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Game #128: Back to the top! Athletics 2, Angels 1

Thearon W. Henderson

The Oakland Athletics scratched and clawed their way to a playoff-like 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels. The A's return to a share of first place with the Halos behind a seven-inning effort from Jon Lester and a wild outing from Angels reliever Joe Smith allowed the winning run to score in the eighth inning on a wild pitch.

Athletics make loud contact early

Jonny Gomes hit a loud single to center in the early going. Prompting Ray Fosse on the radio to tell scorekeepers everywhere to note that hit as "single, loud":

The hard-hit balls continued when Nate Freiman hit a sharp liner toward the third base line that would have multiple bases if it wasn't for an outstanding dive by new Angels acquisition Gordon Beckham:

Alberto Callaspo singled on another line drive, this time to Josh Hamilton in left, and then Sam Fuld brought Jonny Gomes home on a line drive single to Mike Trout. Alberto Callaspo, however, thought it wise to go first-to-third against Trout with Gomes coming home. The ball wise wisely cutoff by Albert Pujols in the middle of the diamond and thrown to Gordon Beckham, who caught up to Callaspo trying to retreat to second base. Fuld reached second on the play.

Andy Parrino got hit by the next pitch, but Coco Crisp lined out to Trout to end the second inning leading 1-0.

Lester dominant

Jon Lester returned to form this evening, working seven innings of five-hit ball, while striking out seven. Most impressively, for the first six innings, the only two hits against Lester were a bunt single from Erick Aybar and an oddly-spinning Albert Pujols infield single. This is not a typo.

Mike Trout struck out swinging in all three of his plate appearances against Lester. At one point, Lester retired ten batters in a row.

The seventh inning proved the end for Lester. However, he got some help as David Freese tried to stretch a single into a double. Freese's line-drive one-hopped the wall, and Craig Gentry played it cleanly, firing in towards Alberto Callaspo waiting at second. Freese kept running despite Angels' first base coach Alfredo Griffin's objection, and Freese was predictably out at second.

Unfortunately, Howie Kendrick doubled, and Erick Aybar scored him on a single to tie the score at 1-1. Chris Iannetta grounded to short and Gordon Beckham lined out to center, but Lester left the game with a no decision.

Great job Gregerson

The A's are really hoping to minimize bullpen use while Dan Otero toils away with the Sacramento River Cats temporarily. Lester played a big role in that, but Luke Gregerson also provided a massive boost to the club by mowing down Kole Calhoun, Mike Trout, and Albert Pujols in a 10-pitch top of the eighth inning to preserve a 1-1 tie. He picked up the win and goes to 3-2.

"I don't spend sleepness nights over getting very bad reviews." - Werner Herzog

There were three replay reviews tonight. All went against the A's.

In the top of the third, Albert Pujols was clearly safe on an infield single after replay review but initially called out by first base umpire Mike Everitt, who was moving as Callaspo's throw arrived at first base:

In the bottom of the sixth came an opportunity for education regarding the replay review rules and why it is important to distinguish, in plays at home plate, between umpire-initiated reviews and manager's challenges:

At 3:52 in the above video, as the review dragged on, Glen Kuiper asks, "Is he blocking home plate?" That's the wrong first question. The first question is, "Is this an umpire-initiated review or a manager's challenge?" The difference is that a manager cannot insist that the umpires review their determination of whether a catcher violated the home plate collision avoidance rule but can only request it. However, with an umpire-initiated review of the plate blocking rule also brings with it a review of every other reviewable aspect of the play.

If it is announced that a manager is using his challenge to review a call a home plate, then there will not be a review of the collision rule. Astros manager Bo Porter faced this issue in April when he failed to be specific that he was asking the umpire's to initiate a plate-blocking review, rather than making a manager's challenge, and this cost him his challenge.

Thus, there was not a review of the home plate collision rule on this play. I don't think the call would have been reversed anyway since Iannetta seemed to be in possession of the ball when he moved his feet, and that may have been the basis for home plate umpire Chad Fairchild to decline to ask for a home plate collision rule review.

Finally, in the bottom of the seventh, Sam Fuld was called out caught stealing second base:

There was a thought that perhaps Erick Aybar had bobbled the baseball or not made the initial tag, but others confirmed that the baseball remained in the glove, so Fuld was out.

"That's called an upshoot!" - Ray Fosse

Joe Smith entered the game in the eighth inning and showed pretty quickly he was hoping for an "effectively wild" appearance. First, Coco Crisp got aboard on a single up the middle. Craig Gentry was asked to bunt to at least get Crisp to second if not try to use his speed to reach first himself. Gentry, however, almost suffered another injury to his hand when a ball ran two feet inside and unfortunately hit his bat for strike two. With Coco running, on 2-2, Gentry tapped a comebacker to Smith, who could only throw to first.

Josh Donaldson also was nearly a victim of an inside pitch, and moved Coco to third on a ground ball to second baseman Howie Kendrick. On the next pitch, Smith hit Derek Norris on the butt.

Finally, Joe Smith fired a hilarious rising fastball that Chris Iannetta had absolutely no chance at, allowing Crisp to score from third, prompting Fosse's above quote on the radio. On the very next pitch, pinch hitter Brandon Moss popped out to third baseman Gordon Beckham in foul territory. The A's led 2-1 after eight.

Doolittle hurt?

Despite his lengthy outing yesterday, Sean Doolittle entered to close the game in the ninth, and this time made quick work of it. He struck out Josh Hamilton, got David Freese to fly out to right, allowed Howie Kendrick to single on his first pitch, and forced Erick Aybar to groundout to him to end the game for Doolittle's 20th save, which extends the single-season Oakland save record for a left-handed pitcher.

Immediately after the last pitch, Twitter began buzzing that closer Sean Doolittle may have tweaked something:

It seems like this is just something that he just needs a day off, which he probably was going to get tomorrow anyway.

In Doolittle's own words (courtesy Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group):

Doolittle also was joking about it:

Get pumped

If you thought tonight was intense, get ready for tomorrow's national audience. ESPN Sunday Night Baseball returns to the Coliseum for the first time since 2005, with tomorrow's game time moved to a 5:05 PM Pacific Time start. Expect a lot of conversations about shadows. The division lead is on the line tomorrow night between the two clubs sharing the best record in baseball at 76-52, with Scott Kazmir (14-5, 2.73) facing Jered Weaver (13-7, 3.70).

Tonight, your final in front of a sold out standing-room Coliseum, the Athletics 2, the Angels 1.