The first two games of this four-game set against San Francisco almost paralleled 1989: A 5-0 win, followed by a 5-1 win the next night, at the Oakland Coliseum. But if the only imperfection of the night was that the final score read one run extra — 6-1 instead of 5-1 — the A's must be playing pretty well.
This game was quiet through the first two and a half innings, highlighted by Sonny Gray racking up five strikeouts in the first two innings, though he needed to battle away from a runner on scoring position with one out in the 1st, and a two-on, none-out situation in the 2nd.
The scoring started in the bottom of the 3rd, which Jed Lowrie led off with a single reminiscent of Hunter Pence's pop-fly double in the first inning, one that Nick Punto made a valiant attempt at but ultimately couldn't handle. Lowrie's found the smallest of holes in shallow right field, falling just beyond the outstretched glove of San Francisco rookie Joe Panik and in front of Hunter Pence. It was a catchable ball, and the first domino to follow in what became a fateful inning for the Giants.
Sure enough, next up, Nick Punto laced a double just inside the bag at third, and the ball found its way to the wall in the left-field corner, scoring Lowrie all the way from first.
Unfortunately for Bumgarner and the Giants, that was far from the end of things. Coco Crisp followed Punto's double with a single of his own, scoring Punto, and he advanced to second on poor defensive execution by the Giants — Gregor Blanco overthrew Brandon Belt in the middle of the diamond, allowing Crisp to move to second when the ball rattled around the infield.
Then Yoenis Cespedes singled, Josh Donaldson walked, and Derek Norris singled, scoring Cespedes, and moving Donaldson to second. But that wasn't it, either — left fielder Tyler Colvin made a poor throw to the plate, but Bumgarner, frustrated with a typically inconsistent Angel Hernandez strikezone, wasn't backing up home plate, and both runners advanced.
Lucky for Bumgarner, he escaped the jam without further damage, but at that point in the game, he was thoroughly out of it — he did well to recover and throw another three scoreless innings thereafter. He pitched into the 7th inning, but we'll come back to that.
Gray continued to cruise once the A's had a comfortable lead, even though he gave up his fair share of hard-hit balls. He finished with six hits, eight strikeouts, and one walk in seven innings, another dominant starting pitching performance from an Oakland starter, albeit against a completely anemic Giants offense. The one hiccup came in the top of the 7th, when Tyler Colvin went deep to right field, but other than that, Gray was nails all night.
The A's added on in the 8th, which began with Norris working a walk off Bumgarner. Nate Freiman gave the San Francisco southpaw a rude farewell, doubling to right field and scoring Norris, marking the end of his night.
Then Jean Machi entered the game, and almost immediately, Angel Hernandez waved Freiman over to third base on a completely inexplicable, bogus balk call. That helped Freiman score on Callaspo's subsequent single, something he likely wouldn't have done from second base. He is 6-foot-8, but those legs don't do much for his speed.
Luke Gregerson pitched a scoreless 8th inning, though not without hiccups, and Ryan Cook pitched a scoreless 9th inning for the second night in a row, leaving the A's with a 57-33 record through 90 games and two straight wins over their hated Bay Area rival. Oh, and there's this:
In the third inning tonight, Oakland passed their 2013 season-ending run differential of +142. It's July 8th.— Dan Lependorf (@dlependorf) July 9, 2014
The A's are also an astounding 9-1 in interleague play, the best mark in baseball. They'll look to push that mark to 10-1 tomorrow night at 7:15pm, when Jason Hammel (2.98 ERA) takes the mound in his Oakland debut, matching up with San Francisco's Matt Cain (4.27). Here's hoping there's no earthquake before first pitch.