Hot mess, people. That about sums up tonight's game, but who cares? We have a real winning streak! The A's, winners of 6 in a row and 11 out of their last 12, have moved eight games over .500, and a mere two games behind first place, after being 5.5 back exactly one week ago. Now that we can finally breathe, after our A's staved off multiple Giants' comebacks after wasting a plethora of baserunners, let's take a look back at how we ended up winning this game 9-6; a score that belied how incredibly close this game was.I don't even know where to start. Do we start with the Giants' fans trying (and failing) to take home a live-ball souvenir? Or our announcers' knowledge of archaic and rarely-enforced MLB rules? Or do we debate whether the ball hitting a seagull in mid-flight would end up fair or foul (this discussion really happened from our TV booth)? Or perhaps Donaldson's steely-eyed determination after being robbed of a hit and given an unfair error, as he made the play of the night to help shut down the Giants?
The heroes of the game are too numerous to mention. The A's did a lot of little--and big--things right, but no one was bigger than Nate Freiman, the pinch-hitter who would go 2-3 with 3RBI. Indeed, every position player except Montz got into this game and every starter had a hit except Moss, whose replacement more than made up for that. Believe it or not, the A's didn't have a single homerun, but they turned their 11 hits and 5 walks into 9 runs. Tommy Milone would easily best Timmy Lincecum, and although Milone's five innings, eight hits, three walks, and four runs were nothing to write home about, he did earn the win to even his record at 5-5. Blevins, Neshek, and Balfour (who earned his 12th save tonight) wouldn't give up a run of their own, but in the rarest of all moments, Doolittle would nearly let the Giants back in the game, allowing two runs in his appearance. He doubled his ERA with tonight's game alone. (To be fair, it's still 1.48.)
The A's scored their first runs right out of the gate in the first inning, with a little help from the Giants' defense, which incidentally would provide a lot of help throughout the night. Not that the A's aren't screaming hot right now, but the Giants' defense looked like they borrowed the Astros for the game. I'm not complaining, mind you, but a recap should tell it like it is. Coco Crisp walked to start the ballgame and after Lowrie grounded out, Cespedes smoked a triple over all of the outfielders, scoring Coco for the A's first run. After Seth Smith grounded out without scoring the runner, Josh Donaldson popped up, and a miscommunication by the Giants' defense would allow the ball to drop, and the run to score. I'd laugh (again), but the same thing happened to the A's later, so it's not quite as funny. I blame the seagulls. Or AT&T park.
With a 2-0 lead to start the game, things seemed to be falling into place quite nicely for our green and gold heroes. But then, in the bottom of the second inning, Hunter Pence provided a replay of his at-bat last night and homered to cut the lead to 2-1. Milone would put two on in the third, but would induce a ground ball from Sandoval to end the inning. Seth Smith would double to open the fourth inning, would be moved to third on a fly ball by Donaldson, bringing up John Jaso. Who...swung on a 3-0 pitch. I was gobsmacked. And even more so when Freiman did the same thing in the ninth. I get that you want the best pitch possible, but I'm not sure Jaso is who I want to be hitting 3-0. On the other hand, it makes the A's look Yankees-mystique-esque, so it could be kind of fun. And they would get the best pitches. And other pitchers would walk them because they know how crafty the A's can be on 3-0. I...don't know. I haven't worked it out yet. What I do know is that Tim Lincecum can't throw a strike to save his life on a 3-2 count, and why should he? The A's kept swinging at balls in the dirt! Until they didn't. Jaso would eventually walk in his at-bat, despite his best efforts, and Brandon Moss did not pick him up. He did the absolute worst thing you can do as a 7-hitter with a man on third with one out and a base empty; he struck out. Because the National League pitching is "exciting" and "strategic" (and if anyone could actually explain to me how exciting it is to walk the eighth place hitter, who is Eric Sogard to watch the pitcher flail about wildly, I'd be happy to listen), we got to see Tommy Milone bat with the bases loaded and fly out. Which I guess was better than Timmy Lincecum batting with the bases loaded in the bottom of the inning and striking out, but neither ending particularly felt like a baseball game. I guess the edge the Coliseum has over AT&T park is the Designated Hitter, which feels a lot more like, well, hitting the ball and moving around the bases, you know?
