In a game that was way, way closer than the final score of 6-3, the A's snuck into Tampa Bay and won the first game of the series, clinging to a lead all night, fending off multiple threats by the Rays, and running off the field with the bases loaded in the ninth as a phenomenal play by Danny Valencia made sure that Madson's save was recorded.
The game looked good from the start today, although after this week, not being down by 10 runs in the third felt a little like a moral victory. The A's jumped out to an early 4-0 lead before the Rays even saw a pitch, thanks in large part to one of the best at-bats I've ever seen, courtesy of Billy Burns. After Coco Crisp was retired for the A's first out of the game, Burns fell into an 0-2 hole, but fouled off six consecutive pitches, took a ball, and fouled off four more, for a grand total of fourteen pitches before mustering a single to start off the hit parade as a visibly frustrated Jake Odorizzi tried to strike out Burns after the 0-2 count, and failed twelve times. It's not the at-bat that won the game, but it sure set the table. Josh Reddick followed that act with a single of his own (pitch count: three) and on his sixth pitch, with a full count, Khris Davis launched a home run to give the early A's the 3-0 lead. Not to be outdone, Danny Valencia homered on a full count as well, increasing the A's lead to 4-0.
Rich Hill took the mound and it was touch and go to see if he would last the entire inning, much less the game, without getting thrown out--he was really unhappy with his first couple innings of calls. He recorded an out, walked two batters on borderline pitches, and promptly gave up two singles for two runs and one more walk, for good measure. Needless to say, neither pitcher was supremely happy with the result of the first inning.
Hill settled down and recorded outs in order in the second, third and fourth innings. The A's put men on base, but couldn't add to their lead until the fourth, when Marcus Semien got into the action himself, crushing a home run to bring the score to 5-2. A walk and a double in the fifth brought in another Rays run, and with the score 5-3, I'm sure everyone wanted to know when the 10 run inning was going to strike the A's.
Danny Valencia greeted new Rays pitcher, Dana Eveland (hi!) with his second home run of the night, to give the A's the three-run cushion, and Rich Hill got through the bottom of the sixth to close his night on a high note.
Fernando Rodriguez took over for the seventh, and despite walking two, managed to shut the door on the Rays. Sean Doolittle pitched a perfect eighth, striking out two batters; a welcome change from this week's disasters. And for once, it wasn't Doolittle in trouble, but Madson, as things started on the wrong foot from the very beginning of the ninth inning. Madson gave up a single, but managed to get a strikeout for the first out, but a hit by pitch and a walk loaded the bases. And then Valencia won the game. With the bases loaded and only one out; the Rays trailing by three, Evan Longoria smashed a ball to the hole, hit just as hard as possible, it could have tied the game, or at least made things really interesting, but Valencia dove, stabbed it and made the second out.
After a sigh of relief from everyone in the green and gold or with a rooting interest, Madson induced a fly out to end the game. Exhale.
Hey, the A's won a game! They will try to win another tomorrow behind Kendall Graveman. Your game will start at 3:10PM. See you back here with all the action!