Best. Game. Ever.
If you happen to wake up for the day and read this recap, and you weren't in the game threads or at the Coliseum live for the longest game in either A's and Angels history last night/this morning, you missed a doozy. I was the guest recapper for tonight's game, and i had no idea what I was getting myself into. Nearly seven hours after the game began; in a game fraught with injuries, odd ball and strike calls, near-misses, great plays, key errors, unlikely heroes, and a 5-run comeback after yesterday's 5-run comeback, ended on a Brandon Moss walk-off early into Tuesday morning, the ball sailing over the fence for yet another walk-off win to the sheer joy and complete relief of the giddy A's fans still left at the park, and awake at home.
Coming into the game, both Brett Anderson and Jerry Blevins were unavailable, but as the long night wore on, and the roster grew thin, everyone in the 'pen and the bench was pressed into action as the A's turned around another sure loss into a thrilling win. Just another day at the ballpark for the A's, the one where you will get your money's worth as long as you don't leave the game early.
Dan Straily started the game tonight in place of the injured Brett Anderson who couldn't make his start on April 29th, 2013, but instead pitched into the early hours of April 30th, 2013. And I will never say another bad word about him. Brett Anderson put on a gutsy, gritty, Superman-like 5+ inning performance as he and his bad ankle limped around, but pitched an absolute gem; his best work all year, and it wasn't even his start. But we can't talk about the A's second game until we talk about their first.
Backed by a two-homerun night by Albert Pujols, the Angels would go for the early route of the A's, and run the score to 6-1 in the fifth and 7-2 in the seventh before the A's got their offense in gear, leaving it all out on the field on the last day of April, as they desperately tried to outscore their struggling starting pitching.
A couple of nice defensive plays by Josh Hamilton ensured that the A's wouldn't get on the board early, as his defense ended the first inning, robbing an RBI off the bat of Cespedes, and ended the rally in the second on a deep hit by Reddick. (He would also end a homerun teAse in the tenth inning.) Although Hamilton had the glove all night, he would go 0-8 at the plate, recording only a sacrifice fly. The Angels handed the A's one charity run on a very generously scored a RBI "hit" by John Jaso in the fourth that clanked off Harris, and Brandon Moss hit a solo homer in the sixth for the A's second run. The A's offense, who performed quite nicely against the first half of the Angels' bullpen, would miraculously erase the Angels' seven runs and give a no-decision to Angels' starter Tommy Hanson, newly returned from the Bereavement List after the death of his brother, and pitching very well; albeit helped by the generous strike zone. Which would strangely shrink and move from batter to batter the longer the game went on.
Pujols and Trumbo homered early for the Angels in this one; in the first and second innings. Trumbo's ball was killed. Straily is a pitcher known for the long ball, but he kept both of them to solo shots. Alone, those runs would have been fine, but Straily wasn't done. He ran into a jam in the fourth as he "walked" Trumbo (read: struck him out easily, and it was called a ball) and Lowrie made an error on the most routine of ground balls to put two on, but Straily pitched out of it.
The problem for Straily was his fifth inning; capped off by a ridiculously cheap, silly and unlucky blooper off the bat of Pujols. But again, the single hit wasn't the problem. The fact that the bases were loaded at the time was. All it took was a single, HBP, and another single that led to the unlucky blooper, followed by a Hamilton sacrifice fly to run the score to 6-1. This is the happiest of all happy game threads, so I'll just barely touch on the Groundhog Day feeling, watching the A's starting pitching these days. The A's pitchers will lull you into a false sense of security. "Hey, they're pitching a great game! This will be the day our pitching comes alive and starts throwing up some zeros!" And then…BAM! Before you know it, the pitchers throw up 4-run innings in a matter of 5 batters, before you can get the (tired, overworked, exhausted) bullpen going. Newcomer Dan Straily was no exception tonight as he joined the crooked number club with his four-spot fifth inning.
The A's and Angels would trade runs in the bottom of the sixth and top of the seventh as Moss and Pujols would both homer (Neshek would be the recipient of Pujols' second homerun), and the top of eighth inning saw some great defensive plays for the A's, topped off by a leaping circus catch for Josh Donaldson, who is the real deal at third base. Believe it or not, he would make his best play of the game in the top of the nineteenth inning as he barehanded a ball on a flat run, while still throwing to first in time to keep the Angels off the bases.
The A's offense would put on quite the show in the eighth inning, getting Crisp and Smith on base with singles to start the inning. A questionable RBI single for Lowrie (that looked for all the world like a double-play ball that got through) would score the A's third run, and the A's would load the bases with a Cespedes walk with no one out and the tying run at the plate, which is all you really want in a blowout, right? Brandon Moss came up as the tying run and the Angels got an out at home plate. Don't worry. Moss would hit two homeruns in the game, including the walk-off, and I don't even remember that at-bat anymore.
