Games don’t come much more satisfying than this one, as the A’s pile on the Tigers’ tough season with a three-game sweep. Unlike the previous two games, this one was over in the seventh, but it didn’t make the win any less sweet.
Robertson and Duchscherer started the game out sharp, swapping zeros until the bottom of the fourth, when back-to-back singles by Brown and Barton put runners on the corners for Travis Buck. The first run of the game scored on Buck’s double-play, and although that seems like a bad way to score a run, we know from personal A’s experience that they can (and do!) strike out twice in a row in that situation to leave runners stranded at third. My offensive expectations were comfortably low; at least the run scored at all.
But to Duchscherer’s (and my) surprise, the run support would not stop; after Hannahan walked, and Cust doubled in the fifth, Bobby “MVP” Crosby did what he does against Nate Robertson, and on a 1-2 count, brought the two runners home with his 20th double of the year.
Duchscherer was absolutely dealing until the sixth inning, when he ran into all kinds of problems, allowing two runs to score; one on a hit (he only allowed three on the day) and one on a HBP (to go with his very un-Duchscherer-like five walks), loading the bases a couple of times that inning. The A’s were clinging to a 3-2 lead, and the Tigers were threatening to erase the deficit, but after being slightly shaken up by a ball that hit his wrist, Duke got the much-needed double play, and got out of the inning with no further damage.
Geren kept him in for as long as he could, letting Duke get two outs in the seventh, despite a whole inning of baserunners. With a slim bullpen, an extra inning contest last night, and only Embree and Ziegler warming in the ‘pen during the tight game, Geren gambled with Duke, and it paid off. He exited the game with two outs in the seventh, and Embree came in to face (and retire) Granderson to end the inning. In an ideal situation, Duke would have been long gone, but with Street unavailable, the ‘close game bullpen options’ were limited.
The A’s offense continued to chip away at Robertson in the sixth with a solo homerun by Travis Buck, extending the lead to 4-2, but in the seventh, the A’s broke the game open in dramatic fashion: Hits for everyone!, highlighted by a bases-clearing double by Carlos Gonzalez, as the A’s plowed through four pitchers for six runs. It should also be noted that Bowen had a couple of hits. From what I’ve seen/heard, I hesitantly think Suzuki is probably the better defensive catcher, but Bowen is no slouch on offense.
And all in the span of one half-inning, it went from a tense affair to a game where the pitching didn’t matter anymore. Our own Brad Ziegler was playing the ‘stand up, sit down’ game over in the bullpen for most of the sixth and seventh, finally coming in to pitch the eighth. Despite the score when he came in today, Ziegler is being used in tight situations; he was instrumental in last night’s win, keeping the A’s close enough to come back, and then tossing a shutdown inning. Today, he faced the 2, 3, 4 Tigers hitters; he retired Guillen, gave up a hit to Thames, and with a little help from Mark Ellis, got Ordonez to ground into the inning-ending double play. Kiko Calero pitched the low-pressure ninth, and retired the Tigers one, two, three (and looked good doing it).
The A’s now have a day off to relax at home before this weekend’s big series, where they attempt to do what no one else seems to be able to do lately; beat the Angels. The A’s still sport a 3.5 game deficit (and unless Seattle somehow becomes good, it’s going to stay that way), and it will take pitching, offense, power, and defense to make a dent.
But the team has done us proud this week, as the A’s win their fourth game in a row, and now look to the weekend series. If you can, come out for these games. In addition to some great match-ups, I hear a rumor that baseballgirl might even be there too!