Last night was a rough game for the A's. The Yankees enjoyed a walk-off win, complete with a player getting doused with some sort of liquid right there on the infield dirt during a big celebration. Despite his team winning a thrilling game and getting crazy all over the field, though, all that Eric Chavez could think about was how the A's had celebrated, in their own dugout, after taking the lead in the 13th. Apparently, they were....wait for it...clapping and chanting. Whoa, calm down guys. Here is what Chavez had to say in the New York Post, which is sort of like a newspaper but without any actual news:
Chavez told The Post he considered the acts "high school-ish" and "pretty unprofessional."
I thought it was distasteful," Chavez said. "That's not cool. That's not how you play the game. I am all for having fun, but that crossed the line. It is all about being humble."
Of course, Chavez would know all about how to properly play the game of baseball, having spent his last four years in Oakland watching other people play it while he rehabbed various injuries. Chavy, when your team wins, it's probably best to just stick to talking about that, rather than kicking the other guys when they're down - especially when the other guys are a bunch of rookies who nearly beat your $200M super-team in your own park.
But then, look at me, kicking the other guy while he's down. In today's series finale, the A's finally held onto a lead in Yankee Stadium long enough to pull out a victory, all while the supposedly classy Yankees spent 9 innings showing up the umpires and arguing calls left and right. You know, sort of like an unprofessional high schooler would act.
You'll never guess who the hero was today for Oakland. Seriously, go ahead and guess. Whoever you said, you were wrong. It was Cliff Pennington. I know that you didn't guess Cliff Pennington, because why in the world would you? Penny, who started the day with an OPS below .600, hit a two-run homer early in the game, scored the tying run in the 5th, and drove in the go-ahead run in the 6th. Penny, for the rest of the day, I upgrade your nickname to Nickel. Don't get cocky or anything. It's just for today.
Continue on to read all about an A's victory!
Both teams sent out strong starting pitchers today. Oakland called on A.J. Griffin, while the Yankees rolled with Hiroki Kuroda. This could have easily been a scoreless game through 6 innings. Instead, the pitchers combined to allow 9 runs on 20 baserunners; Griffin was pulled in the 5th, and Kuroda in the 6th.
Oakland got on the board first. Stephen Drew reached on an infield single to lead off, and Brandon Moss eventually doubled him over to 3rd. In what is becoming a regular trend, Jonny Gomes was pitched around (and eventually walked) in order to go after Josh Reddick. However, before Reddick could fly out to end the rally, Kuroda uncorked a wild pitch (which, to Reddick's credit, he didn't swing at), and Drew trotted home with the first run of the game.
In the bottom of the 1st, Alex Rodriguez struck out looking. This was confusing to A-Rod, who is awesome at baseball and usually never gets out. However, rather than be professional, put his head down, and walk back to the dugout, he stood there for about 10-15 seconds to question home plate umpire Mike Estabrook. The mic on the broadcast was able to pick up some of his words, which included something along the lines of "You can tell me you screwed up, it's alright." Stay classy, A-Rod. (Click here to see the pitch which A-Rod so vehemently objected too; it's #5 on the graph, and is totally a borderline strike.)
In the 2nd inning, 1st base umpire Larry Vanover took it upon himself to affect the game for the second straight day. This time, though, he blew a crucial call in Oakland's favor. Josh Donaldson led off with a grounder to shortstop, but Eduardo Nunez's throw was wide and in the dirt. First baseman Nick Swisher stretched out and picked it, beating Donaldson by at least a half-step. Vanover called him safe. I'm not sure if he thought that Donnie beat the throw, or that Swisher's foot was off the bag, but whatever he thought, it was wrong. Donaldson was easily out. Two batters later, Nickel (remember now, that's Penny's name today) homered to right. 3-0 A's. Thanks, Larry Vanover! You can consider us even from yesterday's phantom balk, so go ahead and start making correct calls from here on out.
