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The Common, Everyday Variety of the 3-hit Shutout

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So earlier this evening, I caught a quick glimpse of Danny Haren. He appeared to be sneaking over to the Red Sox bullpen and trying to stuff himself inside a travel bag. I think that might have been right about the time he saw Matsuzaka’s shiny 7-3 record, earned with a less-than-impressive 4.83 ERA. It’s not that far-fetched to believe that if Haren started for the Red Sox, he might not have lost a single start, and would certainly have collected wins the way Chavy collects Gold Gloves. That’s thirteen potential wins right there, and enough to make any sane starting pitcher think about shopping for houses in Boston.

Yet as good as Haren is, and was again last night, our starting pitcher tonight produced a slightly better pitching line. I’ll borrow a quote from the Boston announcers to describe the start:

I’m surprised they took Lenny DiNardo out after the sixth. Sure, he was struggling, but he was also pitching with a shamrock in his back pocket.

I’ll take that one step further: replace ‘shamrock’ with ‘magic leprechaun that did everything possible to make the A’s win tonight’ and that about sums up tonight’s wild game.

I’ve seen huge double plays both turned by the A’s, and hit into by the A’s (mostly the latter), but I’ve never seen seven walks, one hit batsman, and a runner via an error disappear quite like they did tonight. It seemed that no matter how many runners Boston got on base, the inning would invariably end with the double play. And the best part of this, of course, is that it was happening for us, not to us, for once.

And somewhere between the mysteriously shifting strike zone--where neither team was quite sure what was a ball and what was a strike--and the usual Geren bullpen-go-round (which I think is fantastic), the A’s pitchers found themselves collectively throwing a three-hit shutout against the Boston Red Sox, helped by the five double-plays turned by the defense. That’s one every other inning.

On the offensive side, the A’s were relatively quiet today, except for another Chavy-homer (aka: a solo shot)--a 0-2 pitch that was way too hittable--and a RBI double from Swisher, topped off with the new Chavy/Swisher dance. I’ll be honest; I thought the A’s needed at least five runs to take it, but they only ended up needing one. Which is a good thing, since they left the bases loaded in the eighth with a chance to add on, mostly courtesy of Jack Cust, who is piloting the struggle-bus.

I think two of our players got a little redemption tonight. Embree had another chance at a two-run save, and this time, he did not disappoint, making the ninth inning 400% less stressful than 24 hours ago. And for all his shortcomings (and they are numerous), Jason Kendall saved a run at least three different times tonight, throwing his whole body in front of the splitters with men on base. Like it or not, he was a big difference in a two-run game.

And speaking of Kendall, you can file this under ‘Trivia no one knows and certainly no one believes’:

In today’s AFLAC trivia question, we learned that besides Mark Ellis, there were two active members of the Oakland A’s who had hit for the cycle in their careers. Most of us remembered that Chavez has a cycle, and I think we all could safely assume that the other player wasn’t a member of the A’s when it was hit. So, if you were like me, you did a mental run-down of players who had played somewhere else before Oakland, and I thought of every possible answer but the correct one. Footage of this would be appreciated, because I’m pretty sure it was made up.

Don’t look now, but the A’s have already earned themselves a well-deserved split of the four-game series against the best team in baseball, they finally climb to three games over .500, and they only need one more win to take the series outright. With the red-hot Angels playing like they may never lose again, the stakes are high, and while I’m not yet sure this team is good, they are darn entertaining.

We do it all over again tomorrow night; same place, same time. Make sure to restock the liquor and/or medicine cabinet, if necessary.