When you run a comparison between the Texas Rangers and the Oakland Athletics on paper, the A's entire first string roster loses to their Texas counterparts in every single position, including pitching. The A's aren't even playing their second string these days, as half of their starting lineup is missing. Call it what you want; 'that's why we play the games', 'clutching up', 'righteous indignation' , 'the magic of the 2012 Oakland Athletics', or 'Brandon McCarthy is just that good', but the A's matched the Rangers play-for-play today. They took the Rangers all the way into extra innings to earn a win and a split in the series, despite a horrific umpiring call that could have handed the A's a loss.
If this week of baseball is any indication, there appears to be a coordinated effort in place for all live umpires to replace themselves with replay technology. In what was one of the more egregious blown calls I've ever seen, the homeplate umpire, Laz Diaz, absolutely butchered a game-changing call that took place right in front of him, which would lead to Bob Melvin (and 9/10th's of AN) to get kicked out of the game in protest. But unlike last year's A's, who would have collapsed under the unfairness of it all, the 2012 A's, led by Josh Reddick and his 10th homerun, stormed back to steal the game from Texas and get back to a game above .500.
Let me 'splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.
The A's lineup proved us all wrong early, as the first five hitters of the game would reach base against Matt Harrison. Unfortunately, after a lead-off walk, Jemile Weeks tried to steal against the impossible-to-steal-against Harrison, and was thrown out. This would be important later, as Pennington singled, Reddick singled, Gomes doubled and Suzuki doubled. I was looking at the lineup too, Jemile; I don't blame you one bit for trying to get into scoring position. So the A's scored three runs in the first, instead of four, and gave McCarthy an early lead.
McCarthy walked two to open the first inning, but didn't allow a run until the fourth (against Texas, not too shabby). A quick Napoli single and a Mitch Moreland homerun brought Texas within a run, evaporating the early 3-0 lead. The A's couldn't get back on the board against Harrison, but Brandon McCarthy kept the lead until the sixth inning, when all hell broke loose.
It started with a one-out Moreland homerun (his second on the day) to tie the game, a double to put the go-ahead run at second base, and a single to put runners on first and third with one out. The Rangers--with their offensive firepower, mind you--chose to squeeze bunt for the run, but Elvis Andrus popped it up. Brandon McCarthy caught it. YES, caught it; see the video all over the internet for ironclad proof. And no one had a better view than Laz Diaz, who was right there. McCarthy not only caught the ball, but doubled the runner up, so the A's were out of the inning, right? Wrong. Diaz claimed that McCarthy trapped the ball, the run scored, and the other runners were safe. Bob Melvin wasted no time in getting ejected arguing the call, but manged to not throw a batting helmet.
Grant Balfour replaced McCarthy after the fiasco, and got out of the one-out, two-on jam without allowing a further run. Down 4-3 in the seventh, Josh Reddick hit his biggest homerun of the season for the A's, to tie the game. Balfour would start the eighth inning with a lead-off single and a stolen base, but Josh Donaldson saved a run with a diving stop to get an out, and prevent the run from scoring. (Don't worry, you would forget this play by his ninth inning actions.)
Ryan Cook nearly gave all of us a heart attack in the eighth inning, as he was clearly in pain after throwing a pitch (possible cause: blister on finger), but he stayed in the game and pitched a perfect eighth (retiring pinch-hitter Josh Hamilton, to boot). After the A's failed to break the tie in the ninth, Cook was greeted by a two base Donaldson error to open the bottom of the ninth. A groundout would move the winning run to third with one out, but after an intentional walk, Cook would strike out Nelson Cruz, Suzuki would make a game-saving block, and a final groundout would send the game to extra innings.
Jonny Gomes started the 10th with a single and in what was a classic example of why the sacrifice bunt is such a bad idea, Kurt Suzuki (who had been smoking the ball all over the park all day) popped up the sacrifice bunt, looking wildly uncomfortable with his role as bunter. Jemile Weeks? Fine. Kurt Suzuki? Let him hit! The A's cost themselves an out, and possibly an insurance run. On the road. Against the best hitting team in the league. When one run might not be enough. Luckily for the A's, Daric Barton came up with a HUGE pinch-hit single, and Kila Ka'aihue followed with an even bigger one, driving in the go-ahead run to put the A's up 5-4. Brian Fuentes, closer extraordinaire, threw a shockingly uneventful bottom of the tenth for the save, allowing just a single.
This was a gigantic win for the A's today, and a real game. The A's are still over the .500 mark and haven't lost a series all month. They leave Texas and head to San Francisco for a little Bay Area rival action, starting tomorrow night. It's time for a sweep! We'll see you right here, and I'll leave you with this:
No, that was not a good call. Yes, that was a great win. We don't win games like that last year.— Brandon McCarthy (@BMcCarthy32) May 17, 2012