FEELINGS! We have FEELINGS! There are a lot of things that happened in tonight's win--and rest assured--it was a win, but it was very touch and go as the nice play we were watching took a dark and scary turn. The A's were up 9-2 at one point in this ballgame, and only a huge stop by Gregerson and a save by Doolittle nailed down the 9-7 win.
ACT 1 - THE COMEDY
So last Monday, I had the immense privilege of attending the MLB Home Run Derby where I saw Yoenis Cespedes hit a whole bunch of home runs over the fences at gorgeous Target Field into the cold July night. Minus the "cold" and the "Target Field" description, the first four innings played exactly like a one-man Home Run Derby at the Coliseum. After hitting a ball that we all thought should have left the yard in the first inning for a loud out, Cespedes would be sure to hit the next one harder. He would hit a three-run home run in the second and a two-run home run in the fourth to rack up a multi-home-run day, complete with 5 RBI.
And all this after the A's picked up right where they left off last night, loading the bases in the first inning and failing to score. Crisp walked to lead off the game, and Jaso followed with a single. After Cespedes' not-home-run at-bat, Moss struck out. Donaldson hit a ground ball to shortstop, but replay confirmed what the A's suspected--that Jaso had beat the throw to second, giving Donaldson an infield single and loading the bases for IBISV. Vogt would ground out to end the inning.
Remember the last time the A's faced Peacock? They would tag him for 5 runs in the first. The A's couldn't make it happen in the first, but they did in the second. Jed Lowrie led off the inning with a home run to put the A's on the board, and Josh Reddick drew a walk to start the carrousel.
It obviously goes without saying that Josh Reddick's new walk-up song is the best, best ever. Who can watch this scene from Major League without the goosebumps, and the chills and the "OMG I LOVE BASEBALL SO MUCH" feels from the 1980's? Well played, Reddick.
Sogard would continue his bid to rise from the batting cellar of major league baseball by singling to put two runners on base. Coco drew a walk; he was the only A's starter without a hit, but he walked three times instead, and the bases were loaded. John Jaso made a bid to clear all the bases with a deep fly ball to center field, but the Astros' Hernandez made an all-world play and caught the ball running backwards into his glove over his shoulder, and Jaso had to settle for a sac fly, leaving all the runners for Cespedes. His three-run homer gave the A's a 5-0 lead after two, and it was more than enough for Jesse Chavez.
A Jaso double and the second Cespedes home run staked Chavez to a 7-0 lead, and since he didn't give up his first hit until the fifth inning, things were looking pretty good for the green and gold. Chavez would give up just a single run in the fifth as he worked out of a bases-loaded jam, but the A's would get it right back on a Josh "Wild Thing" Reddick double and a Jaso single. The A's were leading 8-1, Cespedes was at the plate, getting ready to hit a third home run, when we changed the tone of the play.
ACT II - THE SCARE
Even with multiple rewinds and slow motion replays, it's hard to see exactly what happened to Cespedes. He took a swing, the ball trickled fair for an out, and he ended up in pain, favoring his right thumb, but it's clear he wasn't hit by the pitch; he injured it in some other way. X-rays just came back negative, and it's a right thumb sprain; he's listed as day-to-day. I hope it's more like "day"; he's our best player.
However, silver lining and all that jazz; it's very likely the A's don't win the game unless the uncommonly speedy Gentry replaces him; Gentry took Cespedes' spot in the field and made two outstanding running, diving catches that saved the game for Gregerson in the eighth and Doolittle in the ninth. But seeing your best hitter in hand pain stops your heart as a fan, and it's not something we want to see ever again in this amazing season.
ACT III - THE TRAGEDY
It's now 9-2. It's now the eighth inning. Jesse Chavez gave up just one other run and was replaced by Ryan Cook, who pitched to a batter to end the sixth and pitched a perfect seventh. The A's added another run as a Reddick single, a Sogard single, and a Crisp walk loaded the bases for Gentry, who beat out a double-play to score the all-important ninth run for the A's, who never dreamed they'd need it. This is the time. If Jim Johnson stays on the A's, here's his situation. The A's have a seven-run lead on the Houston Astros. There isn't a way to screw this up. And yet...
Well, that was fun, Jim Johnson, thanks for coming. Don't let the door hit you on your way to ABSOLUTELY ANYWHERE ELSE. I have nothing against Jim Johnson. Seems like a nice fella. But the pitching career? She has sailed.
Otero replaced Johnson, but the circus and monkeys were already well under way.
The first out of the inning was made here, only thanks to Gentry's catch.
At this point, the A's went with Gregerson, in sheer desperation, as the Astros scored five runs of their own, and had closed the gap to 9-7, and had runners at first and third with only one out.
ACT IV - THE OBLIGATORY HAPPY ENDING
Doolittle was probably the last person any of us expected to see in today's game, but boy did he look good coming out of the bullpen after the eighth inning meltdown. The Astros bid for a lead off hit, but once again, Craig Gentry denied them with another diving catch. And after that? The game was over.
Thanks to the Orioles, who took 2 of 3 from the Angels, the A's maintain the 2-game lead and look for the series win tomorrow at 12:35. The A's will send Jeff Samardzija to the mound, looking for a deep start, against Houston's Scott Feldman. Let's do this!