Yesterday and today we finally started to see the A's team we were expecting going into this season. Solid starting pitching, multiple innings of excellent relief work, and a lineup that can hurt opposing pitchers in many ways from top to bottom.
Kevin Correia was every bit as mediocre as advertised, leaving balls over the plate that were predictably tagged by the A's potent lineup. The damage started in the second inning, with a Brandon Moss leadoff walk and a double seared by Yoenis Cespedes down the left field line to score him. Alberto Callaspo knocked a base hit to move Cespedes to third, and Josh Reddick showed signs of life with a solid line drive single pulled to right to score Cespedes. 2-0 A's.
Scott Kazmir looked a bit shaky in the early going, but was able to limit the damage. In the first, he lucked out on a ball crushed by Trevor Plouffe that apparently was just foul and not challenged by Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. A single, double, walk (of the #9 hitter of the sub-.300 OBP, Pedro Florimon) and stolen base in the second inning only resulted in one run for the Twins, but it looked like Kazmir's control was not as sharp on the day.
The A's offense had his back, although the inning started off in a bizarre fashion. Jed Lowrie was oh-so-close to a homer crushed down the right field line, but it was ruled foul on the field and confirmed on replay. This was after he thought he earned a walk, only to be told it was a full count. One of the replay angles did make the ball look foul, but it was far from clear (the 5 minute replay delay didn't help). If it was called a home run on the field, the call wouldn't have been reversed. Oh well. Lowrie eventually scored anyway after reaching base on a walk thanks to doubles by Josh Donaldson and Callaspo sandwiched around a walk to Moss. When all was said and done, the A's led 5-1 and Kazmir had a comfortable lead to work with.
In the third inning Kaz allowed another couple of runs on some hard hit balls, and already was up to three walks. The consensus was to hope for five innings from him, hopefully escape with the lead, and then hand it off to the stellar A's bullpen. Nevertheless, like Sonny Gray yesterday, Kazmir bore down. In the bottom of the fourth, he was aided by a spectacular diving catch by Eric Sogard (continuing to cement his role as the starting 2B) en route to an 8-pitch 1-2-3 inning. Kazmir got through the fifth as well, and ended at 89 pitches.
Derek Norris absolutely drilled a homer to the A's bullpen in the top of the sixth, and with the three run lead Melvin elected to send Kazmir to the bump in the bottom of the frame. Kazmir didn't disappoint, finishing off the Twins on 12 pitches and handing a 6-3 lead to the bullpen. Correa left the game having allowed six earned runs in six innings. I'm no math whiz but I think that translates to a 9.00 ERA (a.k.a. "Johnson Status").
Samuel Deduno came in to pitch the top of the seventh, and immediately hit Jed Lowrie with a pitch in what was a scary moment. The A's are saying he has a bruise to his left knee, which is a bit of a relief. He was pulled immediately for Punto, who came into the game to boisterous cheers from the appreciative Minnesota fans. Punto alertly jetted to third on a shallow bloop by Donaldson and scored on a balk by Deduno (which really was a mild shoulder twitch, but hey, we'll take it). Donaldson eventually made his way to third and scored on a sacrifice fly by Cespedes that was smoked to center. 8-3 A's, which would end up being the final score.
Otero and Abad had little trouble taking care of the seventh and eighth, and Ryan Cook walked two batters in the 9th in his return from a long layoff and injury, but got out of it unscathed. It was encouraging to see him get back on the mound and turn in a scoreless inning. The walks are to be expected at this stage.
Overall, today was a great day for the lineup and encouraging from an offensive standpoint. Even the A's outs were hit hard. Donaldson, Cespedes, Reddick, Lowrie, and others smacked the ball around. Norris and Callaspo each had two hits off right handers. Of course the bullpen has been every bit as good as advertised, so if Johnson can straighten himself out I don't expect the A's to blow a lead in the foreseeable future. If our starters can get through 5-6 every game, WE MAY NEVER LOSE AGAIN.
Enjoy the off day and we'll be back Wednesday afternoon for Game 2!