Well, I'm not going to lie. Things looked pretty grim for our heroes in the first inning of this game as not only did the A's and Bartolo Colon fall behind 2-0 to the Angels before a single out was recorded, but we would also learn that the Rangers had come back from a 7-1 deficit to tie their game at 8. We've had better starts to our Friday nights, but because the 2013 season is magical, things would get a whole lot better. (But first, it would get scarier.)
So the Indians would rally one last time against the Rangers to walk-off in the eleventh to give the A's the 3 1/2 game lead, and despite the symbiotic win/loss relationship the A's and Rangers have been enjoying recently, the A's would champion their own cause, win the game, and increase their AL West lead to 4 full games over the Rangers and 11 over the Angels.
And all this for a team that has, can, and will play better baseball. Even with the glaring absence of Smith, Cespedes and Donaldson at the party tonight, the offense did rack up ten hits tonight, and two homeruns, maybe a sign of good things to come. The A's made their usual multiple errors, but good pitching from almost everyone (frowny face for Jerry Blevins), a sensational night at the plate for Lowrie and Vogt and some stellar defense by Eric Sogard sealed up the all-important victory to get the A's to 60 wins and a four game lead in the West. Oh, and Coco Crisp threw out Mike Trout, trying to advance on a deep fly. That was especially fun.
Bartolo Colon was not his usual pitching machine self tonight; he started the game with a infield single and a laser homerun by Mike Trout to fall behind 2-0 to the Angels, but in true ace fashion, he wouldn't allow another run. In fact, until the sixth inning, he wouldn't allow more than one baserunner an inning. After working out of the sixth inning jam, he left the A's with a 4-2 lead. There would be a lot of drama between his departure and his fourteenth win, but the A's would eventually get him there.
The A's rallied from two down almost immediately as Jed Lowrie hit a solo homerun in the first to cut the deficit in half, and Josh Reddick would lead off the second with a double and score on Sogard's hit to tie the game. Coco would single Sogard to third, and then steal second base, just in time for Lowrie's second hit in as many innings; this time a two-RBI single to give the A's the 4-2 lead. Stephen Vogt doesn't get a lot of hits (despite the two in the box score tonight), but boy, do they count. Reddick singled to open the sixth inning and one batter later, Vogt deposited the ball into the seats to give the A's the comfortable-at-the-time 6-2 lead. He has four hits, and two of them are homeruns. I'll take it.
That's the last time the A's would score, so to win the game, their bullpen just needed to get nine outs before the Angels got four runs. It was harder than it sounded. Ryan Cook handled the seventh inning surviving a nasty shin bruise and an error in the inning, and Sean Doolittle pitched a near-perfect eighth. With the four-run lead, Jerry Blevins was tasked with the ninth. He didn't record an out, but did add two runs to his ERA. You can'tcan'tcan'tcan'tcan't walk two batters to lead off an inning with a four-run lead. That's a recipe for a short night, and very nearly a disastrous inning. He did set up Balfour for the save; however. Balfour induced a pop-up for the first out, and struck out Trout with pure heat for the second out, which incensed Pujols, who singled in both runners after a wild pitch put them in scoring position. And then Balfour struck out Josh Hamilton for the third out. And then Celebration spelled such sweet, sweet relief as the A's will take the victories any way they can.
They will go for two in a row tomorrow afternoon at high noon. Garrett Richards vs. Tommy Milone. LET'S GO OAK-LAND!