With one out, Josh Donaldson, the player of the week, hit a perfectly placed single that would score 2 and bring the A's ever closer to 7-5. After Derek Norris struck out, Josh Reddick was called back in favor of pinch-hitter Chris Young, who had a fantastic at-bat, and approach. He went with what he was given, and poked a single up the middle to score the A's sixth run, and bring them within a single run. Adam Rosales would try hard, but he would harmlessly fly out with two on to end the inning, but aside from the four runs scored, the eighth inning was extra important as A's batted around to set up the ninth.
Meanwhile, Resop stopped the bleeding by pitching a perfect eighth, and the first two outs of the ninth before he ran into his own jam. With runners on first and third and two outs, Doolittle came in to strike out Josh Hamilton on four pitches, ending the inning, and setting the table for another A's comeback.
Coco Crisp followed the script, as he fell behind in the count and somehow managed to work the walk to lead off the ninth. Seth Smith flied out to Hamilton, but it was deep enough--and Coco was aggressive and fast enough--to get himself to second base. But Lowrie struck out to record the second out, bringing up Yoenis Cespedes. Crisp would steal third during his at-bat. Cespedes very nearly ended the game in the ninth, with a smash shot to center, which went for a...single, since he stopped to admire the shot, as did we all. Unfortunately, the ball did not go out and he was left at first when the inning ended. But he tied the game, and that's what really matters. No one wanted to see Cespedes sliding into second base anyway, right?
So we go to extra innings, blissfully unaware that we would be playing more than another full game. Up to this point, the A's had used Straily, Neshek, Resop and Balfour for the tenth and eleventh. Balfour wouldn't give up a run. Ryan Cook, who was just lovely, pitched a perfect 12th of his own. Meanwhile, the A's were using Jerome Williams as a launching pad, but the A's were only getting warning track power. They almost won the game in the 10th as Chris Young launched a ball of his own to deep left field, but it appeared to bounce at the wall, and not off the sign beyond. It was reviewed, but it stood as a triple. We aren't sure if Young could have inside-the-park homerun'd it if he had it in his mind when he left the box, and he definitely tweaked something that would come back later to haunt him. He would leave the game after hitting into his second double-play in extra innings, right after Coco Crisp left the game with his own leg injury, leaving Moss and Smith in the outfield as replacements, and Jerry Blevins as a batter.
Anderson would come into the game in the thirteenth inning, and would pitch 5+. Most umpires expand their strike zone as the night gets later. Kerwin Danley just seemed to forget the strike zone entirely. Seriously, there were strikes down the middle called balls on both sides, but luckily, Brett Anderson was not kicked out of the game for arguing balls and strikes that saw him "walk" in a run in the 15th, giving the Angels the 8-7 lead. Briefly, I might add.
The A's would tie the game again with a little help from the Angels, as Kendrick/Pujols combined to give Donaldson first base by both dropping the routine ball. Norris (who replaced Jaso back in some other inning in a normal game when I was still young) walked to put two men on base and Chris Young hit into his second DP of the bonus baseball, leaving a runner on second with two outs. Adam Rosales (who replaced Sogard back in some other inning in a normal game when I was still young) came through in as big of a hit as the A's would have to tie the game with a single that was slow-hit enough to center to allow Norris to score.
Anderson would pitch another 2+ innings, limping badly in the eighteenth. The A's had no choice but to pull him for injury reasons, replacing him with Jerry Blevins. Who would come up as clutch as it gets, finishing the eighteenth and pitching the nineteenth. Which, of course, set up the walk by Seth Smith, the out by Lowrie that didn't move the runner, the out by Cespedes, all to bring up Moss with 2-outs and the A's needing the game. He crushed a homerun into the cold early morning Oakland air, and then proceeded to take the pie and pie himself.
This was a gigantic game, and a huge win for the A's, and if anything is going to jump start this starting pitching staff, it was a game like today. We'll see if the pitchers fight a little harder, throw a little better, because for 19 innings, this team never once gave up, even with major casualties. We'll survey the carnage in the light of day tomorrow, and likely both teams will have roster implications. The Angels lost Jimenez and Bourjos tonight and the A's lost Crisp, Young, and likely Anderson, as well. Make it worth it. And with that, the A's earn--and did they ever--their 15th win of the season, and I can finally go to bed.
Jarrod Parker takes the mound tonight, looking to rebound and to give the A's some much needed innings.
LET'S GO OAK-LAND! I LOVE THIS TEAM!