After that thrilling inning, I realized that Bochy is not a mind-reader. If so, he would have saved himself the time and just pinch-hit for Lincecum with the bases loaded, rather than have him pitch the fifth inning. As an A's fan; however, I was extraordinarily glad that Lincecum was still in. The A's greeted him warmly with a single by Coco, a double by Lowrie, extending the A's lead to 3-1. Smith walked with one out, putting runners at first and second, and Donaldson singled, to no one, exactly. He hit the ball to the first baseman Pill, but Lincecum never bothered taking even one step towards first base to cover, so there was nowhere to throw and the bases were loaded. Jaso singled to drive in the A"s 4th run, knocking Lincecum out of the game. Freiman replaced Moss, and singled two more in, giving the A's a 6-1 lead. At the time, it didn't seem important that Sogard wasn't pinch-hit for (he would be in the ninth); as the seventh run couldn't be that important, now could it? We were a little bit wrong. Sogard popped up without getting the run in, and although the A's would squeak out the win, it was a whole lot of stress to get to the ninth.
Strange things happened in the bottom of the sixth inning. Pill led of the inning with a homerun, making it 6-2, and a close 6-2, if you know what I mean from watching the game. Two singles knocked Milone out of the game and he didn't retire a batter in the sixth. Jerry Blevins gave up a sacrifice fly that felt for all the world like it was going out for a three-run homerun to nudge the Giants ever closer, and then things went crazy. With a runner on first base (Blanco, fast), Torres "doubled" to left field, but two Giants' fans leaned down to retrieve the live ball, and it bounced off a hand. They were also kicked out of the park, which I'm actually not sure I agree with. They weren't being intentionally malicious, just not paying any real attention to the situation. In the usual situation, the hit is ruled a ground-rule double and the runner on first stays at third. However, let me post the rule:
Rule 3.16 Comment: There is a difference between a ball which has been thrown or batted into the stands, touching a spectator thereby being out of play even though it rebounds onto the field and a spectator going onto the field or reaching over, under or through a barrier and touching a ball in play or touching or otherwise interfering with a player. In the latter case it is clearly intentional and shall be dealt with as intentional interference as in Rule 3.15. Batter and runners shall be placed where in the umpire’s judgment they would have been had the interference not occurred.
The umpires ruled that in their judgment, Blanco would have scored had the ball continued its normal course. There's no real arguing with that; the rule leaves it up to the discretion of the umpiring crew, and they deserve a whole lotta heat from this season, but this isn't one of the examples (see: blown call on Donaldson single in the next inning). At the end of that debacle, that saw Chip Hale kicked out of the game, the Giants had fought back to a 6-4 deficit.
Donaldson, continuing his bid for awesomeness at third base, flashed the leather in the seventh inning to help Neshek, and a double switch brought Norris and Doolittle into the game. The A's recorded an insurance run in the eighth on a double by Sogard and a sac fly by Coco to extend the lead to 7-4, but the Giants scored 2 off Doolittle in their half to close the gap to 7-6. But then, Smith walked with one out in the ninth, bringing up Josh Donaldson. Seriously, find the clip of this at-bat. It won't disappoint. Donaldson singled, Torres fell twice, allowing Smith to score, and Donaldson to take second. Freiman would single him in to give Balfour the three-run save opp.
Door slammed, A's win, and they will go for the ever-elusive four-game sweep tomorrow afternoon as they have already won this battle of the bay; they would just like to put an extra stamp on it. A's go for 7 in a row; Griffin against Zito 12:45PM.