Game #83: A's Comeback Shows - A Series Win Was In The Cards!

"Oy." - Ezra Shaw

After half an inning today it would have been hard to convince A's fans that Oakland was going to win the series against St. Louis. Or that Tommy Milone would be returned the winning pitcher. But the game seemed to turn on a play by one of the few A's not to get a hit today -- in fact he left after 3 innings, having "died" a hero...

In the top of the 1st, Milone was throwing batting practice. Matt Carpenter led off by narrowly missing a HR and settling for a double high off the wall. One batter later, Carlos Beltran launched a 2-run HR and then Allen Craig went back-to-back to make it 3-0. That's when Matt Holliday smoked one about as hard as the balls lost by Beltran and Craig, only without the lift necessary to get out. As the ball sailed into the left-center field gap, Coco Crisp closed in, went airborne horizontal-style, and made a circus catch. And from that moment on, the comeback was on. Crisp left the game after 3 innings, seen in the dugout holding his side and stretching it out in some pain.

The A's came back immediately with 2 in the bottom of the 1st against Jake Westbrook, as Seth Smith doubled with one out, Jed Lowrie singled Smith home and Yoenis Cespedes drilled a double to right-center field. Cespedes had two hits today, one to right-center and one just to the right of straightaway in CF, and both were smoked.

There was a brief blip when in the top of the 3rd, first Carpenter HRed -- the 3rd HR off of Milone, who has now surrendered 19 for the season in 106 IP -- and then for a moment Lowrie just fell apart. With Beltran at 2B and two out, Holliday hit a sharp grounder right at Lowrie, who let the ball rattle between his feet and roll behind him for an E-6. Trouble is, Lowrie angrily swiped at the dirt in front of him instead of looking to see where the ball was. It was just a few feet behind him and had he retrieved it Beltran would have been forced to stop at 3B. Instead, Beltran continued on home and the Cardinals had a 5-2 lead.

No problem. The A's opened the bottom of the 3rd with a Smith single, and one out later a Cespedes single on which Smith went to 3rd when the ball was bobbled in CF by Shane Robinson. Brandon Moss then sent a ball high off the left-center field wall, scoring Smith and then scoring Cespedes when the relay bounced away from Carpenter. 5-4 Cardinals.

In the bottom of the 4th, Lowrie atoned for his earlier errors and then some. Chris Young led off with a double and with one out Lowrie crushed a 2-run HR to right-center field -- just the 2nd HR all year in 61 IP off of the sinkerball specialist Westbrook. That gave the A's a 6-5 lead.

Meanwhile, Milone settled down just enough to wobble through not 4, not 5, but 6 innings, as Jesse Chavez threw a complete game in the bullpen but was never summoned. Sean Doolittle pitched a scoreless 7th and Ryan Cook a 1-2-3 8th, each pitching for the first time in 5 days.

In the bottom of the 7th, Josh Donaldson gave the bullpen an insurance run after watching Trevor Rosenthal, and his 95-98MPH fastball, blow away Cespedes and Moss. Undaunted, Donaldson picked on a fastball away and drove it into the right-center field seats. Earlier, he also made a tumbling catch on the tarp of a foul popup, and saved a run with a diving stop for an inning ending 5-3 putout. All-Star game, anyone?

Grant Balfour worked the 9th, his first outing in a week dating back to the Kendrys Morales walk-off HR in Seattle. Throwing almost exclusively fastballs, Balfour painted a 1-2-3 canvas for his 37th consecutive save, now just 3 shy of the A's record held by Dennis Eckersley.

Despite some profound low points -- the missiles launched off of Milone in rapid succession and a defensive letdown in the 3rd to renew the steepness of the A's uphill climb -- this was a game of highs and highs, from clutch drives from Moss and Lowrie, to a sensational running catch battling the sun by Eric Sogard, to Donaldson looking like a man among boys on both sides of the ball.

In the end, it's 4-1 against the Reds and Cardinals, and Oakland's 3rd consecutive 16-win month. Here's to July!

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