Late last night, I took a few minutes to write this morning's thread, and this is what it originally said: "I'm seeing a pattern. Blanton pitched a two hitter, Zito pitched a one hitter, so it's Harden's turn to..."
I decided not to post it because I felt a no-hitter. Not that that's unusual with Harden on the mound; because with him, it's not a question of 'if', but 'when', but let's be honest. If you ever could predict a no-no, it was today. Seattle's offense was the perfect candidate. Having already been shut down in two consecutive days, the hitters were pressing at each at bat; something that is deadly against Harden, who likes to work quickly.
I LOVED the move by Macha in the 8th, yanking Harden with very little fanfare. There was absolutely no reason to push him; and he got him out while still allowing him the chance at the shutout. Perfect timing, and had the baseball gods not decided to wreck havoc on us in the 9th, it would have been a seamless ending. Macha did his job.
The A's starters appear to be playing the "Anything you can do, I can do better" (tm the Seattle announcers) game with each other. They are contagious. Blanton dominates, so Zito steps up, followed by Harden. I like this game. Let's teach Loaiza how to play.
Really what else can you say about the pitching? Despite the absolute insanity of the last inning, let's look at the facts. Three games. Seven hits. Twenty-seven scoreless innings before allowing a run. Three wins. First place.
I haven't forgotten the bullpen. The Duke got the tough Ichiro out, and after Ibanez refuses to follow Lopez' lead by standing at the plate until the ball hits him, Kennedy was able to get the crucial strikeout in the eighth. Saarloos could have been sharper, but that should come with more regular work <insert your own `Saarloos for starting pitcher' campaign here>. With a day off tomorrow, it doesn't hurt the A's that Huston had to come in, although he did turn a fairly routine `S' into a `Wow, he had to EARN that!' moment. I think I lost a few years off of my life, and I'm sure Rich Harden did too.
On the offensive side, CONGRATUATIONS to Ken Macha for hitting and running with Jason Kendall at the plate. Here's your check.
The offensive star of the game has to be Mark Ellis (or MaEl, if you're Jennifer), who looked really good. He did a great job from the leadoff spot, getting on four times (he went 3 for 4), knocking in 2, and scoring one.
JayPay, very quietly, also had three hits.
For his first three ABs, Bobby Crosby looked...well...lost, but then he surprised me with a solid single ahead of Chavvy's third bomb of the year. Eric Chavez hits in April. Who knew?
I was okay with Kendall/Swisher in the 8/9. They made a pretty decent combo today. Swisher looks like he's seeing the ball well.
All in all, it may not have been a `perfect game' in the technical sense, but it was The. Perfect. Game. This is what a baseball team looks like when firing on all cylinders, and the A's are there. Because above all else, like it or not, the only stat that counts is the 'W', and we've racked up five in seven days. This is our team living up to the hype. One week at a time.