The A's had no business going to the 9th tied 3-3. Ben Sheets wobbled through 6 innings in which he surrendered 10 hits, 5 of them doubles, walked 3 more, yet somehow allowed just 3 runs. It helped that he was able to wiggle out of a 2nd and 3rd nobody out jam in the 5th, to keep the A's down just 3-1, by popping up Juan Rivera and inducing Howie Kendrick to hit into a 6-4-3 DP.
Of course, Jered Weaver had little business taking a no-hitter two outs into the 4th, running 3-ball counts on 6 of the first 9 hitters. Oakland's first hit came on Kevin Kouzmanoff's first A's HR. Somehow, though, the A's clawed back to tie it with single runs in the 7th and 8th, each coming on an RBI groundout, meaning that even in both losses the A's have battled back to tie games started by the opposing team's ace.
Still, it was only by the grace of God that the A's were even with the Angels for 8.5 innings. Their luck (or grit, if you prefer), finally ran out when Bobby Abreu's broken bat double, followed soon after by Hideki Matsui's game-winning shot down the right field line, made a loser out of Craig Breslow and snapped the A's 4-game win streak.
Each of the last two offseasons, the Angels have made a key FA signing late. In 2009 it was Bobby Abreu and this year it's Hideki Matsui. Those are two really fine hitters -- the kind that make you wonder "what if the A's had thrown their $5M to these guys instead of to Jason Giambi or Coco Crisp?" I'm officially jealous.
As for Sheets, he looks like a pitcher who didn't pitch last year and that's fine because he is. But until his fastball gains another couple of MPH in velocity, I think he needs to throw his changeup whether he "believes in it" or not. He threw several tonight after he got roughed up and I thought they were perfectly effective -- moreover I just don't think he can get by with two pitches the way those two pitches look right now. Close, but not quite.
Fear not, the league's strikeout leader -- Dallas Braden, of course -- goes tomorrow in the rubber game. Look for the A's catching debut of Jake Fox among other goodies.