On most days, the game of Major League baseball lends itself to be read and understood by a simple box score; a numeric summary of the game action. You might miss nuances and color, and you'll only know the end result as the game goes from A-Z, missing the winding road that the team took instead of the straight freeway, but you'll get the general gist of the game, how well your favorite players performed and the ultimate result of the game.
This is not that game. Step away from the box score.
The box score will tell you that the A's won tonight's game 6-5, with Scott Kazmir recording the win and Doolittle the save. And technically, that's the truth, and really all that matters in the end, but to leave the recap here would be like handing you the great American novel with three sentences about the end of the book. You might know the destination, but the journey is the real story.
The box score will tell you that the A's, despite their seeming outburst of runs, only managed to knock out six hits. But it won't tell you that after an early Donaldson double and a Lowrie triple were left on base, that the A's parlayed four hits and a couple of walks into six runs, the most efficient use of a handful of hits I've seen in a while.
The box score will declare Scott Kazmir's outing another shaky start; if not downright awful, but what it won't show you is his six utterly dominant innings to start the game in an all-but-a-laugher at 6-0 that turned around on a dime; a mere two-thirds of an inning erased it all. And it also won't tell you that Josh Donaldson made one of the plays of the year when both teams were yet scoreless in the top of fifth inning. Kazmir didn't allow a baserunner until a hit leading off the fifth inning, and with one out and one on, Donaldson dove towards the third base bag, snagging Suzuki's ball before it headed down the line for a double, turning that grab into an inning-ending double-play.
It also will retroactively declare Eric Sogard's two-run double the game-winner, even though at the time, it looked like two tacked-on runs to a commanding 4-0 lead with a pitcher pitching all but a perfect game, that the A's were hardly likely to need, but his hit was, indeed, the difference in the game.
By any measure of today's game, the 28 scoreless bullpen innings--a new record in Oakland--saved the game for the A's, as Cook, Gregerson and Doolittle teamed up to get Kazmir out of the seventh and lock down the game--and the win--for Kazmir and the A's.
The game started off just as ordinary as any A's game in the last week. The A's couldn't seem to score a run or get anything going in their first four chances, but their starting pitcher was even more stingy. While Kazmir was mowing down hitter after hitter, the A's finally broke through in the fifth. After Donaldson's defensive play set the Coliseum a-buzzing, Vogt walked to lead off the fifth inning. Sam Fuld did what he could do; dropped down a beautiful drag bunt and beat it out, tripping over the first baseman on the way to the base, and neatly somersaulting to his feet before taking second base, moving Vogt to third. After Sogard walked to load the bases, continuing his success, Coco Crisp and his awesome new hair-do (the box score won't show that either) unloaded the bases with a triple, a huge hit for the A's that got them on the board and staked Kazmir to a 3-0 lead. Jaso struggled tonight, and this at-bat was no exception; his ground ball didn't get Coco home, but after Donaldson walked, a passed ball scored Coco to make it 4-0 A's. Moss also struggled today, so it was just as well that the Twins gave us the fourth run.
The A's would add on in the sixth inning as Reddick walked to lead off. Vogt singled to put two on, and after Fuld moved the runners to second and third, Sogard doubled them both in to make it 6-0. With Kazmir dealing on the mound, barely at 60 pitches, it didn't look like much of a stretch to declare the game over. Kazmir looked for all the world like he was going to give Lester a run for his money, but the Twins had other ideas. A single and a walk put the first two on, and a single scored the first run for the Twins. Kazmir would get the strike-out for the first out, but would allow another single to bring the game to 6-2. Suzuki flew out for the second out, and it looked like the blip was over. Until a double gave the Twins two more runs, and Kazmir left the game with the 6-4 lead. Ryan Cook gave up another double to close the game to 6-5, and with the tying run on second, A's fans were mildly panicked, to say the least. But he would record the strikeout to prevent any of his own runs from scoring, and just like that, the A's were out of the inning. And the nightmare.
Fortunately, the A's have Luke Gregerson, who pitched a 9-pitch perfect eighth, getting two pop-ups and a ground out to get to Sean Doolittle to the ninth. It was a teensy bit heart-attack-y. Doolittle allowed a lead-off hit that was hit so hard I'm glad it missed Donaldson entirely at third. He struck out the next batter, got Suzuki to line out, bringing up Josh WIllingham. Who hit the absolute crap out of a ball, forty rows deep...and foul. And then he struck out to end the game, to all of our delight.
So the A's win their 71st game of the year, the only team in baseball by a few game margin to do so, and more and more, it's looking like the A's will just have to find the one big hit to go with their ace pitching night after night. Which, in essence, is the playoffs, if not quite as out-of-control with the run differential we are used to.
At this time, you are welcome to look at the box score, which will show that while the A's won, the Angels lost to the Red Sox; their fourth in a row, pushing the AL West lead to four games; a positive embarrassment of riches after the Angels' strong push to close the gap to a slim one game several times in the last couple of weeks.
We do it all over again in game three tomorrow, as Jeff Samardzija will face off against Trevor May, who will be making his Major League debut at 6:05. We'll have all the action here.