series against the Astros proved. And they have made the Bay Bridge Series relevant again.

It was not an easy event to salvage. When the A’s and Giants met for the first time last year, the two teams were a combined 39 games below .500. The Giants were putting blow-up dolls in seats and the A’s were offering several of their best players on Craigslist. In 2016, Oakland was 11 games under for the first installment of the series. In 2015, the A’s were nine games shy of .500. Bragging rights were always on the line, but pennant races? Not so much.

This year is different. The Giants entered Friday’s game three games above .500 — not world domination, but easily enough to keep them in the hunt in the weak National League West. And the A’s arrived in SF with a classy 53-41 record. For once, both teams had a lot on the line.

Think of it this way. On the final weekend of play before the All-Star break, only four other series around Major League Baseball present teams with better cumulative records: Yankees-Indians, Red Sox-Blue Jays, Mariners-Rockies and Braves-Diamondbacks.

“It’s a lot of fun,” A’s manager Bob Melvin had said before the game. “And both teams are playing really well. Probably more people watching it this time around. They have a really good team over there that’s playing great, we’re playing really good baseball. It’s baseball season in the Bay Area, which means there’s a spotlight on this series.”

Friday night felt like a big game, too. There were enough A’s fans in the seats at AT&T to lend the feeling of a true rivalry. The game was intense for a while, even brooding as the wind picked up and fog began to swirl in the outfield lights.

For five or six innings, San Francisco’s Bumgarner and Oakland’s Edwin Jackson put together something of a pitchers’ duel — something you would expect from the former, but not the latter. It all came apart for the A’s in the seventh, as relief pitchers Ryan Dull and Jeremy Bleich (making his MLB debut at the age of 31) faltered.

So where do the A’s stand? They have two more chances to beat the Giants before the break. And the pitching matchups get more favorable for them, with Brett Anderson facing Jeff Samardzija Saturday and ace Sean Manaea going against young Andrew Suarez on Sunday. They are likely to be in shouting distance of the Mariners when play resumes on Friday.

But time is of the essence — it always is — when you’re the A’s and your ownership has you on a tight budget and another trade deadline looms. It will take more than skywriting to keep this team exciting. It will take some more wins, starting this weekend.

You can reach columnist Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Skinny_Post.

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