Meanwhile, Griffin cruised along through the first three innings. He didn't look particularly sharp, and his control was a bit off, but he was keeping New York off the board. That would end in the 4th. A-Rod led off by striking out looking for the second time. But then, Robinson Cano singled and Swisher homered to right, and the lead was cut to 3-2. After another pair of singles, Raul Ibanez doubled home a run to tie it and Nunez drove in the go-ahead run with a groundout to 2nd. Just like that, the Yankees led, 4-3.
Kuroda entered the 5th looking for a shutdown inning, but he would not get it. Nickel led off with a solid single to right, and Drew drew a walk. The runners advanced on another wild pitch by Kuroda, and Yoenis Cespedes blooped a single to right to cash in Nickel from third and tie the game.
In the bottom of the inning, Griffin got into trouble again. With two on and only one out (the out was another K by A-Rod), Bob Melvin had seen enough, and wisely pulled the rookie before the game could get out of hand. The bullpen had been taxed last night, but there was simply no other choice; Griffin didn't have it today, and the next batter was Swisher, who had already homered off of him. Jerry Blevins was summoned to stop the rally.
Blevins wasted no time in striking out Swisher on a 1-2 curveball, but Swisher disagreed. In another display of Yankee class, he spent over 15 seconds getting in Estabrook's face about the call. Frankly, I was a bit surprised that he didn't get tossed. Don't get me wrong; the call was bad. The pitch was way outside, and it should have been ball 2. But, for a team that loves to talk about how they play the game the right way, he sure spent a long time showing up the umpire. Stay classy, Swisher.
Blevins would strike out Granderson swinging to end the inning, and the A's headed to the 6th with the tie preserved. With one out in the inning, Josh Donaldson hit a grounder to the left side, but Nunez threw the ball into the camera well behind 1st base for a 2-base error. Two batters later, Nickel hit the jackpot once again, shooting a grounder through the hole on the left side. Donaldson beat Ichiro's throw home, and the A's had the lead, 5-4.
This is the part of the recap where I'm supposed to deliver the bad news. You know, the Yankees put up a 5-spot against Evan Scribner, or someone random like Chris Dickerson hit a walk-off homer in the 9th. None of that happened today, though. Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle, and Grant Balfour combined to shut down New York for the final 10 outs, and somehow, a 1-run lead was enough. The final pitch of the game was a called strike on the outside corner to Cano, who proceeded to stand there and pout and question the call, just like a true Yankee. This time, though, Estabrook didn't have to listen; the game was over, and he just walked away. Thatta boy. (Note: The pitch was slightly outside, but it was closer to the plate than the pitch he had taken for strike one. Stay classy, Cano.)
In a peculiar move, Melvin chose to pinch-hit for Seth Smith in the 9th inning...with Jemile Weeks. I'm not sure why he went with Weeks, rather than using literally anybody else on the bench, but that's what happened. Weeks struck out, which is about what you'd expect from a struggling youngster who has had 2 at-bats in the last 10 days. That's probably not the way to dig him out of his offensive hole. Otherwise, though, Melvin pushed all the right buttons today, particularly with the management of his bullpen. He didn't mess around with a tight game in Yankee Stadium, and he went with his big guns right from the start to preserve the lead. The A's had recalled Jeremy Accardo as a fresh arm, but today was not the time to test out the new guy.
I cannot over-emphasize how much the A's needed this win today. With the victory, their magic number for the 2nd Wild Card was reduced to 8, with 10 games left to play. Seven of those 10 games will come against the Rangers, and there is not another off-day for the rest of the season. Every game from here on out is a big game, and there is very little margin for error. The good news is that they took the Yankees down to the wire in all three games of this series. While they only came away with one victory, they showed that, even in their current injury-weakened state, they can still hang with title contenders. That is mighty impressive. How will the next 10 days go? Your guess is as good as mine. Anything is still possible; the A's could sweep the Rangers and win the division, they could limp into the Wild Card game and play the Orioles, or they could poop the bed and watch the Angels steal the last playoff spot.
All I know is, the Yankees put a $197M team on the field today, and they were beaten by a guy whose nickname is Penny. That is so money!