Victories that are hard fought and well earned are much more satisfying and compelling than a victory that is more or less inevitable. Rooting for the underdog that has overcome adversity is a near-universal quality in people globally. It is why people root for the tortoise and not the hare in Aesop's Fables, it's why people cheer for the noble stable boy and not the powerful king, and it's why people revel in the successes of teams like the A's and relish in the failures of teams like the Yankees. But to be an underdog, there has to be something to prevail over, and it is usually something that seems insurmountable. To fight off this insurmountable obstacle, a common trope throughout storytelling is the idea of the hero retreating into a hideout or getting induced into a deep sleep, before emerging later, stronger than ever and ready to take on their greatest challenge.
In today's 8-4 victory over the Baltimore Orioles, the A's, both by individuals and by the team itself, channeled the spirits of many of those heroes to lead the team to a decisive victory in game one of this double header.
Rich Hill's journey is not entirely unlike that of Luke Skywalker. After a harrowing experience at Hoth in which Luke was barely able to escape the clutches of the evil empire, Luke effectively removes himself from the fight for a long time in order to train with Yoda so he can best hone his innate abilities with the force. When he re-emerges from his training with Yoda, stronger than ever, Luke was, though he still wasn't his strongest self, and is able to face bigger and greater challenges. Rich Hill has always had powerful stuff, but until he was removed from the majors and played in an independent league, he wasn't able to properly hone his stuff. Due to presumably lots of training and hard work, Rich Hill emerged from the independent leagues a new man, though still not fully in control of his arsenal, and has been consistently getting better from start to start since his return to the fight. In today's game, Rich Hill was superb in just under six innings of work, relying more and more on his curveball as the game went along, allowing just two hits, one run, and five strikeouts (occurring on both fastballs and curveballs) to go along with three walks and a hit batter. Rich Hill has been the best starter for the A's this season, and his past few starts have finally seen him flashing his capabilities of pitching deep into games and lessening the stress placed on the A's bullpen.
Josh Reddick's journey is not entirely unlike that of Link, the Hero of Time. Link was always a special warrior, one who was always destined for greatness and who had passed every test of his ability thrown at him, but was forced to hide away when a swell of demons invaded the land of Hyrule overmatched him. When he finally ventures back into his homeland, it is desolate and downtrodden, but he now holds the power within him to make it all better again. The narrative against Josh Reddick for a long time was that he got too easily overmatched in high pressure situations, and because of that he wasn't mentally mature enough to capably lead an offense, or the team. However, over the years Josh has matured extremely as a hitter, and now has gained a more slump-proof stronger batter's eye and approach to go along with his strong inherent abilities on the field. Without Josh Reddick, the A's lineup is much weaker and thinner, and without Josh Reddick the future of right field in Oakland looks quite bleak and desolate. In today's game, Josh Reddick managed three hits- a bunt single against the shift, a booming double to center, and a sharp single to center off of a left-handed pitcher. With Josh Reddick hitting smarter, his bat is strongest the team has to offer and is plenty capable of leading the lineup to its best possible self.
The A's offense, as a whole, is not entirely unlike Princess Aurora, or Sleeping Beauty. Princess Aurora was beloved by most all those she came across, beautiful, and capable of greatness. However, due to forces outside of her control, Aurora is cursed and forced to sleep until the curse is lifted by her own true love, whoever that is. The A's offense was supposed to have all the elements of beauty that a major league offense could have- hitters capable of putting up above average numbers 1-9, mixes of power and speed and contact throughout the order, the easy ability to mix up left-handers and right-handers in the lineup, great versatility in positions the starting nine could play, and capable bench players. But despite all that, the A's offense had been sleeping for most of the season, having a major league worst on-base percentage and having drawn the fewest walks in the majors. The A's just needed a Prince Charming to come along to sweep them off their feet and lead the team. That Prince Charming could be Josh Reddick, but who knows, it could come in the form of Yonder Alonso, who is finally showing signs of life by reaching base four times in today's game (three times via the walk and one time via an against-the-shift single) after hitting the ball hard, but right at people, multiple times in his previous games. It could also be Marcus Semien, who hit yet another home run today as well as drove in three runs out of the ninth spot, or Jed Lowrie, the team's most clutch hitter to date, who had a sharp two-RBI single to center. Anyone could be the man who wakes the offense up for good and leads it to be the best offense it can be, and who that man is will likely reveal themselves in the next coming weeks.
It should also be noted, in general, that, apart from Khris Davis' 0-5 game, every player on offense contributed, though Danny Valencia didn't look as sharp as he can be, as he hit into a double play, struckout, and made a throwing error on the field, but since this was his first game back from injury he was likely just shaking off his rust. Apart from the aforementioned Valencia error, the A's also had a mostly smooth game on defense, though the Orioles did manage to tag up and take third on a couple of fly outs left field, but that is likely just a reality the A's will have to cope with this season rather than a fixable problem. The bullpen also performed well, as should now be expected, apart from a poor 9th inning from Liam Hendriks following a very well pitched 8th inning on his behalf, but with the game so far out of reach, his struggles had little impact on anything.
Stories from all eras will let us know that just because the hero is down, they are not necessarily out. They could just be biding their time, slowly building up strength and preparing to emerge stronger than ever, and not willing to look back.
Our heroes will be playing a second game today, starting at 4:05 pm pacific time.