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Gaudin + Flores + Casilla – Jairo + Marshall + Calero + Embree > Santana

First of all, this was a big win for the A’s, for many reasons. They beat one of the best pitchers in baseball, they handed Gaudin another win (improving him to 6-1), they earned a series win, they kept pace with the Angels, and they built a little bit of momentum for the imposing series against the Red Sox tomorrow.

The tale of the first inning set the tone for today’s game. The Twins had a runner on third with one out, and although conventional baseball wisdom says that you don’t walk Cuddyer to face Morneau, that’s exactly what happened...and it worked. Gaudin got the big DP, and the A’s came up to bat without being down a run.

I noticed the combo of Ellis/Swisher at 2/3 in the lineup today, and liked it from the start. I liked it even more in the first when Ellis doubled and Swisher drove him in. Although the A’s threatened in the same inning with the bases loaded and one out, thanks to walks to Johnson and Chavez (very unusual for Santana), Crosby, in true A’s style, hit into a double play.

Gaudin fought out of another jam in the third, and after Shannon Stewart collected career hit number 1,500 (Congratulations, Shannon!), Swisher had an amazing at bat, taking an 0-2 count full, then laying off a 3-2 curve to get the walk. Dan Johnson followed with another walk, and the A’s found themselves with the bases loaded with one out again--this time with Chavez at the plate. But to everyone’s delight and surprise, Chavez absolutely smoked a pitch that was just about over his head to center field for the sacrifice fly and the A’s collected another run.

But then something unusual, unexpected, and that usually happens to us, not for us happened with Crosby’s at-bat. After being badly fooled on the first couple of pitches, Crosby hit the ball deep in the hole for a hit and an RBI, but after a costly throwing error, found himself on third base. Swisher and Johnson both scored on the play, staking the A’s to an unbelievable 4-0 lead on Santana.

However, instead of being grateful for this offensive boon, Gaudin found himself in another jam in the fourth, with runners at first and second with one out. A ball was hit straight to Bobby Crosby, and instead of catching it, he calmly backed up, took it on the short hop, and ended up with an inning-ending double play. Brilliant baseball play, and it was more instinct than anything else, something that has seemed to be absent from Crosby’s baseball arsenal. Very nice to see.

Call it pitching during the day (Gaudin says he much prefers pitching at night), call it a case of not ever having seen a lead as big; call it whatever you want, but Gaudin was less than sharp today, struggling through 5+ innings, and allowing two earned runs, including his first homerun in ten starts.

For the record, I would have pulled Gaudin after the fifth; he was really struggling, but I guess Geren (and probably correctly) figured that a struggling Gaudin is better than the current A’s bullpen. But after giving up a solo homerun and a single in the sixth, while failing to record an out, Gaudin was pulled, leaving Flores to mop up. He got two outs, but after giving up a walk to put runners at first and second, he was pulled in favor of Jairo Garcia, now known as Santiago Casilla. Jairo struggled all over the place at the major league level; could Casilla be any better?

So far, that answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Casilla faced four batters in his inning and a third, and struck out three of them. He was filthy today, and got the A’s to the eighth with a lead, making him my player of the game.

The A’s threatened again in their half of the seventh, but Dan Johnson flied out with the bases loaded to end the inning. Geren played a rousing game of musical pitchers in the eighth by assigning a personal pitcher to each batter, but Marshall, Calero and Embree did their jobs. Embree came back out for the ninth, and did his best closer imitation, by throwing continuous strikes to get the final three outs.

Overall, big win for the A’s, against a very tough pitcher.

Miscellaneous notes:

Yes, Jack Cust struck out a million (approx) times today, but this can really be explained in two words: Johan. Santana. That is all.

Witasick DFA’d today, The man formerly known as Jairo Garcia, now known as Santiago Casilla, has been brought up, which, if you saw the game, you already know.

The Stupid Angels win again today, so no ground gained.

Boston comes into town late, late tonight and will take on the A’s in a four game series this week, starting tomorrow night. Batten down the hatches, and make sure to keep meds on hand. It’s going to be a wild series. Our pitching needs to be at the top of their game, since they are facing the best of the best.