To start tonight's game recap, I would like to have a moment of silence for Derek Norris's beard. He shaved his beautiful lumberjack beard into a goatee that makes him look like a frat boy with a nickname like "Bruiser." It was a truly beautiful creation, and it will be missed. I hope to see it return someday soon.
On to a bit of better news: This was Oakland's 11th game of the season against the Mariners, which means that there are only 8 more matchups left between these two teams! Listen, I love baseball. I love it more than most things in life. I appreciate the fine intricacies and subtleties and pitching duels and everything, but A's/Mariners games are just the worst. They are the absolute most boring things ever. And they happen 19 times. Every year. Unbearable.
This one was no different. A bunch of stuff didn't happen for 10 and a half innings, and then one cool thing ended it. I guess I gave it away in the title; Chris Carter's walk-off home run was really the only interesting part of this game. Tommy Milone dominated Seattle's lineup for 7 innings, which is about as difficult as successfully tying your shoes, and four relievers limited the Mariners to one hit over the final four frames. You can continue after the jump to hear more about this game, but I can't imagine why you would. This paragraph pretty much summed it up.
I remember a time when A's/Mariners games were absolutely gripping. The year was 2001, the Big Three were starting to really settle in, and the two teams were on their way to a combined 218 wins. Every pitch by Jeff Tam to Dan Wilson had me on the edge of my seat. I dreaded facing Jamie Moyer.
Tonight's game featured Milone against Kevin Millwood, who just won't stop posting sub-4 ERA's no matter how often I forget that he's still in the Majors. Milone got in a bit of trouble in the 1st, allowing three singles to assorted Mariners. One run crossed the plate. Admit it; at this moment, the thought crossed your mind: "Is this going to be the only run that scores tonight? Is this game going to end 1-0?" You thought it. Don't lie to me. More importantly, don't lie to yourself.
In the 2nd, Seth Smith got a hit, but was caught stealing on a botched hit-and-run to end the inning. In the 4th, the A's drew a pair of walks, but Brandon Moss struck out to strand them. In the 5th, Brendan Ryan walked, but he was picked off of first by Milone. God, these teams don't even want to score. Milone and Millwood each went 7 innings, allowing a combined 9 hits and three walks. They also combined to strike out 16 batters, which just has to be a typo. For his career, Millwood has struck out just under 7 batters per 9 innings. He usually sits in the low-to-mid 6 range. Milone is at 5.6 in his rookie season. Tonight, they struck out batters at a rate closer to Yu Darvish or Gio Gonzalez. That said, I'm not complaining about Milone's success tonight. Sure, his home ERA skyrocketed from 0.99 to 1.03, but his K:BB is also on the verge of exceeding 3.0 (he's at 72:25, or 2.88). Dude's good.
Sean Doolittle came on in relief in the top of the 8th, and guess what? Seattle didn't score. They got a baserunner, and when he stole 2nd, Norris dropped the ball on the transfer to his throwing hand, and there wasn't even a throw. Booooring. Brandon Hicks came in to pinch-hit for Pennington in the 8th, and...wait, what is that? Something exciting happening? Hicks launches one to right field! It's going back, back...wait no, it hit off of an errant electron at the top of the wall, on the completely unnecessary "jagged edge," and Hicks was limited to a double. This game was so boring that even home runs didn't go over the wall, but rather landed in for doubles. Sigh. Jemile Weeks came to the rescue, though. Rather than swinging for the fences, as he did on almost every pitch tonight, he rapped one up the middle for an RBI single. OK, that got me watching again.
If you were just following the play-by-play, you would think that the Mariners did something exciting in the 9th by hitting a triple to left. Nope. That was just Cespedes misplaying another fly ball, diving to catch a single and letting it get by him for a nearly-devastating triple. It was his third misplay-triple of the season, and the first two essentially cost the A's those two games. This one turned out not to matter, because if it mattered then that would mean that a run had scored. Not allowed. A's/Mariners.
Hey, look at that. Extra innings. Nine innings down, and this game still won't end. Extra frames are supposed to be exciting. They mean that the game is close, and someone probably made a dramatic comeback, and every pitch is magnified, and there's a 50% chance of a walk-off finish. Not when it's A's/Mariners. Then, it just means another 6 or 12 or 18 routine outs, until one team just gives up and leaves.
In the 10th, the Mariners forfeited the game by pinch-hitting for Brendan Ryan. I found this to be a most peculiar move, because Ryan has been an inexplicable A's-killer this season. The stats say that he's only 7-for-27 against Oakland, but it feels more like 30-for-27. As in, on three different occasions, he got 2 hits in a single at-bat. The dude just seems to be at the center of every good thing that happens to the Mariners when they play Oakland. Why would you take him out of an extra-inning game? He's the kind of guy who could turn a walk into a go-ahead 4-base error. I don't even know how, but Ryan could do it (against the A's, at least). If the Mariners were going to win this game, then Ryan was going to be involved, and now he was out of the game. Just a matter of time, A's fans.
In the bottom of the 10th, Hicks reached 2nd again. Weeks hit a liner up the middle, right at a shortstop who I've never heard of, and it resulted in an unassisted double play. Oh my god. Just end already. I have to get up early tomorrow.
In the 11th, the Mariners brought in...is that Oliver Perez? Seriously? The Mariners are so boring that someone actually dug up Oliver Perez's number and offered him a spot in the bullpen. They are so boring that 2012 players aren't boring enough; they have go back to 2009 to meet their criteria. The interview went something like this: "Do you record only walks and strikeouts, and allow virtually no one to hit the ball? Yes? Sold!" Kevin Millwood and Oliver Perez in the same game. In 2012. Now I've seen it all.
The A's then constructed the most boring rally ever: a bloop single by Reddick, and a check-swing infield cue shot by Smith. But then, something happened. A dark horse emerged from Oakland's dugout. Wait, that sounded racist. I didn't mean it like that. I meant it like someone who wins against expectations, or whose potential for success isn't readily apparent. Chris Carter, whose reputation so far in his career doesn't include the words "ice water in his veins," strode to the plate. Yet untainted by the infectious dullness of this game, Carter represented a new hope for excitement.
Carter fouled off the first pitch. The second pitch was a fastball that got too much of the plate. Last year, Carter would have watched that pitch for strike 2. Tonight, he swung. Boy, did he swing. Did you see the clip where the San Diego fireworks all went off at once in a giant mushroom cloud of patriotism? It looked kind of like that. When it was all over, the ball was in the back of the left field bleachers, 416 feet away from home plate, and the A's had their MLB-leading 7th walk-off win of the season.
Tommy Milone looked great. Chris Carter took one more giant leap toward fulfilling his potential. Jordan Norberto dominated in his inning. Weeks went up the middle three times, although he still appears to be over-swinging most of the time. Reddick and Smith both broke out of mini-funks by reaching base three times each. The A's reached .500, and now sit 3.5 games out of the nearest Wild Card spot. The game may have been a snoozer, but you've got to be happy with the results.
And with that, one more Mariners game is in the bag. Make it through this weekend, and you'll only have to see this team 6 more times all season (all in September). Next year, Oakland will play in a 5-team division. That will mean about 15 games against each team, rather than 19. The Houston Astros can't get here soon enough.
Oakland faces Jason Vargas tomorrow, which just sounds awful. The A's are hitting .161 off of Vargas this year. They will counter with Jarrod Parker, which means that there may not be a hit until the 10th inning. If Oakland wins, they will go over .500 for the first time since, like, 2006. Game time is 7:10pm, but you can probably wait until 9:00 before tuning in. God I can't stand the Mariners.