Well, obviously the big news tonight was the introduction of the ‘instant homerun replay box that calls New York’, which I think will accomplish the following; have at least one non-A’s fan still awake in New York watching West Coast games. This technology will not be used very often (our announcers think there was only one instance this year in Oakland where it may have been needed), but it will get the homerun calls right.
In other big news, the A’s actually looked like--dare I say it--a real baseball team for the first time in a while. I don’t know to what exactly I should attribute this; it may be Rajai Davis playing some good baseball, the return of Ryan Sweeney to the lineup, Daric Barton pretending he actually could blossom as a major leaguer after his rookie year, or the excellent starting pitching and bullpen relief, but something seemed different with the A’s tonight. This game was extremely watchable, and if you like defense, both clubs certainly flashed some leather here and there.
The game started on a ominous note for Dana Eveland, as Patterson failed to make a routine play for the first out, and Crosby followed that up by not being able to stop a single right by him, but Crosby righted the ship and caught a screaming line drive that he turned into a double play to end the inning.
Rajai Davis led off the A’s first with a single, but the parade of hitters behind him was unable to send him home.
The game remained scoreless until the fourth, as Hannahan made a nice play in the top of the inning to keep a two-out double from scoring, and moments later, the A’s mounted their own threat. Frank Thomas led off with a double, bringing up the newly promoted Sweeney, R, who was missed desperately by the A’s (and the AN girls). Sweeney shot a single up the middle to bring Frank around to third, putting runners on the corners with no one out.
In a season where things go the A’s way, Daric Barton would have singled up the middle to score Frank and open a big inning. But because this is Post All Star Break 2008, the Twins turned an absolutely amazing double play on Barton’s ball, where the second baseman flipped the ball to the base while he was falling to the ground on a dive, allowing only the single run to score from third, robbing Barton of the RBI.
But Barton was heard from again, as he made a great catch in the bottom of the sixth inning for the first out, ranging all the way over to the crowd to make a basket catch in the stands, which helped minimize Eveland’s only scary inning of the game. Thanks to a couple of singles, a double steal, an intentional walk, and sacrifice fly, the game became tied at one.
Crosby opened the A’s half of the sixth with a double that very nearly tested the new instant-replay equipment, but missed the top of the wall by about a foot. It looked like he might be stranded there, but Daric Barton (who is hitting like a legit major league baseball player this week) singled with two outs to bring him home, giving the A’s a 2-1 lead.
It would last for about seven minutes.
The Twins received some help in the top of the seventh, courtesy of an unlikely Oakland outfielder, as Sweeney, R, misjudged a ball in the lights that went for a double, and later, a run. But Rajai Davis preserved the 2-2 tie by coming out of nowhere to make an excellent catch to prevent a sure extra-base hit and another run.
All told, Dana Eveland had a great start, leaving after seven full; the game tied at two. He is a world away from the pitcher he was last month, and he wasn’t facing a weak team; Minnesota is playoff-contending. Eveland was replaced by Blevins, who pitched an uneventful eighth, and Joey Devine handled the ninth, keeping the score tied at two. It is worth noting that both Devine and Ziegler's ERA's are currently under 1.
After eight and a half innings of what felt like real baseball, the A’s had a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth, as Sweeney led off with a single and Barton (what can’t he do!?) bunted him to second. Emil Brown pinch-hit for Hannahan and walked, bringing up Suzuki to pinch-hit for Bowen.
I could end the story right there. Suzuki roped the ball out into the outfield for the walk-off hit, and the A’s have now won their second game in a row; both wins against very good teams. It doesn’t make up for the last month, but it’s the little things right now that can give us hope. And today went a long way in helping us remember why we watch this game.
Same time, same place tomorrow, as the A’s play the game after “Ziggy Day”, the ceremony where they honor Brad Ziegler for the amazing start to his career. Anyone who is going to the game with a camera, we’d like pictures!