Thursday night, the A's decided it was no longer time to be silent with the bats, as they took home a 5-4 win over the rival Angels.
This year's Athletics have thus far been the least prolific offense in the American league, as they entered Thursday night's contest vs. the Angels last in the league in runs scored and OPS. Last Saturday, in his 2016 debut, scrap heap pick up - and former two time Cy Young winner - Tim Lincecum shut the A's down in a 7-1 A's loss in Oakland, where Lincecum took home the win. The A's followed that up on Sunday by being shut out by Jered Weaver, he of the mid-80s fastball. A split of a quick two game set with lowly Milwaukee is all that transpired between then and tonight's rematch with Lincecum.
The A's immediately showed some spunk at the plate, as, while they did not score in the opening frame, they did force Lincecum to labor through 26 pitches and work out of a two-on, two-out jam. Khris Davis struck out on a nasty splitter by Lincecum, possibly his best pitch of the night, but it was apparent that Tiny Tim did not have the same command as he did last weekend, and the A's were focused on not being light work at the plate.
After A's starter Kendall Graveman breezed through the bottom of the 1st 1-2-3, the A's struck their most potent blow to the Angels and their diminutive starter, as they plated four runs in the top of the 2nd. After Jed Lowrie and Yonder Alonso secured seeing eye and bloop singles, respectively, SS Marcus Semien found a splitter in his wheelhouse and deposited a bomb over the left field wall. This was Semien's 13th jack of the year and the three run blast was a huge confidence boost for the scuffling team. After Arismendy Alcantara, who was starting his first game as an Athletic since the trade for Chris Coghlan, grounded out, Coco Crisp and Max Muncy followed with singles and then Stephen Vogt plated the 4th run of the inning on a bloop hit that was questionably called an error on Angels 3B Yunel Escobar, which proved to be the final run of the productive inning.
Lincecum would leave after just three innings, with a line of 3 IP, 7 hits, 4 runs (all earned), 2 walks and 2 K's. Overall, a much more rewarding experience for A's fans compared to last Saturday.
The four runs in support of Graveman - who demonstrates nasty stuff but also shows a lack of confidence at times - provided the needed boost for the Gravedigger to work into the 7th inning with the lead.
However, the outing was not without its bumps. While Graveman retired the first six batters he faced, he allowed three hits in the bottom of the third, but worked out of the jam via inducing a key double play and getting Cole Calhoun to ground out to end the threat. However, in the bottom of the 4th, Graveman showed some major cracks. The star of MLB Disney, Mike Trout, reached on an infield hit and, after an Albert Pujols flyout, C.J. Cron doubled and Little Johnny Giavotella (an A's killer) singled in Trout for the Angels' first run. Graveman then hit Daniel Nava on the leg, where it was clear Nava tilted his knee towards the plate (on an 0-2 count) to load the bases, and Jett Bandy hit a sacrifice fly that narrowed the gap to 4-2. On the play, the green Max Muncy threw home, which allowed both runners to move up. However, Andrelton Simmons flied out to Crisp in center to end the threat and limit the damage to 4-2.
After working a clean 4th in relief of Lincecum, Angels reliever Deolis Guerra did not make it through a clean 5th, as Khris Davis khrushed his 17th home run of the year, a solo shot that provided what would prove to be a critical insurance run. Davis' towering shot left the park in left center and was too high and deep for Trout to make a highlight robbery, although the star gave a legitimate effort.
Graveman and Angels reliever Mike Morin traded clean half innings in the bottom of the 5th through the top of the 7th. And Graveman started the 7th with a quality outing and a win within his grasp. With one out, Andrelton Simmons singled. After an Escober fly out and a Simmons steal to make it two outs with a man on 2nd, Mark Rzepczynski relieved Graveman and got Calhoun to ground into the shift to end the inning. Graveman left with a total line of 6.2 IP, 8 hits, 2 runs (earned), 0 walks and 1 K, tossing 95 total pitches and earning the win to bring his record to 3-6.
However, the win was not a forgone conclusion until the final out was recorded.
Usual closer Ryan Madson entered in the 8th to take on the meat of the Angels order and got a 1-2-3 inning including K's of Trout and Cron.
After the A's failed to add a run in the top of the 9th, the red bearded lefty Sean Doolittle came in with a shot at the save. A's Killer Giovatella led off with a double laced down the left field line, which was followed by an out, and then things got dicey as Bandy golfed an ankle high mid-90s Doolittle fastball over the left field wall to narrow the gap to 5-4. Doolittle was able to get Simmons to pop out and then pinch hitter Alfredo Marte stepped to the plate.
At this point, the game took a scary turn, as on the 1st pitch, Marte lost his bat on a swing and a miss and the bat whipped into the head of home plate umpire Paul Emmel. The play looked bad and it went to worse as the cameras immediately showed Emmel down and a bloody wound on the left side of his head. Emmel was able to leave the field under his own power and received several stitches. After the scary scene was cleared, Marte than popped out to Alcantara, who bumped Yonder Alonso on the way to the ball for a little added drama, and the game was over. 5-4 victory for the good guys in Green and Gold.
Interestingly in the game, all 9 Athletics starters had exactly one hit. Everyone was in on the hit party, but no one got greedy at the plate. Also, after Alcantara reached on an infield single in the top of the 6th, he was thrown out stealing. After going 26 for 26 at the AAA level, this was his fist CS of the year. Doolittle's more-dramatic-than-you-like save represented his 4th of the year.
After exorcising some of last week's batting demons tonight vs. Lincecum, Oakland will look to do the same tomorrow night against soft-tossing RHP Jered Weaver. The lanky righty with the mid-80s fastball tossed a CG SHO vs. the Green and Gold last weekend. See you all in the game thread tomorrow night, Go A's!