Well, I would rather start out this post with the actual game info, but I wanted to get this in writing first. It’s bad enough that the monopoly called DirectTV tried to steal exclusive rights to baseball last year, forcing the league to negotiate well into the first week of the season, leaving all of us cable subscribers hanging in baseball-limbo hell, wondering if we would ever see another televised out-of-market A’s game, but then to follow that up this year by having the satellite go down on OPENING DAY in the middle of the night, cutting people off of the ESPN2 feed and the game is INEXCUSABLE. I’m never leaving cable, not as long as I am making the TV decisions in my household, and if anyone from DirectTV ever reads this, you ought to know why. How dare you not take every necessary step to ensure that Red Sox and A’s fans get to see their team play. If we all got ourselves up at 3am, your feed should have been working, and it’s crap that it wasn’t. On their website, it boldly proclaims, “Baseball fans need DirectTV”. I beg to differ. I hope they feel this screw-up in a major way.
And now to the game. If you actually did it, and woke up at 3AM, you saw a great game right up until the ninth inning. In retrospect, we should have all gone back to bed about 5:55, which, coincidentally, is the time when the game should have been over.
I was surprised at how easy it was to get up this morning. It seemed like there was a lot of energy surrounding this game, both from stateside as well as the stadium in Japan. Although there were certainly the expected Red Sox fans in attendance, I was pleasantly surprised to hear more than a little cheering for the green and gold. And judging from the over 2000 comments in the multiple game threads, it seemed like a good percentage of AN turned out for the online party. Despite the ultimate result, I loved it.
A’s fans had plenty to cheer about early. After Joe Blanton set down the side in the first inning, Mark Ellis greeted Dice K by taking a pitch out of the park, giving the A’s a 1-0 lead. Later in the inning, the A’s took advantage of Matsuzaka’s early wildness by loading the bases with one out for Bobby Crosby. Quoting our announcers, "It was not pretty, but it was contact", as Crosby sent somewhat of a swinging bunt back to the pitcher to score the second run.
Despite Dice K’s wildness continuing another inning, the A’s in early 2008 yet again failed to do what they should have done; put a struggling pitcher away when they had the chance. Matsuzaka only got stronger as the game went along, and by the time he reached his pitch count, despite five walks, he had pitched five innings, allowing two hits, and only two runs, and ended up striking out six. The A’s simply couldn’t expect to hold Boston to a shutout, although they did for five innings, but in the top of the sixth, Blanton’s terrific start finally gave out.
After throwing five sparkling innings, allowing four hits and getting two K’s, Blanton struggled to open the sixth. Buck misplayed Pedroia’s deep drive to the wall, sending him to second with no one out to open the inning. Youkilis followed with a walk, bringing up the dangerous David Ortiz. Blanton dodged one more bullet when Ortiz flied out to Hannahan, who made a nice catch, before Manny Ramirez and his pajamas belted a hard double down the third base line to tie the game. Although Blanton struck out Lowell, Brandon Moss (a late replacement for JD Drew - remember his name; it will come up later) singled to drive Blanton out of the game.
Blanton finished with 5.2 innings, 7 hits, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO, an okay line, but he pitched better than the box score will show. Embree came in to get the A’s out of the sixth without further incident, and stayed in to pitch a pretty terrific seventh.
Now according to the 2007 Oakland A’s script--the part where you expect the A’s offense to give up for the night--Blanton should have been kept on the hook for the loss, but this new group of A’s produced a very different result. After Crosby got a much-needed ‘turf single’ to open the bottom of the sixth, the new Chavez blasted a no-doubter homerun to put the A’s back on top. Hannahan didn’t miss that pitch.
Fast forward to the top of the eighth. Due up: Youkilis, Ortiz, Ramirez. Out of the bullpen: Keith Foulke. Now, I must admit, I’ve been hard on him, I don’t think he had much of a Spring Training, and I wasn’t really sold on the idea of him as our setup man, but he deserved the standing ovation I gave him after his strikeout of Manny; he pitched a brilliant inning.
So the A’s headed to the ninth clinging to a one run lead. Emil Brown made a bid for an extra base hit to open the inning, but Jacoby Ellsbury made a phenomenal play, falling back against the wall to record the first out. The A’s failed to score in the inning, and it would cost them, as Street was thrown out there for his first save opportunity, with the A’s still holding their slim lead. He got the first out, an easy fly to center, but then up came Brandon Moss again. I’ll spare you the suspense: He homered to tie the game, and hand Street his first blown save in his first opportunity.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, but it bears repeating. When the A’s offense has a pitcher on the ropes, they MUST capitalize on all the walks they draw. It will come back to haunt them every time, and it was like waiting for the other shoe to drop all game. You just don’t hold Boston to under four runs, no matter how good your pitching is.
So a game that was executed perfectly by the Oakland A’s, perfectly designed to end before six am to give us an extra hour of sleep, a save that was gift-wrapped by the setup men, doing all the hard work long before Street entered the game, disappeared in a single batter. You don’t want to face the Red Sox in extra innings, and you don’t want to give a clutch Ortiz and a red-hot Manny an extra at-bat.
After Hannahan couldn’t quite make a Chavy-like play to open the 10th, and the runner was sacrificed to second, the A’s interestingly chose to have Street walk Ortiz to face Manny instead of a) walking both of them, having two bases open and all, or b) facing Ortiz, who was actually struggling at the plate. That decision worked about as well as it sounds; that is, to the tune of another two-run double.
Enter DiNardo to intentionally walk Lowell, since Street not only pitched terribly, but he barely managed to intentionally walk Ortiz successfully, and Geren didn’t trust him to walk another.
The A's offense made a valient effort at a comeback against Papelbon in the ninth, after Barton walked and scored on Emil Brown's double, but then in what was truly one of the most idiotic baserunning mistakes I have EVER seen, Brown--THE TYING RUN--got caught in a rundown between second and third. Of course Crosby and Hannahan both singled right after, which would have EASILY scored the tying run, and maybe even won the game for the A's. I can deal with physical limitations, but have ZERO patience for Little League stupid, bonehead mental errors, and I can't think of a single excuse for Brown. That's the kind of play that WILL get you thrown off a team, and Brown's lucky that I wasn't his manager today.
Bottom line: Opening day for Huston Street finds him with a blown save and a loss. He absolutely deserved the loss, with supporting credits given to the A’s offense for letting Dice K off the hook early, and Emil Brown for one of the dumbest major league plays I have EVER seen. As in, send him away, bad. A disappointing loss to be sure, especially considering the effort it took for all of us to watch the game.
But in baseball, there’s always tomorrow, so we do it all over again tomorrow night, same time, same place. AN will be here for you through it all. And, again, if you experienced satellite issues, I urge you to make a call to DirectTV sometime today. Hopefully tomorrow’s game will be watchable for everyone. And hopefully, it produces the opposite result for the A’s.
Final Score: Boston 6, A’s 5 in 10 innings
Winning Pitcher: Hideki Okajima
Losing Pitcher: Huston Street
Due to the length of this post, I encourage you to hop over to MLB.com to check out the A’s 40 man roster.
See you tomorrow!