ONE-RUN WINS FOR EVERYONE!
In what was quite possibly the most intense 3rd game of the season any of us have experienced in recent memory, the A's finally managed to grind out their first win. This time the 1-run game went in our favor, as the A's scored early and proceeded to maintain that small lead throughout the game.
In short, Sonny's command was off, but his stuff was good enough to make up for spotty control.
Sonny started the game with a leadoff walk to the pesky Adam Eaton, who feels like he has reached base in every single plate appearance this series. He was able to hold Eaton at 1st with a perfect strikeout at the knees to Abreu and some scary hard contact from Rollins and Frazier that fortunately found a glove.
Gray continued to shake off the rust and looked increasingly solid in the 2nd inning. He got a quick out by getting Melky Cabrera to ground out to short, but then he followed that up by walking Avisail Garcia (admittedly on a full count) when his fastball ran low again. Sonny buried quite a few pitches in the dirt tonight. He managed to strand the runner at 1st again, though, by striking out former teammate Brett Lawrie out on a perfect 3-pitch sequence, then battling Avila in a long at-bat that ultimately resulted in a groundout to 1st. Especially with the repeated showings of Brett Lawrie celebrating last night's Jimmy Rollins home run, it felt like The Curse of the Ex-A's was going to rear its ugly head. Fortunately it wasn't to be, as Lawrie struck out twice on the night and did not get on base.
The White Sox scored their only run of the night in the 3rd. Sonny fell behind to Austin Jackson, who was ultimately able to smash a double off the right field wall. A groundout got Jackson to 3rd, and then a popup to shallow left field by Rollins brought him home.
You read that correctly: Jimmy Rollins batted in Austin Jackson with a sacrifice pop fly. Khris Davis's arm is THAT bad. The announcers were warning about his arm before Khrush had even caught the ball, and indeed, his throw was both late and wide of home plate.
Sonny Gray allowed a few more base runners over his 7 innings of work, but was able to work out of danger whenever he was in trouble. He notched a couple strikeouts in the 4th (including K'ing Todd Frazier on some butt-clenching low and away pitches), as well as another Lawrie strikeout in the 5th. The only other really scary moment came in the 5th, when a passed ball and a foul ball that should have been caught for an out got a runner to 2nd with Austin Jackson at bat. After a seemingly endless 10-pitch at-bat, Jackson hit an absolute laser, but fortunately it was right into the glove of Lowrie who then tossed to 2nd for an inning-saving double play. If that ball had made it past Lowrie, this might be a very different recap.
Sonny ended the night with 5 strikeouts, 11 groundball outs, and only 1 earned run yielded. Pretty good for someone who was severely ill a couple days ago, I'd say.
Nailing the fundamentals on defense
The A's defense, for the most part, looked solid. I'm going to tackle some thoughts in bullet point form:
- Khrush's throw from left field which gave the Sox their only run was truly abysmal. I said it above but it bears repeating. I knew his arm was bad, I had seen videos of his throws, and yet still I was disappointed.
- Semien looked really good at shortstop. He looked confident, his footwork was fine, and his throws were consistently strong and belt-high. He was involved in all 3 outs in the 7th inning and overall got a lot of work in tonight. In one play of particular note, he was about 1 inch away from getting the speedy Adam Eaton out in the top of the 8th. Semien ranged backwards (while already somewhat out of position) and threw to 1st, trailing Eaton by the smallest imaginable margin. The call on the field was that Eaton was safe, and although it looks like Semien may have gotten the throw there in time, there wasn't enough evidence to overrule the call on the field. Regardless, it was a good play. If we see more this Marcus Semien at shortstop this season, our middle infield will be in much better shape.
- The above-mentioned foul ball that wasn't caught was frustrating. It fell in that no-man's land of foul territory between first and right field, and while it looked totally catchable for Alonso, he seemed to lose track of the ball (or perhaps was unsure of how much room he had) and Canha failed to make a sliding catch. I'm sure this will get better with time, as Alonso is known for his excellent defense and this is only his 3rd game at the Coliseum.
Canha Is Back
The A's were 0-5 with runners in scoring position tonight, but ultimately that didn't make a difference.
They scored their first run of the game in the 1st inning. Somehow the White Sox still have not gotten the memo that you shouldn’t throw a first pitch fastball to Billy Burns. Billy Burns did what Billy Burns does and slapped the ball right up the middle for a groundball single. Khris Davis followed that up by scooping out a low slider and lofting it into center field for a single, getting Burns to 3rd. Jed Lowrie continued his RBI streak with a sac fly to right field before Valencia and Butler went down to end the inning and strand Davis.
The other run for the A's came in the 2nd inning. Mark Canha went oppo for the first green and gold home run of the year and it was glorious.
While the A's didn't score after the 2nd, they did have quite a few scorching balls that went to exactly the wrong place. Billy Butler found himself the victim of this yet again, as did several other A's hitters. It seems that's happened quite a bit going both ways this series, so at least the BABIP gods aren't being too cruel.
The commentators got into a bit of a tiff in the 8th inning when Bob Melvin had Coco Crisp pinch hit for Billy Butler. The argument was made that we've paid for Butler to DH, so he should DH, and that swapping him out sends the wrong signal about the team's confidence in him. While I do think the pinch hitting choice was odd (as TuffsBuffs mentioned in the game thread, why not Lambo?), their justification for not liking it doesn't necessarily make sense - Butler is a sunk cost, the A's should use him however he'll be most effective. This one's on Melvin.
Fortunately Sonny Gray lasted 7 innings (again, despite not being in tip-top shape), so we weren't forced to lean on the bullpen as heavily as the first couple games of the season. John Axford pitched the 8th. After Eaton beat Semien's throw at 1st by a micrometer, Axford turned a LONG Jimmy Rollins at-bat into a 6-3 double play with another confident throw from Semien. Abreu put up a great at-bat and snuck a ball over Alonso into right field, but Axford induced yet another groundout to Semien to end the threat.
Madson acted as closer since Doolittle pitched the previous two nights. It took him quite a few pitches to log his 3 outs and there were several extremely well-hit foul balls (and a single), but with some well-placed changeups, Madson locked up the first win of the season.
Dallas Braden is a national treasure
Seriously, it made me feel warm and fuzzy to have him in the broadcast booth tonight. His commentary was lively and interesting, and he showed so much love for Oakland and its fans that eventually the whole ESPN crew was saying good things about Oakland baseball, which doesn't happen enough. The drums were pumping out in right field and Dallas Braden was our hype man.
Can somebody please find video of him drumming out in the bleachers? I think Dallas Braden might be our power animal.