Well, if you like watching good pitching, today didn’t disappoint (unless of course, you were cursed by the Giants’ feed, and were forced to watch fan interviews instead of the game every five minutes or so).
Lenny DiNardo obviously held onto his shamrock, but mixed in with the little bit of luck was a decent amount of great pitching. He has been better than anyone could have dreamed as a fill-in starter, and he even made a bid to help his cause with a hit today, in between hurling six innings of scoreless baseball.
On the other side of the mound, Cain had everything working from the start today, making the pitches he needed at all the right times. The early hits for the A’s came courtesy of the swirling wind, and although they had runners as far as third base early on, yet another play at the plate denied their bid for the game’s lone run.
But after a mostly frustrating day at the plate, where the players seemed less-than-into the game (Chavy not running out a pop-up, Dan Johnson being about as un-fundamental as possible), Marco Scutaro stepped in for his eighth inning at-bat, at the tail end of Cain’s afternoon, and absolutely crushed a no-doubt homerun into the stands. Marco doesn’t get a lot of hits, but when he does, they sure count.
Backing up DiNardo out of the pen was our very own Santiago Casilla, who has been absolutely filthy since his call-up this year. He was perfect in his two innings today, recording two strikeouts, and I don’t know what else there is to say about him, except that he has been one of the most valuable members of the A’s during this June run.
The A’s decided that they should probably be leading by more than one run going to the bottom of the ninth, and Kotsay and Stewart made sure that they were. Shannon has had some big hits this week, even in games he hasn’t started.
Closer Embree came out of the ‘pen for the ninth, and after giving all A’s fans a scare by starting his first batter off with a 3-0 count (eventually recording a strikeout), and laying a 0-2 pitch right down the middle, resulting in a single to put a runner on for Bonds, Embree got Bonds to fly out and Molina to ground out via a wonderful play by Bobby Crosby, helped by Molina’s lack of blazing speed.
They aren’t Duchscherer and Street, but Casilla and Embree are doing their jobs, and every bit as well. Huge hold by the bullpen, a big win for the A’s.
And on the only down note of a very happy afternoon, I think one of the hidden costs of the tremendously high injury count this year is what it has done to the fans. Most fans are fired up beyond belief when their outfielders make great catches, but it’s at the point where I basically equate ‘outfield web gem’ with ‘stint on DL’. I knew as soon as Buck went for that ball that he would not come away unscathed; yet does that mean I want them to stop diving for balls, and giving up hits? There is no good solution. For the official record, Buck has a bruise on his right thumb, and is listed as day-to-day, which of course, means we’re not likely to see him again.
But I think we can chalk that up to our usual injury casualty, and still absolutely enjoy this moment. The A’s have gone 7-1 through one of the roughest stretches of their season, and at times, look every bit the part of a serious contender. It doesn’t hurt that the Angels finally, FINALLY lost a game today, so we have gained a full game in the West. Seattle is still playing, but it looks like they will win again, too.
I am extremely proud of this team right now, and I find myself looking forward to seeing what is next.
The A’s take on the Astros Tuesday at 5:05, Kennedy vs. Oswalt. Enjoy the off-day tomorrow!