They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I think that is a bit of an oversimplification; there is no way that every single picture is worth the same number of words. Some pictures must be worth more than others, and some must be just replacement-level pictures. Either way, I don't have any pictures which could truly sum up this rollercoaster of a game between the A's and Orioles, and it wouldn't matter if I did because I have more than a thousand words to say about it. Instead, I will turn to the bulleted list, because in a bulleted list I don't have to write complete sentences. How efficient! Tonight's game included:
- 23 total runs
- 31 total hits
- 12 total pitchers, throwing 382 pitches
- 4 hours to play a 9-inning game
- 5 lead changes
- 3 half-innings with at least 4 runs scored, and two more with 3 runs
- Blown saves by 2 different All-Star closers
- 50,000 hairs pulled from head, by me alone
It seems like just yesterday that this game started, but really it was today. It took about 3 minutes before things got really exciting. Jonny Gomes worked a 1-out walk off of Baltimore starter Zach Britton, and Josh Reddick followed that up by pounding a ball into the ground to the right side. Luckily, he chopped it so hard that it went over the head of first baseman Mark Reynolds, and instead of being a potential double-play, it went all the way into the corner. Reddick made it to 3rd, and just like that the A's had an early lead on one of the funkiest triples I've ever seen. A few pitches later, Britton uncorked a wild one, allowing Reddick to score as well. Boy, I could get used to this whole "scoring" thing. Mariners fans, you've gotta try this!
Yoenis Cespedes kept things rolling with a sharp single to center, bringing Chris Carter to the plate. Britton decided to challenge Carter. It was a poor choice. Carter turned on the inside fastball and deposited it into the left field seats. Five batters into the game, and it's 4-0 A's. At this point, I was thinking, "Welp, looks like the team is back on track. Time to watch them cruise to victory!" Boy, was I wrong.
Things got better before they got worse. Jarrod Parker put the Orioles down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 1st, and Brandon Hicks led off the 2nd with a towering homer into the left-field corner to make it 5-0. Then, the Orioles started chipping away.
Chris Davis homered in the 2nd. 5-1.
J.J. Hardy doubled in a run in the 3rd. 5-2.
In both the 3rd and 4th innings, Parker actually struck out the side, despite giving up a few hits as well. He looked fairly sharp, but the Baltimore heat looked like it was affecting him as well. The Baltimore players were about to affect him even more.
With one on and one out in the 5th, Nick Markakis hit a ground ball to the right side. Had Jemile Weeks been positioned normally, it would have been a tailor-made double play. However, with the shift on, Weeks was only able to knock the ball down. Actually, this was one instance in which his flashy glove-flip play may have been his best shot; as it happened, he couldn't get a grip on the ball and everyone was safe. The next batter, Hardy, singled to drive in a run. 5-3.
After striking out Jim Thome, Parker threw but a single pitch to cleanup hitter Adam Jones. Jones hit what initially looked like a line drive base hit, but he hit it so hard that it barely cleared the fence in left for a devastating 3-run homer. 6-5, Orioles.
If this was 2011, or even 2010, that would have been it. Those teams didn't come back from blows like that. This 2012 team is different. There wasn't an A's fan alive who thought this one was over.
The Orioles entered the top of the 6th looking for a shutdown inning. They did not get it. As has so often been the case lately, the rally took place entirely with two outs. Brandon Hicks reached on a walk, and some guy named Miguel Socolovich came in to relieve Britton. Socolovich started off by walking Weeks. That's not so bad; Weeks has shown great plate discipline this year, despite displaying poor bat usage. Then, Socko (I'm sick of writing his whole name) walked Coco Crisp. Two batters, 11 pitches, 2 walks.
Bob Melvin elected to pinch-hit for Gomes with Seth Smith, thus honoring the platoon that has worked so well all season. Buck Showalter, strangely encouraged by Socko's utter futility up to this point, left him in, figuring he was due to record an out (or at least throw a strike). He got ahead of Smith 0-2, and then threw three straight changeups outside, because being ahead in the count is against Socko's religion. On the 3-2 pitch, Smith cracked a double into the left-field gap, clearing the bases and putting Oakland back in front, 8-6. Given the way the ball was flying tonight, though, there still wasn't an A's fan alive who thought this one was over.
Jordan Norberto recorded the shutdown inning for Oakland in the bottom half, and Matt Lindstrom retired the A's in the 7th. Grant Balfour tried absolutely as hard as he could to give up a run in the bottom of the 7th, walking the bases loaded with two out, but Melvin wisely took the ball from him and turned to Sean Doolittle, who struck out Wilson Betemit to end the threat. Oakland blew a chance to add some insurance in the 8th, but it's all good, right? 2-run lead, Doolittle in the 8th, Ryan Cook in the 9th, line 'em up, knock 'em down, right? Wrong.
Doolittle was able to record two outs, but with them came two baserunners (walk to Reynolds, single by Markakis). With the right-hander Hardy coming to the plate, Melvin turned to the well-rested Cook for the 4-out save. Cook would face four batters, but he wouldn't retire a single one of them. That's sort of like the opposite of a 4-out save.
Hardy started things off by pulling a 1-1 slider off his shoelaces for an RBI single to left. 8-7.
Jim Thome singled through the shift, plating another run. 8-8. Save blown.
