To reiterate, this was not a clean game. In fact, if you watched it live, you might have thought you were watching the Twins back in their Metrodome days, or maybe watching a Ballpark in Arlington game. The game would remain scoreless through 2 innings, though the A's threatened in the second inning. Josh Reddick led off with a walk, and then was picked off by Correia a terrible TOOTBLAN. A Seth Smith single would put himself on (and would have advanced Reddick to second base, at least), and he attempted to score on a double to the right field corner by Daric Barton. Two good relays by the Twins nailed Smith at home, keeping the game scoreless. In the third inning, the Twins first scored on a combination of an error by Jed Lowrie to put Chris Parmelee at second base, and he would advance to third on a Pedro Florimon ground out to the right side. A routine groundball to Eric Sogard turned into a poor throw home with the infield playing slightly in, allowing Parmelee to score and giving the Twins a 1-0 lead.
The score would remain 1-0 until the fourth when Brandon Moss would walk ahead of a mis-play double off the bat of Josh Reddick. It skipped past Josh Willingham on a now-fast Coliseum outfield, allowing Moss to score easily and tie the game. After a wild pitch by Correia moved Reddick to third (and he stayed there on a Yakety Sax-type misplay of a infield hit by Seth Smith), Stephen Vogt would hit a sacrifice fly to make it 2-1 A's. The A's had a chance for a bigger inning, but after a Barton walk, Eric Sogard force out, and Coco Crisp walk, Josh Donaldson would scald a grounder to Florimon for a force out. That lead would not last long, though, despite Dan Straily working out of bases loaded one-out scenario in the fifth. Indeed, Straily had a good bite on his slider today... perhaps too good.
The sixth inning for the Twins was one of those innings that will drive you to drink, continuous swearing, and/or throwing things. It started innocently enough, with Trevor Plouffe flying out to Reddick for the first out. After that, though, things went a little towards the Twilight Zone. Oswaldo Arcia would line sharply to right, and Reddick slipped going towards it, playing it on a bounce instead of attempting a shoestring or diving catch. I suppose the Raiders giveth on the Willingham misplay and taketh away, here, so it's hard to get too upset over that. Nearing his pitch limit, Straily would strikeout Ryan Doumit on some excellent sliders away, but then uncorked two wild pitches during Willingham's at bat, allowing Arcia to get to second and then third. He would eventually walk, chasing Straily in favor of Dan Otero. In the next at bat, Josmil Pinto would hit a screamer off of Daric Barton's glove and knee and towards the camera cutout down the line to tie the game at 2. After a Parmelee walk, chasing Otero in favor of Brett Anderson, Florimon would send another screamer down the opposite line, and Donaldson would make a terrific diving stop, but it was too far down the line to throw out the speedy Florimon, leading to another run. Alex Presley would finally groundout to end weird inning number one.
In comparison, the A's would score runs more conventionally in the bottom of the inning. With two outs, Callaspo would tie the game with a home run. Following that, Coco Crisp would single, Josh Donaldson would single, and then Jed Lowrie would unload for a three-run home run, seemingly putting the game out of reach for the excellent Oakland bullpen with a 6-3 lead. Naturally, if you thought that, you thought wrong. The Twins would chip away, with Arcia hitting a home run off of Anderson in the 7th, and then Ryan Cook coming in to try and preserve the lead, and right his personal ship. He would not, and this would be weird inning number two. He looked good initially, getting to two-strike counts, but allowing singles on two admittedly good pitches, one up the middle to Pinto and the other a high Metrodome-type bouncer over Barton's head by Parmelee. Pinch-hitter Chris Hermann would ground into a force out, but the A's would get lucky there, as pinch-runner Doug Bernier would overslide second base in order to break up a potential double play. Nevertheless, the run would score, making it a one-run game. Ryan Cook would be done after walking Presley, and uncorking another wild one to move Herrmann up to second. That would prove unfortunate, as with Jesse Chavez now in, Brian Dozier would single off of Jed Lowrie's glove, and the ball would bounce far enough away to allow Herrmann to score the tying run. Luckily, Chavez would get Plouffe to strike out swinging, and Sean Doolittle came in to get Oswaldo Arcia on a heart-pausing deep fly ball to center that Crisp corralled on the track. So we start over at 6-6.
That didn't last long though. Daric Barton would walk, Alberto Callaspo would strike out swinging, and Coco Crisp would burnish his surefire 20-20 year stats with a no-doubt two-run homer to dead right field, seemingly driving the last nail in the coffin of this somewhat unbelievable game. Indeed, in contrast to the prior innings, Sean Doolittle would work a 1-2-3 ninth inning to preserve the win, and preserve Grant Balfour for tomorrow.
Phew. I seriously need something to come down after this game. It was a roller coaster, and the A's teetered, but never truly came coming down as a team. The bullpen, however, is another story. This is an incredibly bad stat:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Ryan Cook hasn't had a spotless outing since Aug. 14. That means 14 straight appearances with baserunners. 5.23 ERA, 2.81 WHIP in that span</p>— Matt Snyder (@MattSnyderCBS) <a href="https://twitter.com/MattSnyderCBS/statuses/380926168934785024">September 20, 2013</a></blockquote>
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Combine that with the 5.34 ERA in their last 10 games as a whole, according to Jane Lee, and these guys need to exorcise some demons and soon. I suspect overuse has a lot to do with it, and that's to be expected. But, that's also what expanded September rosters are for, to make sure innings are spread out among the 15 guys sitting down there.
Nevertheless, a win is a win, and the A's have made it a lot more plausible for them to clinch the division at home. With three more against the Twins, a series win for the A's and series loss for the Rangers against the Royals will do the trick and set up a home clinching scenario as soon as Saturday (although Sunday seems more likely, honestly). Tomorrow they will do it all over again, with Bartolo Colon taking the hill against Andrew Albers at 7:05. Hopefully it's a much cleaner game than today.