Fans of the Oakland Athletics are all too familiar with the disabled list. Every year, the DL seems to sweep through the dugout like a plague, threatening to claim the season of anyone who so much as stubs a toe. Today, it recruited Yoenis Cespedes, whose grievous offense was to make contact with a pitch during batting practice. So, when Brandon McCarthy was skipped in the starting rotation on Monday due to soreness in his pitching shoulder, there was cause for concern. That particular joint has sent him to the DL in nearly every year of his career, and "day-to-day" are three words which, in Oakland, are all too often followed by "season-ending surgery."
McCarthy was having none of that talk tonight, however.
The ace of the Athletics' staff was absolutely dominant, showing no signs of trouble in 7 masterful innings against the Detroit Tigers. McCarthy's curveball was nearly unhittable, as he used it to record 7 of his 10 strikeouts; the K parade was highlighted by a 6th inning in which he sat down Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Delmon Young in succession, each flailing at a curve. On top of the strikeouts, McCarthy allowed only 4 hits and didn't walk a batter. Only one Detroit baserunner managed to reach 3rd base, and even that was the result of a defensive gift by Daric Barton.
Meanwhile, McCarthy was opposed by his twin brother, Doug Fister. McCarthy is listed on MLB.com at 6'7", 200 lbs; Fister is listed at 6'8", 210 lbs (but I'm pretty sure that he was on his tip toes when they measured him). Not only do they look similar, but they have similar approaches to pitching: excellent control, pitch to contact, and keep the ball in the park. It was McCarthy, though, who used the strategy to greater success tonight, as the Athletics defeated Detroit by the score of 3-1.
The game got off to a promising start on both sides of the field. Eric Sogard made a spectacular play on a 1st-inning smash by Prince Fielder, staying with it and getting the out after it bounced off of both McCarthy and the baserunner, Andy Dirks. In the bottom of the inning, Oakland scored on a string of singles by Jemile Weeks, Josh Reddick, and Jonny Gomes.
The good feelings quickly subsided, however, when Jemile Weeks nominated himself for Athletics Injury Of The Day. Weeks rolled his left ankle on his way out of the batter's box on his 2nd inning single, and, while he stayed in the game initially, he was ultimately lifted for a pinch-hitter in the 4th inning. There is no word yet on the severity of the injury, but Oakland can ill afford to lose another hitter from their lineup with Yoenis Cespedes (DL for hand injury) and Kila Ka'aihue (day-to-day with leg pull) both out of action.
The 5th inning brought with it a most peculiar play. With runners on 1st and 2nd and nobody out, Detroit's Danny Worth attempted a sacrifice bunt. Worth popped it straight up, and a charging Daric Barton appeared poised to make the catch...so much so that the runners remained anchored to their bases. Barton, recognizing an opportunity to pull a fast one, elected to let the ball drop in an effort to turn a popout into a double play by eliminating the lead runners. The scheme went awry, however, when the ball immediately kicked foul upon hitting the ground. Rather than becoming an easy out, Worth got a new life, and eventually achieved his objective by moving the runners over on a groundout to the right side. While I want to applaud Barton's heads up thinking, this was not the best situation in which to attempt this play. With the ball landing so close to the line, there was a very good chance of it scooting foul, and his body was not positioned to protect against this likelihood. This is a play which Ray Fosse often wishes that players would attempt more often, but Barton may have been better off getting the sure out on this one. Everything turned out fine, as McCarthy got out of the inning unscathed, but it would have been a shame if any runs scored as a result of this miscue.
Happy feelings returned in the 7th, when Cliff Pennington tripled home Collin Cowgill to make it 2-0. With the infield playing in, Barton then atoned for his earlier mistake by punching a grounder through the left side to plate Pennington for a welcome insurance run.
The Tigers avoided the shutout when they managed a run against Brian Fuentes, but no one really wants to talk about that. Fuentes has 2 saves this year, and he has allowed a run in each of them. Saves are awesome!
The story of the game, though, was McCarthy, rising from the ashes of potential injury to defeat his own reflection. It's like something out of a fantasy novel, which, coincidentally, is also something that could be said of the A's 18-16 record. The pixie dust could wear off, and the DL plague could continue to spread, but for now, the Athletics are playing about as well as this roster can reasonably play.
Brandon McCarthy is doing everything he can to keep it that way.
The Athletics can easily win this series, just as long as rookie Jarrod Parker beats AL MVP Justin Verlander tomorrow. That should totally not be a problem, though, since Oakland beat him last April for one of his 5 losses of the season. Yep, no problem at all. Game time is 1:05.