It was a complete performance today. On the strength of A.J. Griffin's solid 6 innings, the A's came back to go on the road to Houston on a high note, winning the last two games of this 4 game series with the Mariners. Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes hit a home run each to power the offense, and Jed "doubles machine" Lowrie added two more to his season total.
The game started under threat of rain that never materialized. Indeed, attendance looked lower than it might have been had it been a clear April day. What did rain down, however, were extra base hits from the A's bats. It started in the first against Brandon Maurer, making his MLB debut. After a Coco Crisp single and a Lowrie foul out, Josh Reddick hit an absolute meatball out for a home run to deep right center. It doesn't get much more on a platter than that. Reddick pretty much dropped his bat and started his trot. The right fielder Saunders basically did the same with his glove, admiring the shot.
Griffin had a rather uneventful first 3 innings. He sat the Mariners down in order in the 1st and 2nd. In the 3rd, he walked Kelly Shoppach and allowed a single to Saunders, but he managed to record a strikeout after each of those PAs, keeping the Mariners at bay. (Ha, Mariners at bay. I slay myself!). He allowed another single to Michael Morse in the 4th but also retired the Mariners that inning. Morse was very much a pain in the A's side this series: he collected four home runs, no doubt in response to being the short end of the trade that netted the A's John Jaso. Okay, not really, but he is approaching Brendan Ryan levels.
Griffin ran into trouble in the 5th, allowing a lead off single to Dustin Ackley and another to Shoppach. In a flash of brilliance, Eric Wedge decided to play small ball and had Robert "curse of the" Andino sacrifice those two to third and second, respectively. It worked for one run, as Saunders hit a sacrifice fly to draw the M's within 1. But, after Franklin Gutierrez walked, Raul Ibanez promptly popped out harmlessly. So, thanks, Eric Wedge for playing your team out of a potentially bigger inning. As punishment, Chris Young answered with a double to lead off the A's half of the 5th, and was wild pitched by Maurer to 3rd. Jaso then pushed him across with a single through the M's drawn in infield to push the A's lead back out to 2.
In the 6th, there's that Morse guy again. Ergh. He hit a low line drive onto the steps in left field to draw the score within one again. Griffin would allow another set of singles, but this time erased them both on force outs. Thus ended his day at 95 pitches (61 strikes), 2 BB, 3 K, 7 H, and 27 batters faced. In the bottom of the sixth, the A's put the game away for good. Back-to-back doubles by Lowrie and Reddick pushed across one run. I really am liking this idea of Lowrie in the 2nd position in the order. He has good at bats, and hey - if he keeps pumping doubles he can hit anywhere he wants. It was then Cespedes' turn to get in on the fun, as he crunched a 2-1 slider up and on the outside corner for a line drive home run onto the steps. It's fun to see the way Cespedes is hitting home runs these days. Instead of the wild max effort swings he was taking at points last year, he's more controlled. In some ways, he looks like he's just toying with the ball, flicking it over the fence with pure upper body strength when he gets his pitch. Yes, he's that strong, and he put the A's up by 4.
And that was pretty much it. Griffin was replaced by Sean Doolittle, who allowed only a single and finished his outing by striking out Michael Morse. (Yes! HA!). Jerry Blevins came on in the 8th to set the M's down in order. In the home half of the inning, A's padded their lead on sacrifice flies by Reddick and Nate Freiman. This was preceded by consecutive hits - a single and what else, a double for Lowrie, making it 8-2 A's. To close it out, Ryan Cook came on, looking to avenge his earlier shaky outing. Indeed he did, striking out the side on a tidy 14 pitches.
So, it looks like we won't all die, after all. The A's secured their Happy Flight to Houston, and face off with Chris Carter's Astros starting Friday night. While they may be the doormats of the AL West, the A's need to win at least 2 of 3 in this series. In some ways, whoever does the best against the Astros may end up having an advantage in the division race compared to those teams who simply break even.