The 1:05 game started in the wake of the tough news that both Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin were unlikely to be available by opening day. That news was lightened when Griffin's MRI returned showing no structural damage, and he will be completely rested for three weeks to try to relieve the elbow tendinitis that was causing his fastball to drop dramatically.
The Athletics and the Rangers decided to make Game 1 a day about showing off each team's minor league pitching depth. And boy did we get deep into both reliever corps in a roller coaster day aided by a strong wing blowing out toward right field. The inning-by-inning scores were 4-2 A's, 6-2 A's, 7-3 A's, 8-6 A's, 13-6 A's, 13-9 A's, 15-14 A's, 15-14 A's, and finally 16-15 Texas.
Arnold Leon got his first start of the spring for Oakland. He's said to have a bright future, though if the big league club gets to him this year the Athletics are in pretty bad injury trouble. He got off to a rocky first inning not helped by John Jaso's catching, conceding two runs on two walks and a single. Jaso tried to pick off Elvis Andrus at second base but instead threw the ball into Andrus, allowing the runners to move up 90 feet. Soon after, Leon threw a ball in the dirt that Jaso appeared to have blocked, but Jaso couldn't find the ball near his feet and Andrus scored from third. Leon settled down for the second, but in the third conceded a triple that would score two batters later, and that was his day. 2.2 IP, 3 ER, 2 K, 2 H, 2 BB, 0 HR.
Texas starter Colby Lewis had an even worse start, however, facing 13 batters and getting only 4 outs. He allowed back-to-back home runs to Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick in the first inning, and his day ended penultimately with Ron Washington ordering Lewis to intentionally walk Jed Lowire in order to load the bases for Josh Donaldson, and then ultimately hitting Donaldson on the first pitch to score a run. For a starter hoping to earn a spot on the Texas rotation, he did himself no favors. 1.1 IP, 6 ER, 0 K, 5 H, 3 BB, 2 HR, 1 HBP.
Relief Pitching to the Sixth Inning
The Athletics brought out Evan Scribner, now thought to have a good shot at making the bullpen with Jesse Chavez moving to the rotation. He put out 7 of the 11 he faced. Unfortunately, all four of his non-outs were clumped together in the fourth, conceding a solo home run to Michael Choice, and then with two-out a single, a single, and then an odd two-run double to Josh Wilson where the wind and sun seemed to let the ball scream past a surprised Coco Crisp who ended up barely able to knock the ball down. 2.1 IP, 3 ER, 2 K, 4 H, 0 BB, 1 HR.
Philip Humber would meander through the sixth inning, giving up a menagerie of walks and singles, but managing to strike out two in the process, to give up three runs himself. 1 IP, 3 ER, 2 K, 3 H, 2 BB, 0 HR.
For the Rangers, Rafael Perez made quick work of Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick, turning their first inning back-to-back home runs into second inning back-back strikeouts. 0.2 IP, 0 ER, 2 K, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 HR.
Mike Mikolas pitched the third for Texas. He faced six batters, giving up singles to Derek Norris and Eric Sogard. Norris would score when John Jaso hit a sacrifice fly to left. 1 IP, 1 ER, 0 K, 2 H, 1 BB, 0 HR.
The fourth for Texas belonged to Aaron Poreda, who allowed a double to Josh Donaldson, who would get to third on Brandon Moss's fly to center, and then home on Reddick's fly to right. 1 IP, 1 ER, 0 K, 1 H, 0 BB, 0 HR.
The next three innings were handed to Nick Tepesch. He had a bad time. The fifth inning saw 5 runs score, including another two-run homer from Brandon Moss. He settled down in the sixth, causing Oakland's first frame without a run in the game. We'll talk the seventh in the next section.
At the end of six, it was Oakland 13, Texas 9.
Relief Pitching in the Seventh to Ninth Innings
Both teams made most of their position player substitutions in the seventh inning, so keep that in mind as we re-live the last three innings.
In the top of the seventh, Oakland brought out Ryan Dull. He had a bad time. Like infinite ERA bad time. Like "we need a footnote to explain why his name appears in the boxscore" bad time. Dull allowed five extra-base hits--doubles to Lewis Brinson, Bran Petersen, and J.P Arencibia; home runs to Nick Williams and Robinson Chirinos--and recorded no outs. Chip Hale decided it would be a good time to try someone else. 0 IP, 5 BF, 5 ER, 0 K, 5 H, 0 BB, 2 HR, Blown Save.
