For years I've been waiting for the A's to display a balanced attack that combines "take any base they give you" small ball with "grip it and rip it" not-so-small ball. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive, as tonight game -- actually tonight's 4th inning -- demonstrated.
The top of the 4th was kind of the A's season in microcosm. Tied 1-1, Yoenis Cespedes led the inning off with a double but had to stay put when Chris Carter bounced to SS. (Hey, at least he made contact -- Carter struck out his other 4 times up.) The ever-opportunistic A's then struck a key "blow" when Cespedes stole 3B on the combination of Hisashi Iwakuma's slow delivery and Jesus Montero's even slower release. That steal was huge, as the Mariners brought the infield in, and Stephen Drew's grounder to the right side ticked off of Dustin Ackley's glove for an RBI single that gave Oakland a 2-1 lead.
Then came the other part of the 2012 A's attack: The long ball. George Kattaras, for the second night in a row, launched a HR into the right field seats to give the A's 4-1 advantage, this one a 2-run shot. The A's lead the major leagues in HRs since the All-Star break. Coco Crisp's RBI double capped off a 4-run inning and the A's never looked back.
Meanwhile, Brett Anderson had his 4th excellent start out of 4, despite looking only so-so in the 1st and 2nd and using the spacious Safeco Field outfield to full advantage. By night's end, though, Anderson had put up another 6 innings of 1 run ball, with 0 BBs and 4 Ks and that's solid no matter who or where you're playing.
At times I thought Anderson fell too in love with his breaking pitches, which the hitters appeared to be looking for, but the bottom line is that even when you guess right on Anderson's curve or slider it has enough movement that it's hard to square up.
* Jesus Montero is not a good catcher. On Cespedes' steal of 3B, I'm not sure I've seen a slower release all season. He also clanked a pitch that was down the middle, among other failures that made me wonder how long he'll last behind the dish. Of course the way Justin Smoak is batting, now down to .189 after a series of soft contact ABs tonight, there may be an opening soon at 1B.
* Josh Reddick may be fighting a slump in which he has looked lost at the plate at times, especially with RISP, but his defense is not only excellent, it's easy to overlook. He cut a ball off in the alley, and ran down 2-3 fly balls, that were not easy plays -- they were just plays he made look easy. Between Crisp and Reddick, there is not much room from left-center to the right field foul pole for batters to exploit, and it's a big part of why the A's, and their pitchers, have been so successful this year.
* The A's currently have a better record than the Yankees. I just needed to point that out.