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Not So Much A Pitching Duel; A's Outslug and Outlast Angels, 9-8, For Series Win

So, on paper, it isn't even close. The Angels' offense is better than the A's offense in just about every category, the Angels have four legitimate aces in their starting staff, the Angels were the ones who spent money at the trading deadline to improve, and the Angels hit five homeruns today. It's hard not to imagine the Angels' grand hopes of sweeping the series after Jered Weaver completely dominated the A's on Monday night.

But because 2012 is magical, the A's put on their best "Little Payroll That Could" outfit and stormed back; scoring 10 runs last night and 9 today, while staving off a late Angels' comeback to win the series, and putting another game's worth of padding on second place--and the Wild Card.

Normally, I would point out that the Angels should have thought about upgrading their bullpen at the deadline instead, since it's not possible for even their starting pitching to pitch complete games every night, but I don't feel qualified to speak about their bullpen in light of today's scary save by Ryan Cook, but hell, it was a save! And this is the happy, the-A's-won-2-of-3-from-the-Angels-after-being-practically-no-hit-in-the-first-game thread, so whatever. I'll pretend not to worry that Cook nearly blew another 3-run save. He DID record the third out before the third run scored, so CELEBRATION!

The A's somehow came up with nine runs, helped by homeruns by Kottaras and Carter, and unlike last night, they would need every single run to win today's game. Not even the most die-hard pie fan wanted to see the game go into extra innings this afternoon.

As for Dan Straily, you know how there are some days where your starting pitcher gets really unlucky and gives up a lot of bloop hits and the other team picks him apart and it wasn't really his fault that he gave up those runs?

Today was not one of those days.

Straily nearly recorded as many homeruns given up as he did strikeouts; I'm not sure that's a record we're really shooting for here. When you only throw 90 miles an hour, you probably shouldn't make those pitches as hittable as they were today. Although he did strike out five batters in his 4 and 2/3 innings, I think that excitement was negated by the four homeruns he allowed (Morales x2, Iannetta, and Hunter). The Angels would hit their fifth homerun off Balfour later in the game. If there is a bright side, it's that Straily only walked one batter; most of the homeruns he gave up were solos.

Where does one even start recapping this game? The A's went down early in the top of the second after the first Angels' homerun, but stormed back with a Carter walk and George Kottaras' first A's homerun in the bottom of the inning to take a 2-1 lead. After back to back one-out walks in the same inning (showing off a very un-Greinke-like wildness) to Pennington and Weeks, Cliff Pennington, in his first game back, got himself picked off second base. That. Was. Unacceptable. It's bad enough that he's hitting under .200 and never gets on base, but then gets picked off on one of the few times he does get on base? The bases should have been loaded with one out as Coco also walked, but instead, there were runners at first and second with two outs. Luckily for the A's, they don't just walk; they also sometimes hit! Brandon Moss singled in the A's third run. Reddick would single in the fourth run, and the A's jumped out to a 4-1 lead. Greinke walked 5 batters, and all in the second inning. The A's made him pay with four runs.

Comfortable lead? Not so much.

The Angels' second homerun came leading off the third inning, immediately cutting the lead to 4-2. Trout and Hunter both singled with no one out to scare us, but Straily got Pujols to fly out (Trout advanced to 3rd on the play), and Trumbo flied out to Cespedes, who threatened to throw Trout out at the plate if he tried to score, and Straily would get out of the inning without further damage.

Every inning was a nail-biter, as Straily fought to record outs; a nice scoop by Carter closed the fourth inning without incident, but the wheels--which were wobbling all day--finally came off in the fifth. Torii Hunter homered to bring the Angels within one run, and after a single and a botched pick-off attempt, Straily was left in to pitch to Kendrys Morales, who hit an approximately 900 foot homerun off him earlier. That went about as well as one would imagine; Kendrys had himself a two-homer day and the A's were suddenly down 5-4. Jordan Norberto replaced Straily and manged to stop the bleeding. Pat Neshek, The Awesome One, would replace the apparently injured Norberto in the sixth, keeping the A's just down a run. He would also be awarded the win, because he's awesome.

Cliff Pennington would walk again in the sixth inning as LaTroy Hawkins replaced Greinke, and this time he didn't get picked off; he moved to second on a bunt by Weeks. Coco doubled him in to tie the game at 5, but the A's weren't done. After the rare umpire change (Bill Miller was hit hard, and had trouble remembering the count, and just looked in pain), Reddick walked, putting runners on first and second. Coco and Reddick pulled off the old double steal, and Cespedes drove them in with a single, giving the A's a 7-5 lead.

Still not enough.

Chris Carter mashed a homerun for good measure, setting the A's up with a 9-5 lead going to the seventh. They would still need all of it. Balfour allowed yet another Angels' homerun in the seventh, but got out of it with a three-run lead still intact, and Sean Doolittle allowed two singles and made an error to start the eighth inning, but then clutchly struck out the side.

A's lead 9-6, going to the ninth inning, Ryan Cook comes in--surely this time will be different, right? Single, strikeout, single, groundout, 2 RBI single, stolen base, and then a blessed, blessed ground-out to Cliff Pennington.

It wasn't the prettiest win. Or the most relaxing. But whatever. The A's take 2 out of 3 from the Angels (sending them 7 games behind the Rangers) and fly to Chicago to take on the red-hot White Sox starting Friday night. They better bring the good offense.