The Good Guys thoroughly walloped the Bad Guys under the lights, in front of an over-capacity crowd of 10,080. And it could have been even worse for the Giants, as Semien, Reddick, Muncy, and Smolinski all saw great contact fall just short of the wall.
Sonny Gray did not disappoint, throwing 4.2 innings with only 52 pitches, tallying 4 strikeouts and no walks. He had all his pitches working, freezing batters with pinpoint control. His only real blemish was a solo home run to Matt Duffy in the 4th--the other run came on an RBI triple in the 5th by Gorkys Hernadez, which went just over the head of a lunging Billy Burns in center. Burns broke right instead of back, and the ball was definitely catchable. The only other Giants run was a garbage time fielder's choice in the 9th.
Now that all of that's out of the way, on to the good stuff! (Spoiler: there's A LOT.)
If Burns cost Sonny a run, whence the title pun? There's a lot of Billy to discuss, but lets lead things off (ha) with this heroic effort with a man on third and two out in the first. Reddick and Vogt each seemed to take it easy in the field tonight, not making efforts to catch or block tough balls, and I heartily approve of that this time of year. But Burns was a different story: here's another spectacular play in the third.
In the bottom of the first, the A's added Johnny Cueto to their list of vanquished aces. Burns led off with a scorching line drive right back to the mound: Cueto was able to turn just enough to avoid serious damage but still took a glancing blow to the head.
*Let's pause for a moment and wonder why in the world the Giant's staff didn't remove him right away...concussions are tricky to diagnose right away, and leaving him in the game was potentially life-threatening at that point. Things got even more worrisome when he failed to field an easy dribbler by Canha seconds later.*
OK back to the fun: up strode Reddick with two runners on and no outs, and crushed a no-doubter onto the berm beyond right field. You probably saw it live, you know what happened, but watch this highlight anyway. Notice how the swing seems to punctuate Fosse's sentence??
Cueto would settle down to retire 7 of his next 8 batters, changing delivery speeds effectively and inducing numerous futile waves at sharp breaking balls. But then Reddick did one of my favorite Reddick-things, right up there with his fence-scaling and pieing. He decided to take a pitch before the delivery, but instead of acting like he was considering the pitch he just stood up slightly and brought his hands down as Cueto was half-way through his motion. My best friend uses this tactic to get in my head in wiffleball games, but on the major-league level it's even funnier. I've seen him do this before, and although it's impossible to know if it made a difference, Reddick unleashed a beautiful swing on the next pitch to drive a double into the opposite field.
Here's more inconsistency from Burns: with runners on the corners in the 4th, he tried to bunt but missed a pitch right down the middle, a little high. On the next pitch he hit a grounder right to Belt at first, who threw to second for
the easy 3-6-3 DP an RBI fielder's choice because of course Burns beat it out. He preceded to distract Giants reliever and old acquaintance Santiago Casilla with a bluff steal, and then stole for real, beating out a very accurate throw from catcher Andrew Susac. Glen mentioned on the broadcast that Rickey Henderson (who has been in camp with the A's) has told Burns to stop letting his left foot slide toward 1st as he pushes off to steal. The replay showed that this indeed slowed him down.
In the 4th inning, Comcast suddenly started showing pitch speeds. I was excited to add them to my analysis, but Jeremy wisely cautioned trusting temporary setups during spring. I was ready to write of Brandon Belt as rusty as he swung late on 91mph heat twice in a row, until Sonny torched it up to 98mph the next inning. Ryan Dull couldn't keep up, topping out at 97 in the sixth. Oh, and the ball Burns misjudged? Of course he did, it was only thrown at 60mph!
After Dull and Scrabble each contributed two outs that were unremarkable (in the good way), incumbent swing-man Felix Doubront finished the last three innings with only two hits and a run. He threw two wild pitches, hitting a batter, but overall looked encouragingly competent. His curveball looked Gio-esque at times, and worked against batters on each side of the plate. In Melvin's short interview, he mentioned Doubront as a possible rotation candidate, which--barring injuries--would only seem possible if Graveman needs to start in AAA. (Dull would presumably be the 7th reliever in this case.)
Valencia and Ladendorf each hit impressive line-drive home runs to left field, in the 5th and 8th respectively. What makes these even sweeter? Ladendorf's was off a righty--hitting righties is what many of us belief is the hurdle he needs to clear before being productive at the big league level. And in Valencia's case, he showed serious strength by wrapping all the way around a pitch on the outside corner to pull it down the line. Most sluggers make their living by taking advantage of mistakes on the inner half, but this pitch missed outside. You can bask in their glory here (Valencia's) and here (Ladendorf's).
The infield teamed up to steal some web-gem thunder from Burns. Barreto, Coghlan, and Alonso all made diving plays, Pinder and Chapman also made slick plays up the middle, and Olson showed off his pickin' skills.
Other random items of (possible) interest:
Bob Melvin likes to go to sleep very early.
Mark Mulder might actually be a good guest commentator.
Lambo prefers Andrew. "Don't call him Andy..." say Glen and Ray.
My girlfriend asked why my username was "Jacob Y," since my first name is Joseph and my middle initial is not Y. I chose the name because my high school baseball team called me Jacoby, since I have a strong resemblance to Mr. Ellsbury.
When everything is clicking for this team, it truly looks like a contender. There were no weak spots tonight, and we were clearly the better team the whole time. Enjoy the hope this game should bring, we might really have something special this year. Let's go Oakland!!