Spring Game #19: How the West Was Won -- Post-game Dodgers at A’s

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

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As mentioned in the pre-game post, "How the West Was Won" is not just a good title for a classic cowboy movie. It’s an excellent title for the 2015 Western Division Season. Today's game demonstrated two teams who battled to make their presence known in the west. And like the Sheriff who rides into town and saves the day, our old-favorite Barry Zito closed out the last three innings to nab the 3-2 win over the Dodgers.

Clayton Kershaw was stunning for the Dodgers. His looping 12-6 curve struck out our stallions Craig Gentry (albeit on a tipped third strike) and Stephen Vogt. Add to this a scary please-don’t-be-a-Brandon-McCarthy-Comebacker that took Kershaw to his knees in the 3rd and you’d think he should be wearing a Zoro cape. Luckily Kershaw reacted and pulled his head toward center just at the point of contact; a couple of warm-up tosses and he was back in it to go 5 innings. It should also be noted that David Aardsma was impressive, striking out the side in the 8th (Olsen, Parrino, and Angle).

One would anticipate Sonny Gray to be a difference-maker, but he appears to still be working out the winter kinks. He advanced runners in the second and fourth with his wild pitches. His follow through on the mound left an inconsistent finish that often had the ball up and out, and he eventually exited trailing the Dodgers 1-2.

And then there was Z…Barry Zito…Good ‘ol #75…The guy so many of us are rooting for and we can’t even explain why. He came in with his long legs, narrow, long white shoes and shoulder-length hair. It was like days-gone-by in the Zito-Mulder-Hudson era…Flashbacks. And then flash forward. Z pitched the last three innings, striking out 5 of 9 batters, 3 of them going down looking—jelly legged by that trademark curve! And not just on the minor leaguers put in at the end of the game; he left A.J. Ellis looking and pushed Rollins to a simple 8th inning 5-3 ground out. Truly impressive.

As for the bats: Billy Butler’s dancing during batting practice was more impressive than his 0-3, full-game DH outing. No offense to Billy, but I sure hope he hits the long-ball often because he’s certainly not fleet afoot—shades of Jack Cust. Stephen Vogt hit a couple of deep fly ball outs in the 4th and 7th with the one in the 7th inning to chants of "I believe in Stephen Vogt." Base hits for Crisp, Gentry, Olson, and Parrino left the crowd heartened. And then there was Luke Carlin, #5, a 34 year-old catcher who had the walk-off hit to give Zito today’s win.

Fun "asides" from the game? Watching Rickey Henderson coach first and encourage the "ball boy"; seeing Matt Olson’s unassisted double play in the 3rd as well as his masterful scooping of throws in the dirt that looked natural, controlled, and like he was just having a catch. Newcomer Branden Cogswell hitting a double off of Blake Smith in the 9th. Finding 3 (as in not one or two but 3!) different IPA’s for sale in our new ranch we call Hohokam Park. And, despite missing a pitch counter, what an amazing phenomena the LED screen is! We could get lazy not having to connect the dots to figure out the score and counts as we do daily at Oco.

Bottom line: It’s a fan-friendly park exhibited by those staffing the games, whether ushers or vendors, with their happy-to-be-here attitude that makes you glad you came.

Sigh. Baseball is back. And our green-collared cowboys made their presence known in Mesa today. Go A’s!