It’s pretty difficult to rack up seven hits and three walks in five innings and not score a single run, but that’s what the A’s offense managed to do tonight against Nick Adenhart (who would throw six innings in total). That should be a big clue as to how frustrating tonight’s game was in the early innings. But it was truly a game that rewarded the long-suffering fan, because when it was all said and done, it was the A’s--despite being down 4-0 after seven--who would rally back to win the game.
I’m not sure if the A’s offensive strategy is to peck other teams to death with singles, but after racking up twelve of them last night; they put fifteen on the board again tonight.
When I saw the lineup tonight, I was excited to see Rajai Davis get a chance to start in place of the missing (again) Matt Holliday. In addition to really liking Davis, and wanting him to see some playing time, I love his defense; I think he’s a great, take-charge center fielder. He also doesn’t drop balls in the outfield, and he’s fast enough not to hit into double-plays.
Unfortunately for Rajai (and his chances of playing his way into more games), he did both tonight; dropping a fly ball after a long run at the height of the Angels’ rally to help them score their three runs, and hitting into a double-play to end one of the A’s early chances for their own rally. He’s had better nights.
The A’s threatened in the very first inning, as Sweeney walked as the leadoff hitter. After Cabrera flied out, Giambi singled Sweeney to third, in what looked like a promising rally, but after Chavez struck out on a nasty curveball, Suzuki would ground out to end the inning.
Eveland looked as sharp as possible in his half of the first, retiring the Angels in just 11 pitches. The A’s put two more runners on in the top of the second on singles by Ellis and Sweeney, but Cabrera grounded out to end the inning.
The Angels would break the scoreless tie in the fourth inning, as Eveland would give up three singles to start the inning, and then a deep fly ball to center field that Rajai Davis appeared to run down, but just not catch, as it bounced right off the edge of his glove. It was a tough play, but it should have been made. The Angels would score 3 that inning, and lead the A’s 3-0.
The A’s tried to mount a comeback in the top of the fifth, after Sweeney singled and Orlando Cabrera got a hit (!!!) to start the inning, but Adenhart struck out Giambi, got Chavez to fly out deep, and may have pitched around Cust, loading the bases again for Suzuki.
Good batting average in 2008 or not, I’m not sold on Suzuki hitting sixth with a healthy Mark Ellis in the lineup, but it’s hard to complain about his 3-5 night. However, his other two at-bats--both with the bases loaded--were frustrating. Not only did he take the best pitch he would see all day for a strike in the first, and follow it up by swinging at a ball out of the zone for the easy groundout, but his fifth inning at-bat, on a 2-0 count, resulted in a routine grounder to the shortstop. Note to the team: If you are swinging after the pitcher has thrown six straight balls, you had better get your pitch.
The Angels added a run to their 3-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh, after Springer walked Figgins; a bad start to any inning. After an overthrow by Suzuki (or a non-aggressive play by Cabrera) on the steal, Figgins was in position to score, increasing the deficit to 4; merely an insurance run at the time, but it would be the difference in the game to start the ninth.
The A’s would close the gap in the eighth, as Cust and Suzuki singled to start the inning. After Travis Buck was called out on strikes (making him 0-4 with three K’s on the night, and fueling my irrational dislike), Mark Ellis hit a routine ground ball that Figgins inexplicably threw home, allowing the first run of the game to score. We then had a Matt Holliday sighting as the tying run, and after a wild pitch advanced the runners into scoring position, Holliday was called out on strikes. Ryan Sweeney came up with two outs and two hits already on the day…and added a third; with a two-run single to bring the A’s to 4-3. He promptly stole second, but Cabrera grounded out to end the inning.
Andrew Bailey survived an error by Ellis in the ninth inning, and pitched well, as he gave the A’s one more chance in the ninth.
After tough lefty closer Fuentes walked Giambi to start the inning, Bobby Crosby made his first appearance of 2009 as his pinch-runner (and later as the A's right-fielder). Fuentes struck out Chavez easily, and got Cust to fly out, but with two outs, Suzuki managed to put an infield single between the pitcher and the catcher, and get to first base.
Enter Nomar Garciaparra for Travis Buck in a pinch-hitting appearance, and after fouling off some tough pitches, specifically the 2-2 changeup after a high fastball, he singled in the tying run. Ellis singled in the 5th run of the night, and Matt Holliday the 6th, giving the A’s--and closer Brad Ziegler--the two run cushion.
Ziggy struck out Aybar to start the ninth, but gave up an infield single to Figgins (when he failed to cover first), but got Kendrick to ground out (a hard smash off Ziggy's shin that deflected to Chavez), and finally, Abreu to ground out for Ziggy's second save of the young season.
BIG win for the A’s; turning frustration into elation, and after looking at a 1-2 deficit in the series, the A’s now have a chance to win the series with a win tomorrow night.
Same time, same place; we do it all over again.