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These games have been so tight, so fraught with tension, with so many twists and turns, that each game could be summarized as its own mini-season. Today was no exception. How we got to the bottom of the 8th tied 2-2 is every bit as much an episode as what happened in the bottom of the 8th inning -- when Yoenis Cespedes launched a moon shot just inside the LF foul pole and then with Brandon Moss at 2B Josh Reddick sent one just inside the RF foul pole into the second deck. The A's didn't score from the 1st to the 8th, and in fact they barely hit until Erasmo Ramirez left after 100 pitches -- the second game in a row in which Eric Wedge pulled his starting pitcher an inning sooner than he could have.
In the 1st, though, following a Stephen Drew walk Ramirez surrendered an RBI triple down the RF line to Cespedes, who scored on a medium-shallow sac fly to CF off the bat off Moss. Great 3B coaching by Mike Gallego to send Cespedes and it paid off when Gutierrez' throw hit the mound and caromed away.
Tommy Milone never really had it today and Bob Melvin deserves accolades for the way he managed the pitchers. Milone gave up 7 hits in his first 2+ innings, including 2 runs in the 3rd to tie it. Some of the hits were bleeders, others hit hard, but by the time the game got into the 5th it was clear that Milone just wasn't ever going to find a real groove. Melvin pulled him after a one out triple by Casper Wells, the Mariners' 9th hit off Milone in 4.1 IP, then a key strikeout of Kyle Seager.
Summoned from the bullpen to face Jesus Montero, Pat Neshek misfired 4 pitches to walk him and Melvin went to Jerry Blevins to face Justin Smoak. Justin smoaked one to the hole, but Josh Donaldson dived to his left to spear it, then calmly got up and fired a strike to 1B to retire the not-so-gazelle-like Smoak. It was not the only time the Mariners would teeter on the brink of scoring a 3rd run only to be denied.
In the 7th, Ryan Cook served up a double to Brendan "I only hit against the A's" Ryan and a single to Trayvon Robinson, putting runners at 1B and 3rd with nobody out. Cook then struck out Wells, Seager, and Montero to keep the game tied 2-2.
Doolittle survived the 8th, despite back-to-back heart attack inducing fly balls to start the inning. The first was a moon shot by Smoak that sent Cespedes to the warning track. The second was a drive to CF that Crisp lost in the sun, and caught literally while looking away from the ball as it found his glove.
Then "Boom" and then "BOOM" and it was 5-2. Grant Balfour pitched an uneventful 9th facing just 3 batters and unleashing just 25 profanities, and the A's had their 91st win. Texas has 92 as they play the nightcap of their double-header. If the Angels win (and they're leading 4-3 in the 2nd as I write this; could there be alcoholic nightmares ahead for somebody?), Oakland will be just 1 game out of 1st place when the Rangers arrive to town.
And if the Rangers come back (they trailed 4-0 after a 1/2-inning) and win? Then the A's will have clinched a tie for a playoff spot with the Angels 3 back with 3 to play. Something good is going to happen in that game, and something good is happening at the Coliseum right now. Something crazy. Just plain crazy.