The A's played their most complete game of the year today, and man, it was satisfying. Nothing's better than when your team hits a cumulative half-mile of home runs.
If you can remember this far back, the A's have done things like this pretty often in 2015. April was characterized by the ridiculously frustrating cycle of being losing in an agonizingly close fashion, scoring fifty runs in a shutout, and then losing another agonizingly close game. It wasn't fun. I'm sure you blocked that out of your memory.
But hey, yesterday we actually won one of those agonizingly close games. And the next game, the A's played a practically perfect game from every perspective. We broke the wheel! And by taking the series from the (surprisingly excellent) Minnesota Twins, the A's finally move out of the cellar and into 4th place. Ha, ha. Sucks to be you, Seattle.
The offense was pretty fantastic against old friend Tommy Milone. That's also pretty satisfying, given the Curse of Former A's that has beset the team in recent years. I was fully expecting a complete game shutout, honestly. A junk-balling lefty ex-Athletic? That's a good recipe for about 50,000 lofty fly balls and 43 runners left in scoring position.
Today, for once, those lofty fly balls went way, way out of the park. Josh Phegley got the A's out to a quick 2-0 lead in the third inning by hammering a dinger out to left field. Phegley's been such a fantastic surprise this year, coming from a guy who was basically a throw in in the Jeff Samardzija deal to one of the best hitters on the team.
Here's a fun fact: if Phegley was still on the White Sox, he would be the best position player on the team. That is a team that has Jose Abreu. That's straight-up crazy. It's not an exaggeration to call him the best backup catcher in baseball.
Billy Butler was next up, continuing his recent hot streak hammering a long homer to center field, to make it 5-0.
Then Jake Smolinski, recent pickup from the trash heap, homered to make it 6-0. If anyone, Jake Smolinski is the player of the game today. If he still needed to prove himself to keep his roster spot, well, congrats Jake. Two homers and just generally looking really fantastic in a game that was close to a must-win. Plus, he's got that Adrian Beltre style.
Oh yeah, Josh Reddick also hit a grand slam. It's always fun when a grand slam feels like an afterthought. He's been slumping recently, so a big hit is nice to see.
The entire team was just on point, all game. Despite the fact that the A's never drew a walk today, virtually every single at-bat was an excellent one. Billy Burns made must needed adjustments on the inside fastball. Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.
And the pitching was fantastic too! Jesse Chavez looked really good - despite an inability to put hitters away quickly, he totaled 6 innings, 3 hits, 9 strikeouts, and only one walk. The bullpen - by which I mean Eduardo Mujica, Eric O'Flaherty, and Evan Scribner - looked great. It would have been a shutout if Billy Burns didn't lose a fly ball in the sun. Cumulatively, the pitching staff totaled 14 strikeouts.
It's pretty easy to say this when the team wins 14-1, but the team really did look better than they've looked in months. That's significant, and that is a great sign to see headed into the most crucial two weeks of the season. If the A's can put together a streak over the next eleven games – I'm talking 9-2, or 10-1 – they can fling themselves right back into contention. If they're mediocre, or even merely good, the season's over. Everything is magnified. The trade deadline looms, but this is the best possible way to start off the stretch run.
What I'm trying to say is, it was a pretty good game. It went okay. Baseball's okay.