Without a doubt, without any competition, I would have to say that the player of the game was our starting pitcher, hands down. Chad Gaudin took it upon himself to stop the A’s skid, and he nearly hurled eight innings of shutout baseball against a White Sox team that has deceptively low offensive numbers. This team can flat hit. Although his last inning was mildly heart-attack-inducing, to say the least, Gaudin came through for the A’s and lowered his ERA to 2.58 in the process. I think that this start (where for most of the game he was pitching with a one or two run lead, not sure if his offense could muster up anything else), combined with his season so far, has firmly cemented his place in the A’s starting rotation. He has ‘starting pitcher’ written all over him, and an ERA barely over two-fifty at the end of May.
Lost in the tense moments of a game that was way closer than the final score indicated, was the fact that with the exception of Ellis and Cust, everyone had a pretty good night at the plate. With one unusual, unexpected exception, the A’s pretty much singled the White Sox to death. It was like a Kendall season; nothing but singles, but I guess when you go double-digits in hits, damage will eventually be done.
Gaudin probably decided early on tonight that the A’s weren’t going to help him out any on the offensive end. Despite their best effort not to score in the first, after getting the first two runners on base, Crosby delivered his most well-timed hit of the night, with two outs, that plated the first run. I’ll just come out and say it; someone has to: Crosby is looking incredibly good at the plate lately. His first hit (and the A’s first RBI) wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done, and frankly, I’ll take any old way of scoring these days. I don’t care how we get the runs, or the wins; I just care that we do. Crosby’s subsequent at-bats were much better, and the big difference is that I see him battling at every at-bat, instead of wasting no time striking out on the impossible outside slider.
The first two men also reached in the second, but for some unknown reason, Bocachica, who, up until a couple of at-bats later looked completely overmatched at the plate at the major league level, was swinging away instead of bunting. Instead of moving the runners to second and third with one out (and I’m certainly not saying that we would have scored from there), he did what all good A’s do, and hit into a DP, and the A’s failed to add to the 1-0 lead. At the risk of sounding stupid when I recap Boca! Chica!’s first hit since being called up, I still think he should have bunted. But I heart Geren so much more than I ever hearted Macha, that I can’t muster up much more than quick musing about the subject.
The A’s collected their second run in the fifth, after Stewart singled and was moved to second on a passed ball, and after an epic battle by Nick Swisher, Dan Johnson wasted no time with an RBI single to send the A’s up 2-0.
The A’s two runs held up all the way through the seventh, when the world turned upside-down for two batters. After Kendall singled for the second time tonight, Bocachica stepped in, and despite being completely over-matched in every single at-bat at this level, took a Garland pitch out for a desperately-needed Oakland homerun, doubling the score at four.
Meanwhile, Gaudin faced the minimum until the seventh inning, helped by one double-play, and an outfield assist by Shannon Stewart, who gunned out Dye trying to stretch a single into a double. The A’s defense was flawless tonight, even Scutaro-as-Chavy made a sparkler. The seventh ended with Gaudin eyeing the complete game, but things got very scary, very fast in the eighth. After Konerko lined out to Stewart for the first out, A.J. and Uribe singled back-to-back, bringing up Mackowiak, who, in a collective heart-stopping moment, very nearly took the ball out for a three-run homerun. But Swisher, after just mis-timing his jump, quickly got the ball back in, and held the hit to a single, leaving the bases loaded, with one out.
Geren hooked Gaudin immediately, and Jay Marshall took the mound, trying to preserve not only the win, but Gaudin’s shutout. He wasted no time in getting a comebacker, which he calmly threw home for the second out, and then induced a harmless ground ball to Ellis for the final out. The game was over at that point, as Embree had no trouble shutting down the Sox in the ninth, with the full four runs to spare.
It’s a good thing that the Tigers hung on (barely!) to beat the Angels, because it would have been a long plane flight to Detroit to take care of things myself. Way to nearly blow a five-run lead, Tigers. But thanks for the win; can you do it again tomorrow?
On a completely unrelated note, I thought that having to listen to Hudler down in L.A. was bad, but I guess I forget how truly awful Hawk is. I’m not sure who’s worse. Let’s take a poll!
All in all, this was a game worth watching; and a big win for the A’s.
The A’s get a much-needed day off tomorrow (one less day for the DL!), and then Haren opens the series against the Orioles on Friday night at 4pm.