Yes, fortitude. The story today was Ben Sheets, with an AL-career high 8 strikeouts in 6.1 IP holding the bat-heavy Rays to just 2 runs. No pitcher wants to get beaten with his third-best pitch, but Sheets is finding out that the threat of the changeup is essential, and that when he mixes it in he can use his fastball and curve far more effectively.
The "line judges" -- 1B and 3B umpires -- seemed determined to help Tampa Bay. WIth Oakland up 2-0 in the 1st inning and a runner at third base, Adam Rosales ripped a shot down the LF line. As it picked up chalk, Jim Joyce bellowed "FOUL!" 3B coach Mike Gallego said, "You mean 'fair,' right?" Joyce didn't.
Then with Oakland clinging to a 3-2 lead in the 7th and a man on, Reid Brignac hit one wide of 1B and down the right field line. "OK," growled 1B umpire Jim Wolf, "You want fair, you got fair -- FAIR BALL!" Bob Geren nearly came out of his finger arguing the injustice of it all, but the A's bullpen made the point moot as Michael Wuertz induced your basic 5-2-5-3 ground out and Jerry Blevins struck out Carl Crawford to turn back the Rays. Ziggy and Bailey needed just 6 batters to handle the 8th and 9th, respectively.
You may, as I do, be wary of Geren's drastic overuse of the sacrifice bunt so far this season, but at least it served its purpose as the A's pushed an insurance run in the bottom of the 8th. After Eric Patterson kicked a puppy past BJ Upton for a double, Cliff Pennington bunted him to 3B and Daric Barton bounced one past a drawn-in infield for the A's 4th run.
But the headliner is Sheets. We know the A's have a "can we squeeeeeze 4 runs out of this offense?" and some good late-inning bullpen options. The question is whether the rotation, suddenly down Duchscherer and Anderson, can count on Sheets to anchor the staff. Today the answer was a resounding yes.
3 game series vs Rays @ Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
WP: David Price (4 - 1)
SV: Rafael Soriano
LP: Gio Gonzalez (3 - 2)
|1 - 4 loss|
WP: Ben Sheets (2 - 3)
SV: Andrew Bailey
LP: Wade Davis (3 - 2)
|4 - 2 win|