Everything is OK, guys. We can stop worrying. It turns out that the clock did not strike midnight during the All-Star Break, and this magical Oakland team did not turn into a pumpkin. After falling completely flat in their first two games of the second half, the A's put together a dominant victory today to avoid a sweep at the hands of the 3rd-place Angels.
In the first two games of this series, Oakland couldn't hit their way out of a paper bag. Today, they scratched out six runs on nine hits, including a homer by Eric Sogard. In the first two games, Oakland couldn't keep the Angels in the park, allowing four total homers. Today, Bartolo Colon threw a complete game four-hit shutout. The A's also made some defensive miscues in the first game of the series, but played a very clean game today. Add in the fact that the Angels recorded nearly as many errors (three) as hits (four), and Oakland cruised to an easy victory.
I'm not sure what to say about Colon that hasn't already been said. He did exactly what he's been doing all year. He threw a bunch of fastballs, and most of them were strikes. The hitters mostly made a bunch of weak contact, and the hard contact wasn't good enough or lucky enough to land in for hits. He ended up with a season-high pitch count of 116, but he remained strong for the whole game and finished things off by striking out Albert Pujols and retiring Josh Hamilton on a shallow flyout. If you'd like a play-by-play summary of Colon's outing, then here is the template for you to use:
In the (enter a number) inning, Colon retired (player name), (player name), and (player name) in order.
Colon only allowed baserunners in three different frames, so that template literally works for 67% of the innings in this game. No Angels reached third base. The closest that they came to scoring was when Pujols hit a drive to deep center. It was either going to clear the fence or hit the very top of it, but Young read it perfectly and didn't even have to make an impressive play to catch it. Basically, Colon's outing was boring for all of the right reasons. It was his third shutout of the season, including the rain-shortened seven inning performance in Boston.
While Big Bart was spinning a masterpiece, the Angels were mostly sitting in the corner eating paste. After two quiet innings against Jerome Williams, the A's opened the third with an opposite-field double by Chris Young. Eric Sogard followed Young by launching a homer to the short porch in right field, and the A's had an early 2-0 lead. The homer was Sogard's second in his last six starts, after not hitting one since April of 2012.
(Before you start reading the next two paragraphs, open this video in another tab and play it in the background.)
The fifth inning was when things started getting funny. After Sogard led off with a single, Coco Crisp laid down a bunt. Alberto Callaspo fielded the ball and threw it in the general vicinity of 1st base, but it was nowhere near its intended destination and it ended up in foul territory in right field. At this point, there were multiple Angels rolling around on the ground. It was like the part in the beginning of a baseball movie where the underdog team still really sucks and makes a really embarrassing play. Or, if you don't watch a lot of movies, it was like an Astros game. Either way, Sogard scored all the way from first, and Coco ended up on third. Brandon Moss later drove in Coco with a single to left to make it 4-0.
The comedy continued in the 6th when Josh Reddick and Chris Young attempted a double-steal off of reliever Garrett Richards. Catcher Chris Ianetta would have had Reddick gunned at third with even a decent throw, but instead he missed his target by several feet. The ball bounced off of Reddick and trickled into foul territory, allowing him to score and moving Young to third. A few pitches later, Coco Crisp hit a ground ball to first base. Mark Trumbo fielded it and threw home to get Young at the plate, but he skipped the ball in the dirt and it shot past Ianetta to the backstop. Young probably would have been out if Trumbo had made a good throw, but instead the lead was increased to 6-0. Two pitches later, with Coco on second, Richards turned around to make a pickoff throw. Instead, he threw the ball about ten feet wide of the base into center field. The throw was so mind-bogglingly bad that Coco didn't even know where it was, so he stayed on second. The Angels messed up so badly that the A's didn't even know what to do with it.
The only downside of this game was that Josh Donaldson continued his mini-slump, going 0-for-4 to lower his average to .303. Hopefully a few games in Houston can snap him out of this funk before it turns into something long-term.
The pressure was on the Angels in this series. They entered with an 11-game deficit in the AL West, and they needed to take advantage of these head-to-head games if they wanted to make a move. While it's a bummer that the A's lost the series, it only resulted in a one-game swing in the standings between these two teams. Avoiding the sweep meant keeping the Angels at bay, and leaving town with a ten-game lead instead of just eight. The Angels may have taken care of business in the first two games, but they blew it in the finale.
Things were looking bad in the first two games after the break. It was a false alarm, though. Everything is OK, folks. Colon is still inexplicably an ace, the lineup is still deep enough to get production even when a couple of guys are slumping, and that piece of sky that fell on your head the other day was really just bird poop (which still sucks, but I mean, you'll live). The A's are back in the win column, and now they get three games against the Astros. Life is good.
Oakland and Houston open their series tomorrow at 5:10pm, with Tommy Milone facing Dallas Keuchel. It's a night game against a bad lineup, so Vampire Milone should theoretically be good. Billy Frijoles will have your thread.