Game #87: Balfour Ties Record, Actually Saves Game for Milone, Backed by Reddickulously Offensive Performance

Ezra Shaw

Tommy Milone was picture-perfect for eight innings tonight, even better than Dan Straily in yesterday's contest. Josh Reddick created all of the offensive performance himself, and Grant Balfour bailed out Milone after he found a heap of trouble in the ninth inning, and the A's slam the door on the Royals to take the series opener 6-3.

Well, that was a little unnecessary excitement! I started writing again once my heart started beating again, and this recap is the product of a way closer game than the score even shows. The Royals had multiple chances to tie the game in the ninth inning, after the A's took a seemingly insurmountable 6-0 lead into the inning. Indeed, Grant Balfour replaced Tommy Milone after Milone scared his team in the ninth, allowing four straight hits to let the Royals back in the game. What did Balfour do? Simply slammed the door on the rally, leaving two men on base and the tying run at the plate, while earning his 40th consecutive save that tied Dennis Eckerseley of all people. Elite company, that, and a huge moment for a pitcher that we weren't sure would make it as a closer once upon a time. And tonight, she was no token save. Balfour earned this one, and truly saved the game, and the win for the A's, who are rolling right along at 15 games over .500; their season high.

This game was all A's, all the time, except for about 5 minutes in the 9th inning, and a good majority of the offense was sparked by Josh Reddick. Reddick went 2 for 3, with maybe a sac fly? maybe just an error? depending on how they score his last at-bat, and was the catalyst to the A's win. Yoenis Cespedes, who has been driving the struggle-bus as of late, was moved to the sixth spot, and may have been robbed in his first at-bat, had a solid hit in another, and had a deep fly ball mixed in there, as well. It's not great, but the A's would like to encourage him until he gets his swing back, and can you imagine this hot team with the Cespedes of 2012?

The A's got on the board tonight in the third inning, after both teams were retired at their minimum in the first two. Reddick started off the rally with a one-out hustling double and was sent home on a Sogard single that was so shallow that left-fielder David Lough (of the error in Oakland fame) was only about 20 feet behind third base when he fielded the ball. Reddick had barely made the turn at third when the ball was picked up, but Mike Gallego showed no hesitation in sending him home, obviously remembering more than I about Lough's horrible arm. Seriously, half of AN throws the runner out at the plate, but approximately ninety-six bounces later, the throw came into the general vicinity of home, well behind Reddick, and the A's score their first run. Gutsy call with one out, but with the offensive struggles in the last two games, and Lough's arm (worst than Coco's, I might add, and this would be confirmed later in the game as well), it worked out perfectly.

The A's would add two more runs in the fifth, as John Jaso walked to open the inning and Reddick tripled him home. After Sogard failed to get the run home from third, Coco Crisp cleaned up with a sacrifice fly (Lough again) to increase the A's lead to 3-0. They almost scored in the sixth as Jaso picked a perfect time for the surprise two-out bunt, but just couldn't get it fair.

Luckily, the A's would add on in the ninth, and boy, oh boy, was that a good thing. Moss singled to open the inning, and stole second to get into scoring position. Jaso singled him to third, bringing up Reddick, who flew out to right-field, except the Royals played the part of the Astros and butchered the play, allowing a run to score, and the runners to move up to second and third. After Sogard failed to get the run home from third, Coco singled both runners in to give the A's their fifth and sixth runs, which would be true insurance in the bottom of the ninth.

Meanwhile, Tommy Milone was dealing. His eight innings, just two hits, no runs, no walks and four strikeouts, combined with the 6-0 lead, lulled everyone into security, and the crisis? She happened fast. After how stingy Milone was with the hits all day, no one was more surprised than he when he gave up four one-out hits in quick succession, and found himself in a save situation almost immediately. Balfour, who must have thought he had the night off--I sure did--got up in a hurry and came into the game. He gave up a hit to score Milone's third run, but got two all-important ground balls to end the game, collect the save, and write his name in the history books.

Even more importantly, though, the A's win the opener, and keep first place, as the Rangers dropped a 10-spot on Houston. The A's look to win the series first thing tomorrow morning. Seriously, the game is at 11:00AM, and I'll be your hostest with the mostest. We'll see you back here in just a few hours. baseballgirl out!

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