<disclaimer: I'm almost as excited as it's possible to be after today's win, but I'm tempering my true excitement until we win ONE more.>
Well, guys, it ain't over yet, but it's certainly about time some of the GOOD quirky playoff mojo rained down on the green and gold. In our wildest dreams, and greatest playoff hopes, I don't think anyone could have predicted that it would be our playoff-virgin centerfielder with the cranky back who would put the A's in their best position in years to advance to the next round. What makes baseball such a wonderful sport is that sometimes you just can't write a script better than what unfolds on the field.
Kotsay was in the game for his defense, and was doing a fine job at that part of his game, but who could have predicted that it would be his hit that would turn a tie game into a 2-0 game advantage for our A's? It seems even less likely that Hunter would be the one responsible for the biggest error of the season for the Twins, but, hey; I'll take anything the A's can get in the playoffs.
Estaban Loaiza was amazing for five innings today and then just couldn't keep the ball down to the notorious A's killers, who used the plate as a launching pad for back-to-back homeruns. There was no way Macha could have pulled Loaiza any faster; he got Calero in at just the right time, and then made himself look even better by putting Duchscherer in for the heart of the lineup; for two innings to boot. Street came in with a three run lead, and it took him a couple of tries, but he managed to get the door closed, hopefully on the TerrorDome for good. (And yes, I'm not stating the obvious, that Duke is much better right now than Street, because I thought it was equally obvious that we needed Duke more for the 7 & 8 than the 9th).
Kudos to Esteban, who looked like he exorcised some demons of his own with a very solid pitching performance today, and a big, bold KUDOS for Macha's bullpen management today. For as many times as I've picked on him, I'd like to publicly state that in Game #2 on 10/04/2006, he got it exactly right.
My only other concern from this game is Chavvy batting behind Frank, but somehow, it's hard to work up much fire when I'm so damn happy. Chavvy's D is unparalleled. He's a difference-maker out there, and I love him. That being said, on the offensive side of the game, I think Payton truly might fit a little bit better batting behind Thomas, with the free-swinging, `I got base hits today' approach. While Chavez did hit the ball hard in his second at-bat, his other ABs today were terrible, and it was not because of his lack of 'clutch', 'heart', 'intangibles', or 'will to win'. He simply swung out of the zone several times, instead of using one of his strengths--his batting eye. Personally, I think he's trying too hard. Instead of being the guy that scores Frank from first or second, maybe he just needs to be the guy that just moves him up a base. However; as monkeyball pointed out in one of the 7,000 game threads, the batters in front of Thomas help him get his pitches every bit as much as the batter behind him. It's easy to pitch around someone to get to a weaker hitter, but it's equally easy to pitch around someone when there's no one on base to start with.
I have a couple of side notes:
What part of 'sliding into first base is always, always a slower way to get to the bag than running straight through it' do players not understand? There is maybe one play where it is a good idea, and it is purely about avoidance, not speed. Honestly, why do we still see this play? (P.S. This is not a complaint; the Twins are welcome to slide into any outs they would like.)
And dear ESPN announcers: This series has been the best of the three that MLB has televised so far. There is no reason to create a 'CoffeeGate' in the middle of the game to try to generate false drama, when an incredibly exciting game is taking place on the field. I know that the team you want to win was not actually, you know, winning at the time, but honestly; if you wanted to spice up a boring game, why didn't you use the Tigers/Yankees game last night as a chance to show a montage of A-rod's failures and Jeter highlights?
What's that? You did? Oh, sorry, I wasn't watching. I was glued to the TV seven hours earlier; to watch what will probably be the best game we'll see in this round.
And incidentally, you can hate on our A's all you want. In fact; we prefer it. Baseball Tonight? I hope you all pick the Twins to win Game Three, because then we know we can walk away with a sure win.
It's all here for the taking for the team now. Get ready for the 2-0 comments; the Oakland/Chokeland memories; the ad nauseam questions about first-round exits, and the haters on Sports Center. I say Friday's the day. We have our foot on the Twins' neck; let's not give them a chance to get up.
EVERYONE TOGETHER - LET'S GO OAK-LAND! END IT IN THREE!