Well, it took eighteen innings, but it was finally, finally worth getting up at 3AM and 2AM respectively, as the A's put on a show in today's seventh inning, which turned Bartolo Colon from hard-luck loser to triumphant winner, Yoenis Cespedes from the myth to budding legend, and the A's from last year's joke to this year's hope; all in the space of three outs.
In a speedy game, especially nice for the West Coasters who wanted to head back to bed, the A's turned the tables on the Mariners and secured the mini-series split with a 4-1 win behind homeruns from Cespedes, Reddick and Gomes.
This early in the morning, I could almost have been convinced that I was watching a replay of last night's game, as both starting pitchers breezed through the first four innings; Colon was perfect (literally), and the A's only collected a Cliff Pennington single. Jemile Weeks caught a foul ball in the second inning in a play that almost had my jaw on the floor; I was looking for first base or right field to come into the picture, and Weeks flew on over, covering so much ground in the process. I knew he was fast, but that was ridiculous.
Josh Donaldson also had the chance to flash some leather in the top of the fourth inning; he caught a hard hit smash on the first bounce as he was playing up the line, and got it to first for the out.
Believe it or not, it was about 50 minutes into the game and we were already heading to the fifth inning. I imagined a lot of things for this game, but didn't think that it would be faster than yesterday's. Bartolo Colon was perfect through 5.1 innings, giving up his first baserunner on a single with one out in the fifth; followed by his second hit of the day, a turf single to put two runners on for the Mariners with two outs. He then walked the bases loaded to scare A's fans, but did get out of the jam.
Kurt Suzuki put a charge into one to lead off the A's half of the fifth, but Ichiro (pandering to the crowd, a bit), caught it just before the wall with a flashy jump. Reddick finally hit to an open field for a two-out double, but Donaldson grounded out to end the threat.
For those of you keeping score at home, up until the sixth inning in today's game, the A's did not yet have a walk in the early season. Jemile Weeks drew the A's first walk in the sixth, but he was promptly (and I do mean promptly; it was one pitch later) thrown out at second base.
An hour an a half into the game, and we were heading into the seventh inning, in a scoreless game, when all of a sudden; just like yesterday, the A's pitcher blinked and the Seattle batter (this time it was Justin Smoak) sent a solo homerun into the stands, making it 1-0, Mariners. The homerun was the only run Colon allowed in his eighth innings, to go with three hits and six strikeouts. If the Mariners get to claim that Vargas was awesome, I'm going to say that Colon was absolutely sensational.
Although it initially felt like the 1-0 lead was insurmountable with the way the game had been going, the A's put together a seventh inning that gave us, maybe, just maybe, something like hope for the season.
Coco Crisp drew a leadoff walk, but Gomes popped up to short center field for the first out. For some reason, this knocked Vargas out of the game, a move I am certain that Mariners fans have come to deeply regret. Kurt Suzuki tried to hit into a double-play to end the inning, but he was safe at first with two outs. Good thing too, because Yoenis Cespedes unloaded on a pitch in his at-bat to send a homerun to dead center to give the A's their first lead of 2012. Seattle yanked the pitcher immediately, but the next one promptly gave up a homerun to Josh Reddick to extend the A's lead to 3-1, so that also worked out well. Donaldson and Kila would both single, as the A's threatened for more, but Weeks struck out to end the best. inning. ever. The love for the Mariners' 'pen would continue in the eighth, as Gomes would end the scoring with the A's third homerun of the night.
As if re-energized by the fact he wasn't going to lose 1-0, Colon breezed through the eighth inning, finally surrendering to closer Grant Balfour in the ninth. Balfour slammed the door, the A's get their first win of 2012, and are coming home now.
But, oh, was it fun. And oh, do I love the idea of Cespedes. This was a great one; hope you got to see it!
We have a break from regular season games until next Friday, where the A's try once again to beat Felix Hernandez.