Every now and again, the A's play a game that follows the blueprint of how it was supposed to go all season for Oakland. Today was one of those days. They got the expected great performance from their starting pitcher, as Gio Gonzalez, named to the All-Star team earlier this morning, subdued the Diamondbacks with 7 innings of 1 run ball. Gio threw a career high 119 pitches but was still throwing 93-94 MPH as he struck out Kelly Johnson for his 7th K to end the 7th.
And after being shutout for 3 innings, the A's hit like a real baseball team with contributions they just haven't been getting. In the bottom of the 4th, David DeJesus came up with runners at 2nd and 3rd, two out, and the A's trailing 1-0. DeJesus lined a solid double to left-center field, putting Oakland in front to stay.
Then came the bottom of the 6th. Chris Carter began the uprising with a line drive single to LF. On an 0-2 pitch, Conor Jackson provided the A's with a "first": The first HR hit all season by an A's 1Bman (Jackson and Ellis had hit one each while playing other positions). That gave Oakland a 4-1 lead, which became 5-1 on a Weeks sacrifice fly. And then Scott Sizemore provided the A's with another "first": The first two-HR inning Oakland has had all season. Sizemore picked on a hanging 3-2 slider from Ian Kennedy and whacked it into the LF seats to give the A's a 7-1 lead.
The pitching was there, the hitting was there, and when the A's most needed it the defense was there too. Michael Wuertz started the 8th, gave up a double and two walks, and left a bases loaded nobody out mess for Joey Devine to clean up. Devine got 2/3 of the way out of the jam and then allowed a single to LF by Sean Burroughs. It scored one run, but Hideki Matsui, who has found the fountain of youth in LF, charged it and fired a one-hop strike to the plate to gun down Chris Young (who didn't slide; sound familiar?). Inning over, 7-2 A's, game well in hand.
Not sure why Andrew Bailey pitched the 9th but he did, and his 1-2-3 frame sent the A's into the clubhouse winners of the series, having gotten significant offensive contributions from their 1Bman, their 3Bman, and their RFer.
Meanwhile, Chris Carter has looked pretty comfortable at the plate and at 1B, and when Josh Willingham returns it would be nice to see a lineup with Carter, Willingham, and Matsui all playing alongside Weeks, Crisp, DeJesus and Sizemore (whose bat continues to impress me -- 3 more hits today, including a HR and a double). Is a lineup with some power, some balance, and multiple threats that far away? At least today, it looked like the answer is no. The A's looked like a good team today. In fact what they looked a lot like was the kind of team Oakland thought they had assembled this off-season: One that can pitch the ball, catch the ball, and score enough to win.