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Game #131: A's Beat Verlander in Rain-Shortened Contest, Guarantee Series Split

The Detroit summer rain did nothing to dampen the spirits of the Oakland A's and their offense, who overcame Tommy Milone's rocky first inning to score 5 runs (3 earned) off Justin Verlander to take the lead just in time for the tarps to crash down on the field, prematurely ending a baseball game that the A's would likely have won anyway.

Duane Burleson

See now? That was fun. After last night's nailbiter, and today's nightmare first inning, the rest of this game was sunshine, flowers, and puppies, despite the rain that fell steadily for most of the night. The A's really and truly beat Justin Verlander, who was pulled after five innings and five runs, and even though the game would ultimately end in the top of the sixth, the A's walked off the field with the bases loaded and no one out. The A's had seven hits, by seven different players, including a big RBI double from the struggling Cespedes, and even though the sixth inning was never completed, the home run by the newly LASIK'd Seth Smith would still count. The A's have guaranteed a series split by beating Sanchez and Verlander, and look for the series win tomorrow against Fister.

If you had told me at any point in the bottom of the first inning that Tommy Milone would go on to pitch the complete game, I would have looked at you like you were crazy. If I had been managing the team, Chavez would have replaced Milone to face Cabrera--the third batter in the game, long before any runs were scored--because there was just something so off about Milone's first two batters that we all knew it would be a bumpy ride. But kudos to Melvin for sticking with his pitcher, and kudos to Milone, who knows he is teetering on the edge of the rotation, for shutting down the Tigers long enough for the A's to come back and win. Also, me playing the part of Bob Melvin would have gone all shades of Major League all over Callaspo for ole-ing the ball in such a half-hearted effort on a play that most of AN would have made as the Tigers scored another run on his error. But Melvin correctly figured that Callaspo knows this is a playoff race, knows his mistake, and will atone for it. Likewise, maybe there really was something very wrong with Seth Smith's eyes; his swing today looked like the Smith of Old, and Melvin was also rewarded for his patience there.

The game started out in fine fashion; the first inning was what everyone desperately wanted last October, and just couldn't get. And of course, that's not fair, there's no way 2012 Verlander has an inning like this one did. Coco Crisp worked a walk to lead off the game, and moved up to second on Donaldson's single. After Verlander uncorked a wild pitch, Lowrie doubled both runs in. Moss and Cespedes struck out, and after Smith walked (!!!), Callaspo flew out. But the A's gave a 2-0 lead to Tommy Milone, and oh boy, did that go away fast.

Milone also walked the leadoff batter, and gave up a single to put two on. Unlike Griffin's 3-1 pitch to Cabrera yesterday in the late(r) innings, Milone's pitches said he was trying to walk Cabrera. With no one out. In the first inning. I understand this, I do, but there are times you have to go ahead and pitch to him. Prince Fielder singled to tie the game, just like that, and it was only the luck of the double-play that kept Milone--and the A's--in the game. The inning would have ended tied, but for Callaspo playing a ball off to the side, and just flat-out missing it, allowing the third run to score. At that point, we were all praying for rain. And the rain would come, but not before the A's would provide a little thunder of their own. After such a dramatic first inning, that saw over 70 pitches thrown (44 by Verlander), the second inning was six up, six down. The A's would tie the game in the third as Moss walked with two outs, and Cespedes was thrown a batting-practice fastball on an 0-2 count (again, very un-Verlander-like) and he doubled in Moss.

Milone would give up a two-out walk and single in the third, but nothing in the fourth, polishing up his outing a bit. Meanwhile, the A's took charge of the game in the fifth, playing now in the pouring rain. Donaldson squibbed a ball past the pitcher, and it bounced off Detroit's second baseman for an error. It would prove to be the most costly play of the night for the Tigers; Brandon Moss followed up with a 2-out, 2-run home run to break the tie, and give the A's a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Once again, Milone would mow through the fifth inning--and the heart of the Tigers' lineup--making himself the pitcher of record, and ultimately completing the game, though he wouldn't know it until later.

Just for good measure, Seth Smith greeted Justin Verlander's replacement (Rondon) with a big homerun to increase the score to 6-3. Callaspo would follow with a single, Barton with a walk, and Vogt with another single to load the bases with no one out for the A's, bringing Coco Crisp to the plate. The umpiring crew finally had enough and sent the game into a rain delay, and ultimately called it. The game was never resumed, but Smith got to keep his home run.

That's bringing some rain right there, but I think the A's would have won anyway. But it doesn't matter, does it? It's a big, fat win in the scorebook and it guarantees the A's at worst a series split in tough Detroit, and if the A's can play like this tomorrow night, they can win the series. You can be proud of the A's this week; they have fought hard. Straily will take on Fister in tomorrow's game, and meanwhile, the Rays (thank you Angels), Indians, and Orioles all lost, which gives the A's a game on every competitor in the Wild Card, and Seattle is tied with Teas at home right now.

We'll see you back here tomorrow for more exciting 2013 Oakland A's baseball!