There were at least three true "crossroads moments" in tonight's game, which was both interesting and - in a delightful departure from recent wins and losses - well played by the A's.
The first "crossroads moment" came in the bottom of the 3rd with Brett Anderson cruising, leading 2-0 and having retired six in a row, when he hit Will Venable to leadoff and then served up his first hit to the opposing pitcher Walt Silva. A walk and two RBI singles later, Anderson found himself with the game tied 2-2, the bases still loaded and nobody out, Adrian Gonzalez at the plate. Anderson struck Gonzalez out looking and coaxed a 5-3 DP from Chase Headley, averting disaster.
The second moment came in the top of the 6th with the A's having tied the game 3-3 and still with the bases loaded and one out. Brett Anderson was due up and Bob Geren made a call I didn't agree with: He pulled Anderson in favor of a pinch hitter, going with Nomar Garciaparra. My objections started with the fact that the A's really needed to get more than 5 IP out of Anderson, who had thrown but 68 pitches. The A's long man, Edgar Gonzalez (not to be confused with Edgar Gonzalez), was not available with Josh Outman having lasted only 1.2 IP last night; Craig Breslow had pitched in 4 consecutive games; Wuertz had pitched yesterday despite having complained recently of a tired arm due to overuse; Ziegler has been much used this week, as has Bailey. This was not a night to yank a pitcher after 5 IP and 68 pitches. My objections continued with the fact that the A's were not punting the inning by batting Anderson; they were more punting the second out with Kennedy on deck.
How did it play out? Badly at first, with Nomar bouncing into a 6-4-3 DP, but well in the long run as the A's bullpen shut the Padres out for the final 4 innings. But to accomplish this, Wuertz pitched two innings - two outstanding innings with 4 Ks - and pitching on back to back days, stretched out to 2 IP the second day, can't be what Wuertz was getting at when he said he needed more rest. Ziegler pitched the 8th and Bailey the 9th - and Bailey has now worked 5 of the last 8 days.
Luckily, the third "crossroads moment" involved a puzzler of a decision by Bud Black in the top of the 7th. With the game tied 3-3, Kennedy at second at two out, Black ordered Cla Meredith (don't ask Y, Cla - you don't have one) to intentionally walk the .212 hitting Giambi to pitch to the A's best hitter in 2009, Kurt Suzuki. Suzuki singled to right-center to give the A's a 4-3 lead, Kennedy (his 4th hit of the night) and Cust (#13) went back-to-back in the 8th, and the A's had themselves a 6-3 win.
Maybe the A's figure they'll drain every ounce Wuertz has in his arm and send him away after 2009. Maybe Bailey's arm can take the amount of pitching asked of him right now. I just worry that as guys like Casilla waste away because Geren only has confidence in a select few, the toll will be felt long-term. But hey, the A's have 30 wins, and these days each win is its own little blessing.