Early on, there was a pivotal moment and then things just got progressively worse. By the end, A's pitchers had walked 9, especially shocking since they had a streak going of 44 consecutive games in which they walked 3 or fewer.
Up against Randy Wolf, who was lobbing slop that wouldn't have knocked down a house made of straw, the A's struck early in the 1st inning when Collin Cowgill doubled and Josh Reddick launched his 29th HR to give Oakland a 2-0 lead. Then Yoenis Cespedes doubled and Chris Carter walked and the A's had Wolf on the ropes.
It's great to be aggressive, but when you run sometimes the person you bother is the hitter. The runners broke on an 0-2 pitch that was well off the plate and Josh Donaldson could have taken the pitch -- but a hitter's instinct is often to "protect the runners" even if he doesn't have to, and Donaldson reached out to tap a one-hopper back to the mound. Wouldn't you know that Wolf had one good fastball in him today, and he fired it to 2B to start a 1-6-3 DP. Had Carter slid into 2B he might have been safe, but he didn't and he wasn't. The A's settled for 2 and it wasn't nearly enough.
Straily just wasn't good. Homer-prone since his call up, Straily served up HRs to Matt Wieters and ... Matt Wieters. That's 7 HRs off of Straily in just 28.1 IP. Straily also walked 5 and struck out just 1 in his 4.2 IP, including a bases loaded walk to the last batter he faced, Mark Reynolds. Travis Blackley got out of any further trouble, retiring Manny Machado to leave the bases loaded in the 5th, but by then it was 5-2 Orioles.
Shockingly, the group of Evan Scribner, Pedro Figueroa, Tyson Ross, Jim Miller, and Jesse Chavez were, as a group, ineffective. I noes!!!!! In particular, Ross gave up 3 insurance runs in the 7th, Chavez 2 in the 9th, and those runs became crucial once the A's began their "teAse".
Stephen Drew's 2-run HR in the 7th brought the A's to within 7-4. Then in the 9th, with the O's leading 9-4, a walk to birthday-boy Brandon Moss (happy 29th), an RBI single by Reddick, and a single by Cespedes, and suddenly the tying run was on deck. Carter ran the count to 3-1, but ultimately bounced out to SS to end it.
Among the many things the A's have done well this year is to "consolidate the suck" into one game, rather than spreading it out among several. I believe there should be an official stat called "CTS" that shows how well a team puts all the suck into a single game.
Today the A's didn't pitch, they didn't hit from the 1st to the 7th, and Josh Donaldson had a tough day in the field, botching a grounder to allow a run to score (charitably ruled a hit) and missing another to the backhand side. But since the A's pitched, threw strikes, hit, and played defense so well Friday and Saturday, by having a strong "CTS" value in the series they were able to win the series.
You may be wondering why after entering the game in the 5th inning, Blackley didn't just toss the next 3-4 innings while the A's tried to come back. Seems like a wonderful luxury to have Blackley in the pen for just that purpose. But he didn't. You may also be wondering which #4 starter would get the call in a potential ALDS behind Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker, and A.J. Griffin -- Tommy Milone or Dan Straily. I think this past week has provided the answer: It's Milone who is ready right now.
Now comes a huge test for the A's. They face Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander (#1 and #2 in the AL in strikeouts) to open their 3-game series in Detroit, then go to Yankee stadium for 3, then to Texas for 4. Hang on to your hats because the A's haven't clinched anything yet. Not even close.