Little League Day. 73 degrees. Mild Breeze. 32,282 in attendance. Many, including myself, are nervous about facing Felix Hernandez. What ensues requires that you make up your own mind about whatever the play of the game is. Just note: This game went 10 innings and in the middle of the 9th they announced Rickie Weeks as the Honda Player of the Game. You decide: Who is really the player of the game?
Fast-Forward to the top of the 4th: Hahn starts the inning with pitch #32 to Austin Jackson who takes it to left for an eye-shaded Canha catch. Seth Smith, our former Athletic, hits a can of corn to center for the second out. Hahn faces Cano and deals him a great first-pitch curve and then an inside fastball. He shakes of Vogt twice (really, kid?) but he was feeling the curve and Cano tips it, then goes down looking on the subsequent pitch. Hahn is perfect through four.
Bottom of the 4th: The excitement begins. Billy Butler (now a 7 game hitting streak and actually growing on me) bounces one off the right field wall for a double. Opposite field hit. Ike Davis singles to Austin Jackson who lets the ball slide by him, compounding the error by throwing to second instead of home. Butler is no doubt stunned that Jackson thinks he was going to make it easily across the plate. A's up 1-0. Stephen Vogt with his green and gold cape delivers a hard shot up the 3rd base line and hustles in for a triple despite feeling sick yesterday. A's 2, Mariners 0, Vogt 2-2 with the sixth hit for the Athletics today. No outs. Infield is playing in. On a 1-2 count, Lawrie fouls it to Morrison in what I call "The Pitchers Park" since in any other park it would be in the seats. 1 out. Reddick delivers a shot up the middle to knock Vogt home. Semien grounds into a 6-4-3 double play. A's up 3-0 going into fifth.
Top of the 5th: Jesse Hahn continues to astound. Nelson Cruz strikes out on a big curve that moves from the letters to the ankles. One out. Kyle Seager pushes an easy roller up middle; the shift is on and Semien has plenty of time but throws it into the dirt and it hits off of Ike Davis' glove heel. There goes the perfecto but the no-hitter is still in tact. Both men saying "my fault" and wanting to assign themselves the error. It happens. Logan Morrison hits into a 4-6-3 double play equipped with a "shuffle pass" from Zobrist to end the inning. No hitter still in tact.
Bottom of the 5th: Sam Fuld leads off and swings at ball four, hitting it off his inside ankle bone. Point: Don't swing at ball 4, kid; it hurts! Fuld is unfazed and comes back with a hard shot up first base that eventually bounces of the wall in foul territory placing him on second with a double. A liner by Mark Canha to Cano shows Fuld's quickness as he gets back quickly and beats Cano by a step. Butler waits out Hernandez, holding of on two inside curves for a six-pitch walk. And then we see the sign of the strain; the Trainer is out to check on Felix Hernandez who ends up leaving at the end of the fifth due to muscle soreness, the same soreness experienced during Monday's opener. Ike Davis ends the inning on a 4-3 grounder.
Top of the 6th: Dustin Ackley doubles for his first hit off the out of town scoreboard. Zunino cruises to first on an opposite field hit and Ackley advances to 3rd. Brad Miller hits one high and deep to Fuld, a textbook Sacrifice Fly for Miller's third RBI of the year. Hahn walks Jackson (who had a little help from Home Plate Ump Mike DiMuro). Curt Young visits the mound. The Bullpen starts moving around and stretching. Davis then makes a diving stop and feed to Hahn to get Smith. Hahn gets Cano in a full-count scenario. Cano hits a curve for a liner that Reddick bobbles to allow two unearned runs to score. Tie score, 3-3. Hahn stays in to face Nelson Cruz and walks him. Liner to center, Fuld throws home, Cano doesn't slide, sweeping tag, safe. Jesse Hahn leaves after falling apart after a really good outing. O'Flaherty finishes the 6th for and the A's are down 3-4. And, unbelievably, Felix Hernandez is the pitcher of record.
Bottom of the 6th: Vogt strikes out taking three pitches in a row. Lawrie gets a base hit past a diving Brad Miller at short. Reddick gets his second Fielder's Choice of the game, hitting the ball to Cano who throws to second. Marcus Semien pops it up just behind home plate for third out.
Top of the 7th: I'll get this painful part over with quickly! Line drive into center field for leadoff hit by Dustin Ackley. Zunino singles to left. Miller bunts foul on the 3rd strike. Jackson is out 6-3 yet advances the runners. Rickie Weeks enters in lieu of Seth Smith. Mr. Chip-on-His-Shoulder blasts a three-run homer to deep center field just left of 400 foot sign. Cano strikes out. Score is 3-7.
Fast Forward to the Bottom of the 9th: Rodney enters with 2 saves and he won't be shooting any arrows today! He begins with a 95 mph heater, then 93,94, 94 and then Reddick drills one in the gap for a double. Semien gets ahead 3-1 in count and walks. Fuld doubles off the right field wall. Gallego sends both runners to make the score 5-7. [Those mad at Gallego yesterday will be proud today!] Tying run at the plate. Crowd excited. Canha gets his first hit, taking it deep behind third and beating out a one-hop throw by Seager. Two runners on and no outs. Zobrist up, never having hit off of Rodney. Crowd is up and chanting, "Let's go Oakland." Rodney walks Zobrist. Bases loaded for Butler. He hits it hard but gets doubled off 6-4-3 but Fuld scores on Butller's RBI. Sogard in for Cody Ross. Runner on third. Base hit ties the game. 96 mile an hour fastball to our nerd who hits the second pitch to tie the game at 7, Reddick flashing the nerd power sign from the dugout. Beautiful opposite field hit, gentle and beautiful. Vogt grounds out next but for the second day in a row we are heading to extra innings.
Top of the 10th: Tyler Clippard gets Weeks to pop up to Canha at first . Fuld pulls in Cano's deep fly ball for the second out. And let's get the pain over with quickly. Home run Nelson Cruz. 8-7 Mariners. Zobrist made a great robbery attempt at the wall but it was just out of reach. And that pretty much ends it as Lawrie chases one in the dirt to strike out; Reddick flies out; and Semien goes 6-3. And as soon as I post this I'm having a beer!
Exhausting and amazing game. So who IS the player of the game? You decide.