In addition to being an Oakland A’s fan, I also follow the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. If you think the A’s offense is depressing, you should see the Warriors' everything. They make the A’s look like the Yankees.
I bring this up because the Warriors are in the midst of what we in the business call a "tank." They have more to gain by losing games and getting better draft position than by winning games and still not making the playoffs. The result is a style of play that
begs raises the question, "Is this team actively trying to lose?"
Today, the Chicago White Sox looked like they were actively trying to lose. Except that they weren’t, this isn’t basketball, it’s only April, and they nearly won.
The result was a 14-inning, 5-4 victory for the A’s, in which Jarrod Parker’s Oakland debut was practically an afterthought. Parker threw 6 1/3 excellent innings, which would ultimately prove to account for less than half of this game.
Also: The A's reached the .500 mark. Woohoo!
The beginning of this game looked an awful lot like most of Oakland’s recent games: It was scoreless for the first five and a half innings. Then, in the bottom of the 6th, Jemile Weeks singled ahead of a Josh Reddick double. The next batter, Yoenis Cespedes, lined a single up the middle to plate Reddick, giving the A’s a 2-0 lead which looked awfully safe at the time.
And then, as in so many recent contests, the A’s just stopped playing. Parker allowed a run in the 7th on a Kosuke Fukudome double, before being lifted for Ryan Cook. Grant Balfour entered in the 9th to protect the 2-1 lead, and his very first pitch to Paul Konerko was deposited safely over the left field fence for a game-tying solo homer. The home run was the 400th of Konerko’s career, which is a really neat footnote if you are anything other than an A’s fan. If you’re an A’s fan, it probably won’t make you feel any better.
That was it until the 14th inning. The White Sox put together constant rallies in the extra innings, but managed to dumb their way out of almost all of them (more on that later). In the top of the 14th, however, someone finally reminded them that they were facing Jerry Blevins, and the wheels came off. That's actually not completely fair to Blevins, because Dayan Viciedo led off the 14th with a routine grounder that short-hopped Eric Sogard at third for an E-5. I'm pretty sure that we're leading the league in E-5's right now, but I'm afraid to check. After a 2-out walk to Alejandro De Aza, Blevins was replaced by Jim Miller.
Who is Jim Miller, you may ask? Why, he's the reliever who we brought up from Sacramento today to replace Rich Thompson, who was DFA'd after only one appearance. My sources tell me that we had to cut Thompson because we had exceeded the two-Aussie roster limit. I'm sorry, but that might have been my last chance to make an Aussie joke, and I'm not one to pass up an opportunity.
Miller's second pitch to Alexei Ramirez went screaming into the left-center field gap for a double which scored both baserunners. Game over, right?
Wrong! The Chicago rally snapped the A's back into focus, and things went from "interesting" to "more interesting." Josh Reddick hit a one-out single to center, and Yoenis Cespedes launched a 2-run Cuban Missile into the left field seats off of Hector Santiago. Seth Smith and Kurt Suzuki each singled, which brought Kila Ka'aihue to the plate. That is the first time that I have typed Kila's last name from memory without checking the spelling. I really hope I got it right.
Kila offered on an 0-1 fastball and blooped it into left field, where it mercifully hit turf and allowed Smith to trot home from 2nd with the winning run. I like to think that the ball was simply tired of getting knocked around for 14 innings, and just didn't have any energy left to fly all the way to the left fielder. I'm pretty sure that's how physics works.
Whew. Did you get all that? Here's what I left out: Parker struck out 5 and walked one in his outing, which was encouraging. Chris Sale was electric for the White Sox, mostly dominating Oakland's lineup through 8 efficient innings. Brian Fuentes got out of a jam in extra innings. Believe it or not, the pitching in this A's game was good on both sides.
Pitching was just about all that the Pale Hose had going for them, though. Earlier, I mentioned that the White Sox looked like they were trying to lose this game. This is a list of their fundamental mistakes, and it is entirely possible that I forgot a couple because I started watching this game 5 hours ago:
- 2nd inning, a pitch by Parker gets by Kurt Suzuki. Paul Konerko tries to take 2nd base on the play, but Suzuki recovers in time to gun him down at second. Konerko is so slow that Suzuki gunned him down from at least 20 feet behind the plate. Konerko probably should have stayed at first.
- 7th inning, Chicago has just scored a run on Kosuke Fukudome's double. Fukudome is now on 3rd base, and the Sox attempt a suicide squeeze. Unfortunately, Brent Morel's bunt attempt misses the ball completely. Fukudome is hung up between 3rd and home, and tagged out easily by Eric Sogard.
- 8th inning, Alejandro De Aza attempts a sacrifice bunt. The ball runs in, and he sort of tries to pull the bat back, but the pitch hits him in the hand. The third base umpire rules that he offered at the ball with his bat, and it is counted as a swing. In the record books, it will say that he swung and missed on a ball that hit him. Kurt Suzuki was almost surely smiling underneath his catcher's mask, thinking about all the flack he got for doing that himself last year. The call was actually questionable, so this one might not really be Chicago's fault.
- 9th inning, Yoenis Cespedes is on 1st base with 2 out in a tie game. He leaves way too early on an attempted steal, and pitcher Addison Reed has a chance for an easy pickoff. However, when he turns to throw to first, he is surprised to find that Cespedes is no longer there, and merely fakes a throw before correcting himself and throwing to second. That is a balk. If you turn to make a pickoff throw to 1st, you have to make the throw. You can't fake and then throw to another base.
- 10th inning, Eduardo Escobar attempts a sacrifice bunt with Brent Morel on 1st and no outs. He bunts it about 2 feet in front of the plate; Suzuki picks it up and nails Morel at 2nd. Bunt fail.
- 13th inning, Chicago has two pinch-runners on base (for Dunn and Konerko) and no outs. AJ Pierzynski attempts a sacrifice bunt, but misses. Brent Lillibridge, who left early in anticipation of the bunt, is hung up between 2nd and 3rd and picked off easily by Suzuki.