Let me take you back some, to when this season was still in its infancy and the A's captivating play was anything but foreseeable. We had been, barely, playing .500 ball over the course of the first month or so of baseball, had recently been shut down by an O's pitcher named Chen (as yet without a somewhat arcane K record to his name) and were now set to open a series against the "streaking" Rays at Tampa.
Smack. In the Face. Not only were we shelled to the tune of consecutive 3 and 4 run innings, respectively (or rather our lanky once-prospect was), but we were baffled by "ace stuff" from one of the only two 5 game winners in the major leagues at that point of the season (the other being his team mate James Shields, whom we would not face that series).
"Out of all my starts this year, I feel like this was the best that I've felt," Price said. "It was the best fastball command I've had all year."
"Electric stuff, absolutely," agreed former Ray Jonny Gomes
Unabashed praise for our opponent also meant plenty of this:
Meanwhile, the A's offensive struggles continue. Their team batting average is now .212, the lowest in the American League.
"I didn't do a good job of getting ahead of the hitters and inducing ground balls," Ross admitted. [...] And they definitely made me pay."
Ouch. So, having turned around our previous series at Fenway to reach the .500 plateau after losing the series opener we would be faced with the same challenging task as we were greeted by 8 innings of 3-hit, 12-K ball to open the series.
Somehow, after another day -- and another pitcher, or in fact a parade of them -- we had endured a marathon and evened the series, earning some praise of our own:
"That's just the way Jonny plays," said Tampa Bay first baseman Carlos Pena. "He goes all out, all the time.
"It was a tough way to lose," continued Pena, who played for the A's in 2002. "But you've got to tip your hat to the way they played."
In fact, most hat tipping went to the bullpen after their 0BB, 7IP performance that saw Fuentes collect the win as the third consecutive reliever to deliver 2 shutdown innings, paving the way for Gomes to double as game saver (making an awesome catch in left field to start off the extra innings affair) and game winner (HRing in the 12th, providing what would be the winning run). 4-3 in 12, back to .500
Quite unexpectedly, on day three the A's celebrated another win, in yet more enthralling fashion, overcoming a 1st inning, 4 run Milone meltdown (I remember the radio announcer, after 3 walks to start off the game for Milone, alluding to an out-of-body experience the young lefty was clearly working through). He did recover from his unseemly 1st, in the end tossing 5 innings and allowing only one more run, but there was another unlikely hero:
The A's signed veteran third baseman Brandon Inge a week ago in the hopes he might give their struggling offense a lift.
On Sunday afternoon, Inge did exactly that, driving in four runs with a three-run homer and a sacrifice fly as the A's came from behind to prevail, 9-5, over the Rays at Tropicana Field for their fourth win in their last five games.
This, of course, would just be the beginning of the most unlikely of runs as Inge would go on, just two days later, to walk off grand slam style and ignite a team to outperform even its wildest dreams.
I could do with more of this. How about starting tonight?