Wednesday was a pretty good day to be an Oakland Athletic.
The A's offense got to help Wandy Rodriguez pumpkin, as they ballooned his ERA from 3.20 to 4.06, where it probably belongs. Billy Burns got things started, as he often does, with a leadoff double. A grounder by Mark Canha moved him to third, and a RBI double by Stephen Vogt scored him. After a Ben Zobrist groundout, back-to-back four pitch walks to Josh Phegley and Billy Butler set the stage for Brett Lawrie's towering grand slam. Just like that, the A's were on top 5-0.
The bats went back to work in the top of the second. Another Burns leadoff double was followed by a Canha flyout to move him to third. With the infield drawn in, Vogt just barely snuck a grounder past second baseman Rougned Odor to score the Athletics' sixth run. Josh Phegley topped it all off with his second homer in as many days, this one a two run shot, to extend the A's lead to 8-0.
From there, Kendall Graveman took the lead and ran with it. He frustrated hitters all evening, inducing weak pop-ups and ground ball double plays. He even notched four strikeouts. In his only inning of any real trouble, the fifth, a hard single and a bloop single were followed by a two-run double from Carlos Corporan. After a walk to Rougned Odor, both were stranded thanks to some nice defense from Marcus Semien.
Speaking of...Semien looks like a completely different player on that side of the ball compared to who he was in April. Tonight, Marcus handled bad hops with ease, and ranged far to his left to make plays difficult for any shortstop look easy, on multiple occasions. If he can keep this defense up, and produce how he has at the plate, Semien could be one of the better shortstops in the American League.
Graveman went seven strong, and after giving up a double and a walk to start the eighth, he was replaced by Edward Mujica. Mujica quickly induced a double play from Adrian Beltre and struck out old friend Michael Choice to end the threat. Fernando Abad got his weekly garbage inning in the ninth, closing it relatively quietly.
When all is said and done, the A's have clinched a tough road series victory, and will look for the sweep tomorrow morning with their ace on the hill. The green and gold have won four straight and are starting to make things very interesting, as their record has improved to 33-41. They've crept closer and closer to .500, and seen improvements from the weak spots on the team along the way. They might not contend, but they sure are making it interesting.
Sonny Gray takes the hill tomorrow morning at 11:05 PST, hoping to bounce back after his worst start of the year. Opposing him will be veteran Colby Lewis, who always seems to pitch well against Oakland. It should be a great match-up. Until then, so long. Let's go, Oakland!