Of the four games the A’s had with the Giants this week, Thursday’s is one I am the happiest they won.
The A’s won three, and if they had to lose one of the four games, I would have chosen Wednesday, which they did, 5-2.
Of course, we in A’s Nation would love to have swept all four, but you want to win the two in front of the SRO crowds at the O.Co, but the one that is the sweetest to this guy is the last one, Scott Kazmir and the Oakland A’s besting former A’s star Tim Hudson and the Giants at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Tim has all my respect, and the A’s beating him the way they did this afternoon is good indicator that they just might have what it takes in the big games of the playoffs this October.
I’m an old sportswriter, and more than a decade ago I debated the merits of the Big Three – Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito – and the A’s standing up to the New York Yankees on the eve of a big midseason series at home vs. the Bronx Bombers.
I talked about how Hudson was "tough as nails." Now, he’s still "tough as nails," but with Huddy to turn 39 before his next start, they may be "Rusty Nails." Have a couple over the All-Star break, Tim.
What made Thursday's win especially sweet is that early in the last off-season the A’s made a run at the then free-agent Hudson, reportedly offering him a little more than the two-year, $23 million contract he signed with the Giants.
After Hudson chose the Giants, the A’s moved on quickly and signed Kazmir for two years and $22 million.
Many thought the A’s were taking a big gamble on a guy who less than two years earlier had fallen on such hard times that he was pitching for the Sugarland (Texas) Skeeters in an independent league. And maybe they were.
But a show of hands on those who think Billy Beane and his scouting department knew something we didn’t.
Kazmir, 30, is 8½ years younger than Hudson, and they may have seen something in how strong and effective he pitched in the final two months of his comeback season of 2013 with the Cleveland Indians.
Kazmir rocked the Casbah again Thursday, pitching seven scoreless innings, giving up just three hits and running his record to 11-3 with a 2.38 ERA. He allowed just one walk and struck out nine.
Some other impressive numbers that you may find in news reports from the game: Kazmir during day games this season is 5-0 with an 0.93 ERA in seven starts and has allowed only one home run in 48 1/3 innings. That’s the lowest day ERA in the majors. Talk about a sunny disposition.
The Texan’s not bad at night either, of course, 6-3 with a 3.39 ERA in 12 starts but has allowed nine of the 10 homers he has yielded in the evening.
TREPIDATION IS EASED: Before Thursday’s game, I was concerned about these last four games before the All-Star break. Hudson was going to be tough, and now that the A’s have had the best record in the majors for 23 consecutive days (since June 18), rivals are starting to juggle their rotations to make sure their aces face the A’s.
I guess that’s the ultimate sign of respect. But because the Seattle Mariners pushed back Felix Hernandez’s next start from Thursday to Friday, the A’s will be facing two very strong starters the next two days in Seattle, Hernandez (10-2, 2.11 ERA) on Friday and Hasashi Iwakuma (7-4, 3.07 ERA) on Saturday. Chris Young on Sunday also is no walk in the park (8-5, 3.08 ERA).
But if you want to be a juggernaut, you better get used to getting the special attention juggernauts receive from opponents.
RUN DMC BACK ON TWO LEGS: The A’s Run DMC (Donaldson-Moss-Cespedes) heart of the order, got a boost Thursday with Donaldson coming up with a much needed strong day at the plate. The starting third baseman for the AL in Tuesday’s All-Star Game went two-for-three with a homer (his 20th), had two RBIs (for 65 on the season) and walked once.
But until Thursday, Donaldson’s production at the plate has been borderline dismal since June 1, about the time he emerged as the leader in the All-Star voting at third base.
Going into Thursday, here’s what Donaldson’s slash line had been in 33 games starting June 1: .167/.213/.280 with a .493 OPS. Those kind of numbers would get a lesser player a ticket back to the minors.
Donaldson, with the help of hitting coach Chili Davis, may have found something Thursday
Now if Davis can help fix the C in Run DMC, Cespedes. After a strong month of June (.324/.373/.491 .854), Cespedes appears to be lost at the plate in the first eight games in July (3-for-39 .083/.132/.083 .215). But storms never last, do they?
LAST SHOT: I had to work Monday night and called home to have my wife record the game. Alas, she recorded the Giants telecast on Channel 11.
In retrospect, it was all right. Jon Miller and his colleagues proved to be a nice change of pace.
And when it came to production of the game in the TV truck, I have to give them the game ball. They came up with the money shot on the time Donaldson was eventually awarded first base on a hit by a pitch after the plate ump initially said it was a foul ball off his bat.
Of course, despite Donaldson writhing pain, it would have been possible the ball hit the bat an instant before it hit his gloved hand. But within seconds, the production crew showed in freeze frame the ball hitting Donaldson’s hand and the knob of the bat, flush at the same time.