So this week started off rather poopy (technical term) and melded into a weekend series with the Rays that felt, in my humble opinion, akin to a world series win. Some bad things happened in Boston, but luckily the A's were able to leave their past behind them and scramble into Florida to collect a couple of W's in the biggest way possible.
... But we're gonna save that part for last.
If you've already blocked the Boston series (like me), then you're on track, let's keep it that way. Bad stuff went down, about 473 players were injured and A's fans across the nation fell into a collective coma. Luckily, Axford and Valencia have already come back from their brief injuries, and Lowrie and Hendriks will be back soon. (Here's to hoping Hendriks finds some of that magic dust Valencia did!)
Sonny's been overcast, but he'll right himself in due time. Sunday, he made it past five innings! Yay. (But, really, there's no need to worry, he'll be
Sonny sunny soon ... it's the beginning of the season!)
In a positive turn of events, Rich Hill has been a welcome breath of fresh air. Friday, Hill helped the A's snap their tumultuous losing streak (with a little help from Valencia ... yes, we're getting there!) Sure, he's unorthodox and sometimes his curveball is so devastating it fools the umpires, but he's been a ray of light in the turmoil of the rest of the rotation. We've also learned that, when aggravated, Hill can be mean to his collection of Dasani bottles he keeps on the bench. We've also learned that, yes, he's actually capable of not smiling (at least for a minute or two).
And in just as important news, amongst all of this, Sean Manaea found a weed-whacker somewhere and managed to mow off the 'fro. (One time, long ago, I had long, manic-David-Coverdale hair and this is exactly how I removed it, so I'm assuming Manaea was about the same.) He transformed from some kind of Samoan Avenger superhero to a Disney Prince. Or maybe it's just a disguise ...
Okay. Now it's time for the man of the week ...
On Friday night, just a couple days back from his bout of hamstring soreness, Valencia pounded his first two bombs of the game and the season. And to cap it off? A dazzling, Superman-style catch to rob Evan Longoria of a hit in the ninth inning with the bases loaded. What a game!
Thrills! Chills! Spectacles! I mean, that was relieving and comforting to watch, right? He couldn't possibly top that, right?
Sure enough, the A's dropped Saturdays outing without scoring a run, and moved into Sunday with shaky expectations.
In his first at-bat against the Rays in Tropicana Field, Valencia crushed a solo shot off of Matt Moore, trotting the bases to the delighted screams of A's Nation. Up comes the bottom of the fifth. Crisp already knocked Alonso in for a run and is on second when Valencia comes up to bat. 0-2 count, and Valencia crushes Moore's offering for two runs, cutting Tampa Bay's lead to one.
When the A's come up in the top of the ninth, they're trailing 6-5. Even with Valencia's two homers and Coghlan's in the seventh, they haven't lead once during the game.
There's a chance. A small glimmer of hope. They only trail by one.
Oh, but we've seen this before! We remember 2015!
Coghlan and Crisp go in order, both grounding out, to bring Burns up to the plate. With two outs and the A's fate dropped on his shoulders, Burns doubles to right, which means it's Valencia's turn at bat. The Rays bring in Steve Geltz to face him.
Calm and imposing, already proving his worth, Valencia doesn't need to wait for his pitch. Geltz's first toss is what he wants and he crushes it deep to left. His third home run of the game, and the A's finally lead, 7-6.
Even with his shaky performance in Friday's game, Ryan Madson has become the guy we love to see coming into a situation like this. He's in top form, the first two batters grounding out and the final popping up to Alonso at first. When the ball hits Alonso's glove for the final out, there's an explosion of mirth. Even with the small crowd, away from home, the field is electric, and Valencia is there in the middle of it to remind us that yes, he's back, and the spark we thought we saw at the end of last season has ignited.
Here's to a stellar next week, and may that Boston series be forgotten forever!