Adorned with a 5 o'clock shadow and weathered good looks, he sits down at the blackjack table where Stephanie is dealing at the end of her 7pm-midnight shift. He pushes a stack of chips forward and is promptly dealt a 19. As he gets a congratulatory pat on the shoulder from the man at the stool next to him, Stephanie smiles. "Nice hand," she acknowledges as she prepares to offer cards to any other takers around the table.
Around the table, looks are exchanged. "Did I hear that right?" "Who is this guy?" "He knows this is the blackjack table, right?"
"You sure, cowboy?" Stephanie asks, to give him a chance to reconsider. She figures the dealer gets paid the same if you win or lose; perhaps he got confused about the terminology or something. "You have a 19, you know."
"I know. I want an ace. I might settle for a 2."
Stephanie's mouth crinkles into the trace of a smile, unsure whether pity or admiration is the more appropriate emotion but certain that there is something appealing about how sure he is. She shrugs her shoulders. "OK, darlin'." Almost apologetically, she turns the card.
It's an ace. Bold. That's the only word anyone around the table can think of. I mean here's a guy who had a winning hand but he wanted an ace and he wasn't afraid to --
Stephanie looks him straight in the eye this time. "Darlin' you're gonna bust."
"Hit me. I want another ace."
Her head shakes slightly from side to side, her lips pursed disapprovingly. "You have a winning hand." Stephanie sighs and turns the next card.
Such is the Oakland A's season through the end of August, as they conclude a 6-14 stretch being swept in a 4-game series by the Angels in stunningly pathetic fashion -- right down to the streak of 29 consecutive scoreless innings running from the 6th inning on Thursday until the 8th inning today.
This one was determined early as Scott Kazmir lasted all of 1⅓ IP, chased by a 6-run bottom of the 2nd inning that mostly featured bloop hits and walks. Actually, mostly walks. Kazmir will tell you many of those pitches were strikes. Bob Melvin tried to convey that exact sentiment to home plate umpire Gerry Davis and all it got him was ejected. Regardless, the Angels scored 6 times in the inning and never looked back, winning 8-1.
What does it mean?
- It means the A's are 5 games behind the Angels with 26 to play.
- It means the A's threw their "big 4" at the Angels and lost all 4 games.
- It means that at "crunch time" the A's have now lost 5 consecutive head-to-head matchups with the Angels.
- It means the A's are now closer to the second wild card spot than they are to the division lead.
All we can do is turn the page, right?