Adam Jones worked a full count, fouled off a couple pitches, and then...got hit by a pitch? Seriously, you hit him, Cook? Good grief. Bases loaded.
Chris Davis fell behind 1-2, and then got an elevated fastball which he lined to left for another RBI single. Luckily for Oakland, Thome attempted to score on the play as well, which was just adorable. Cespedes hit his cutoff man, who relayed the throw home for a close play at the plate and.....wait, no, not close. The opposite of close. Thome was out by literally 20-30 feet. It was one of those plays where he had enough time to completely stop running, and just saunter into the catcher's outstretched glove for the out. It was comical how out he was, except no one was laughing because Baltimore had just taken the lead in the 8th. 9-8. Shit.
There were now at least a handful of A's fans alive who thought this one was over. You would be excused for not being 100% confident in a comeback; after all, you can't walk-off on the road, right? Also, the Orioles were 39-0 this year when leading after the 7th inning, and 41-0 when leading after 8. Those weren't very good odds for Oakland.
All-Star closer Jim Johnson entered to wrap up the save. He retired Cespedes on a grounder to Reynolds at 1st, who made a nice diving play and a perfect feed to Johnson. That was the last good thing that happened to the Orioles tonight.
Carter came up next, and singled sharply to center. The next batter, Inge, hit a sharp grounder to the left side. Ten feet to the right, and it would have been a game-ending double play. Instead, it found the hole, and the A's had the tying run in scoring position. Eric Sogard came in to pinch-run for Carter, and Derek Norris came up to the plate.
Norris worked a 2-2 count, and then hit a grounder to the right side. There was that TV moment, just briefly. You know, the moment after you've seen the ball off the bat, but before the camera angle has switched to show you where it went. Did he hit it sharply, or is it bouncing too slowly? Is it right at someone, or did it find a hole? No way to know in that brief, terrifying moment. And at that moment, it looked an awful lot like a game-ending, soul-crushing double play. It probably would have been in 2011. Tonight, though, it deflected off of Reynolds' glove and dribbled into right field, allowing Sogard to score the tying run. Honestly, if it had gone through cleanly, Mike Gallego may have held Sogard rather than challenging Markakis's cannon in right. The deflection probably resulted directly in the run scoring. Ain't that a bitch? You should have been slightly worse at defense, Reynolds.
And then, the wheels came off. Brandon Moss pinch-hit for Hicks, and drew a walk. Weeks flared a hit down the left field line, scoring Inge to take the lead. Coco grounded a single to right, plating two more. Smith, who had entered as a pinch-hitter in the 6th, came up for this third at-bat and smoked a double off the right field wall. That's a team-leading 5 RBI for the guy who only played 4 innings. When the dust had settled, the score was 14-9 in favor of Oakland.
Jerry Blevins came on in the 9th and pitched about as cleanly as anyone else did tonight, allowing a mere two hits and zero runs. For that, he was awarded the win, based on a weird-but-logical rule that I'd never heard of:
The official scorer shall not credit as the winning pitcher a relief pitcher who is ineffective in a brief appearance, when at least one succeeding relief pitcher pitches effectively in helping his team maintain its lead. In such a case, the official scorer shall credit as the winning pitcher the succeeding relief pitcher who was most effective, in the judgment of the official scorer.
Cook, who would have been in line for the win, was clearly ineffective. So, Blevins was awarded the win by the official scorer. How interesting.
Two more notes, both regarding Josh Reddick:
In the 4th, Reddick hit one of the weirdest balls I've ever seen. It looked like a homer to center, but at the last second, it bounced off the very top of the wall. I don't mean that it bounced really high up on the front face of the wall; I mean, it literally landed on the tippy-top edge of the wall, took a weird hop, and bounced back onto the field. It was like flipping a coin and having it land on its edge, standing straight up. A confused Reddick pulled into 2nd with a double, and a replay review confirmed the ruling on the field. It's hard to imagine that the ball bounced back like that without clearing the fence and hitting something behind it, but what can you do? Be happy that the run, which at times looked critically important, didn't end up costing the team the game.
On a darker note, the last play of the game was a scary one for Reddick. Markakis launched a fly to right, and Reddick made a leaping catch at the wall to end the game. On the play, though, he hit the wall hard, and didn't come back up when he hit the ground. There was not an A's fan alive who wasn't holding his breath, unless that fan was a female, in which case she was holding her breath. It turns out that everything is OK, though, according to Susan Slusser:
Reddick has back contusion and is day to day but no head injury. Just stunned by getting wind knocked out. #Athletics
Even if Reddick misses a couple of days, you have to be relieved by that outcome. It looked like it could have been anything from a concussion to a dislocated shoulder, but instead he will be day-to-day. I can live with that.
And that's a wrap, folks. What a game. If you didn't get excited by this one, baseball just isn't for you. Judging by the word count in the corner of my screen, it would have taken over 2 pictures to explain all of that. Those would be two pretty sweet pictures.
Oakland hops right back on the Camden Yards Rollercoaster tomorrow at 4:05pm. Bartolo Colon faces off against Tommy Hunter for the 2nd time this year. I don't want to talk about what happened in their first matchup. It was bad. This time, things will go better. In other news, Baltimore is 41-1 this year when leading after 8 innings.