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If 1989 Was Baseball Heaven, Tonight’s Game Was Baseball Hell

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It’s not often that games are over barely seven minutes into their starting time, but that’s what would end up happening tonight; thanks to the early runs by the Giants, and a complete inability for this frustrating, maddening, poorly-hitting offense we field night after night to score any of the nine-trillion baserunners they left out there against Lincecum. SportsCenter will tell the surface headline of how Lincecum dominated the A’s, but I don’t think that tells the complete story of tonight’s game. I will gladly own a loss against one of the best pitchers in baseball; I didn’t think the A’s had a chance to start with, but what an amazingly unbelievable sequence of innings there.

Mazzaro got in trouble early; issuing a one-out walk in the first (it’s always the walk) and an RBI triple double by the unlikely speed demon Sandoval (who took the extra base on Holliday's throwing error), and after a sac fly, the Giants had the early lead of 2-0. Had the A’s lost by the final score of 2-1, I think more AN TV’s would have suffered casualties, but the fact that they lost 4-1 is nearly just as bad. The A’s offense certainly had opportunities all over the place to pick up Mazzaro after he allowed two more runs in the second (thanks in part to Cust’s fielding), and then shut the Giants down the rest of his night (6 IP; 6 K’s). Despite the rocky first two innings, Mazzaro looked great, and under different circumstances, he might have been able to pull out a ND or even a W.

Normally, I root for close games, but losing 10-0 could not possibly have been as frustrating as this game turned out to be, as the A’s offense wasted each and every chance to get back into the game. Yes, Tim Lincecum threw the complete game, striking out twelve, and I will be the last to ignore his incredible success with men on base, but I feel the A’s failed every bit as much as Lincecum dominated. When your offense reaches base eight out of eleven batters against a starting pitcher, and you score exactly zero runs over that stretch, you might be part of the problem.

From Cust striking out four times (and had two additional K’s the last time he faced Tim Lincecum; that combined with the fielding mishap, at least Davis might have accidentally run into a bunt?), to Adam Kennedy swinging at ball four after Lincecum opened the game with a 3-0 count, to the one-at-bat-a-day Garciaparra seeing one pitch with the bases loaded after a walk to Daric Barton (Daric Barton!!!), turning in one of two bases-loaded DP’s to end two consecutive innings (and nearly a third that only didn’t happen because of a dropped ball and subsequent bad call), it was a maddening game to watch.

The only run the A’s would put on the board was a bomb early in the game by Giambi where he connected with a fastball. But it wasn’t for lack of opportunity.

The A’s had a golden chance to cut into the 4-1 deficit in the fifth inning, as Sweeney and Cabrera had one-out singles, and Barton walked to load the bases. Pinch-hitting for Hannahan was the only call Geren could make, but Nomar Garciaparra hit the first pitch (not even hard) into exactly what he did his last pinch-hitting appearance; an inning-ending DP. Is one at-bat a day, or every other day, enough to keep Nomar sharp on the bench? Would things have been better had Hannahan just struck out to give the A’s another chance? 

Adam Kennedy would single to open the sixth, and after Cust struck out (again), Matt Holliday would double. After a Giambi walk loaded the bases (again), Suzuki hit, and the Giants turned an easy double play (again).

The seventh was more of the same. Sweeney and Cabrera opened the inning with singles, and after Barton struck out (I was afraid he’d walk), Crosby did his very best to hit into the A’s third inning-ending DP in as many innings, but he failed only because the ball was dropped (and incorrectly called an out). Kennedy flew out and as ANers all over threw objects in disgust, so ended the A’s threat.

Yes, Lincecum was awesome. Yes, his line dominated the game. But you can’t convince me that the 1989 A’s wouldn’t have knocked him out of the game with the chances the 2009 A’s were given tonight.

But such is baseball, and this game was not ours to win. The A’s still have a chance for the series win tomorrow night; TBD (Gio Gonzalez, perhaps?) vs. Randy Johnson, 7:05. And for those of you who care about such things, the Angels have made their move; tying Texas for the AL West lead tonight; A’s remain 6.5 games back.