Frank Gailey came in and after issuing a walk to Kensuke Tanaka, got the next three batters down in a hurry, including getting Joey Gallo's fourth strikeout for the Golden Sombrero. 1 IP, 0 ER, 1 K, 0 H, 1 BB, 0 HR. Texas, however, had its first lead since the first frame. Texas 14, Oakland 13.
Nick Tepesch pushed on into the bottom of the seventh for his third inning. He continued to have a bad time, giving up four more hits, now to the Athletics substitutes, and two more runs. His final line is blerg: 3 IP, 7 ER, 2 K, 9 H, 1 BB, 1 HR. Oakland was back in front. Oakland 15, Texas 14.
For the top of the eighth, Oakland turned to Deryk Hooker for a three up and three down eighth inning, and he would stick around for the ninth. Oakland continued to lead 15-14.
In the bottom of the eighth, Texas turned to Shawn Tolleson for a three-up-and-three-down eighth inning. 1 IP, 0 ER, 1 K, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 HR, Winning Pitcher. Oakland's lead remained 15-14.
In the top of the ninth, Hooker gave up a 3-2 home run to tie the game at 15-all, which placed the Athletics in danger of their sixth tie of the 2014 spring campaign. However, Hooker would give up another run after Ron Washington decided 15-15 is a good score to start playing small ball. Robinson Chirinos doubled. Adam Rosales came in to run for Chirinos. Tanaka moved Rosales over to third on a sacrifice bunt, and finally Brent Lillibridge sacrificed to center to bring in the go-ahead run. Hooker was taken out after conceding a double to Kevin Kouzmanoff (Kouuuuuuuuzzzz). 1.2 IP, 2 ER, 1 K, 3 H, 0 BB, 1 HR, Losing Pitcher.
The last bit of excitement for Oakland pitching was whether they could get Joey Gallo the fifth strikeout for the Platinum Sombrero. Blake Hassebrock got Gallo looking on a 3-2 pitch, and the feat was complete. 0.1 IP, 0 ER, 1 K, 0 H, 0 BB, Texas 16, Oakland 15.
The Athletics went quietly in the bottom of the ninth to Roman Mendez. 1 IP, 0 ER, 1 K, 0 H, 0 BB, Save. And just like that a crazy Game 1 came to an end at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Texas 16, Oakland 15.
A strong wind out to right field that was blowing everything about, inverting table umbrellas, and generally sending balls sent in the general direction of the outfield fence over the wall at Scottsdale Stadium. It seems the Athletics were the only one to catch onto that last bit in the early innings, with Luke Montz and Stephen Vogt sending two- and three- run homers, respectively, into the berms surrounding the batters eye against Matt Cain, who was knocked out after just two and two-thirds and conceding seven runs.
After Cain left the game, the Athletics proceeded to ground into double plays in each of the fourth through seventh innings. Fortunately, no further offense was needed thanks to the efforts of Tommy Milone, Fernando Abad, Drew Pomeranz, and Paul Smyth coming together to strike out 11 batters, including a stretch of 7 consecutive outs on three strikes. 10 out of the last 13 outs were strikeouts.
Tomaso Milone pitched a superb five shutout innings, which I believe is the longest spring start thus far for the Green and Gold. He was helped in the second inning when Nick Punto made a superb barehanded play on a chopper to short to get Mark Minicozzi at first.
Fernando Abad gave up a solo home run on what wasn't a bad pitch to Hunter Pence, who golfed Abad's low-and-inside pitch into the left-field stands. Otherwise, he struck out Brandon Crawford, Matt Duffy, and Pablo Sandoval to get through the sixth inning.
Drew Pomeranz came in for the seventh and eighth. While it seemed apparent that shade was bothering the hitters for both sides at that point due to the game's late start, Pomeranz really had his backdoor slider working on two strikes, with home plate umpire Jim Reynolds calling the third strike three times out of Pomeranz's five strikeouts.
Paul Smyth came in to finish the game, going one-two-three in a performance that piqued the interest of the AN commetariat, getting ground balls from Matt Duffy and Tyler Graham for the first two outs. He then struck out Brett Krill on an extremely generous went around call from Jim Reynolds who I guess had enough of the windy conditions. A's 8, Giants 1.