Hope is a young Billy Butler dreaming of his future before a date with a sweet lass from a small town. He's seen her a few times before, and they have a lot of shared interests, but as of right now, conversation is still a little flat and awkward on the surface. He isn't quite sure of what his future with her will be, but with the stuff she has to offer, it isn't difficult for him to imagine a pleasant future, at the very least. He is taking her out to a local barbeque joint, knowing that whichever version of this girl shows up, at the very least he'll be able to take joy in sinking his knife into a hot steak and experiencing some dramatic cutting flavors.
Graveman's start to the evening against the Giants was auspicious enough, managing to put down the first two Giants' hitters on just four pitches, his sinker darting through the zone. Graveman's sinker though, when not paired up with some other pitch to change speeds or eye levels, or both, failed him against Brandon Belt as his seventh consecutive sinker thrown in the ballgame was nearly hit out of the ballpark, but hit high off the wall in left-center field for a double instead. Fortunately, for Graveman, the first ended without any damage, but his chance for a quick inning after getting two outs on four pitches evaporated as he completed the inning with sixteen pitches thrown. Graveman's second inning was harmless as well, but did feature multiple runners getting on base and getting in scoring position once again. If Graveman could make the adjustment to better control his pitches, he could do well in continuing his current hot streak, if he couldn't make the adjustment, the runners he was leaving on base would soon be coming around to score.
Those adjustments were not made, or if they were, they weren't effective. Once again, in the third inning, Graveman found himself in a situation with runners in scoring position after surrendering two line drive singles to Angel Pagan and Buster Posey. After falling behind to Brandon Crawford, Graveman attempted to even the count with a cutter but wound up watching his offering descend into the deepest depths of the Giants' home stadium in right field, scoring two before the ball could be corralled back into the infield. The fourth inning was much of the same, two singles followed by a hit that drove both runners in. Despite a clean fifth, Graveman's stretch of strong starts ended as he departed the game after five innings pitched, only three strikeouts, one walk, nine hits, and four runs allowed.
And yet, despite exiting the game down 4-1, Graveman nearly got the win, which is a fun stat if not an entirely useless one.
Hope is Josh Reddick trying out again and again for teams in little league. He had been cut from teams before, a couple times, actually, but he wasn't going to give up. He has the passion and the determination to do what it takes to improve his abilities in order to stay on the field, even if it hasn't all come together yet. One day, sooner than anyone else thinks, everything is going to start to come together, and then he is going to become a star.
Once again, the A's offense put runs on the board. Against rookie starting pitcher Albert Suarez the A's put together a generally strong approach at the plate, working three walks and putting consistent pressure on their opposition, but through five innings had only managed one run. That one run was rather notable, however, as it came on a fast, low line drive, just barely passing over the left field fence, and was hit off of a pitch that was flirting with the dirt around home plate by the powerful Khris Davis. Despite playing from behind due to Graveman's struggles, the offense appeared primed to strike at any moment, and in the sixth inning the offense followed through on those expectations.
After a Jed Lowrie walk and a Khris Davis single, with two outs in the sixth inning Suarez was removed from the game in favor of George Kontos, coming in to face Stephen Vogt. After working the count, Vogt lined a double to center field to drive in both runners and draw the score to 4-3. The Giants than gave the A's a gift as a Marcus Semien grounder to 3rd was misplayed and thrown away, extending the inning long enough for the A's first-base super-duo Yonder Alonso and Billy Butler to draw a walk and hit a go-ahead two run single up the middle respectively to give the A's the first lead of the game 5-4.
Hope is John Axford sitting in a theater in Hollywood for the academy awards, waiting to hear his name read. It wasn't all too long ago that he was at the top, winning awards of his own, but in more recent years he had fallen out of the spotlight. However, this year he was having a bit of a Renaissance, and was able to snag a role he long coveted and, for a while, was succeeding with his role, but there are now some grumblings about getting his role recast.
Naturally, following the four run inning that showed the A's offense, with Graveman out of the game, the hard-nosed A's bullpen that has been so dependable for so much of the season had to surrender four runs in turn. John Axford, who started the season incredibly strong and, as a result, was one of the more overworked relievers, entered the game in place of Graveman and faced three batters- single, walk, double- and exited with the game tied and the go-ahead runs in scoring position and nobody out.
And then Marc Rzepczynski almost got out of it. Two sinkers resulted in two softly batted balls that never threatened to become hits and the A's were nearly out of Axford's mess. But then Scrabble intentionally walked Buster Posey to get the more favorable lefty-on-lefty matchup against Brandon Crawford with the bases loaded. Rzepcynski continued to miss the strike zone when facing Crawford, however, and was forced to try and groove a sinker after falling behind 2-0 that Crawford pummeled for his second big hit of the game, this one a triple that cleared the bases and gave the Giants an 8-5 lead.
Hope is Jake Smolinski toiling away in the minor leagues. His age and limited previous experiences prevents him from being labeled as a prospect and low expectations limit the excitement the baseball universe feels about him. He knows he has the ability, he just needs to be given the right role and opportunity, and then maybe, just maybe, he can take that opportunity and run with it.
The seventh passed without much noise from either team, though Zach Neal needed a double play to work out of trouble during his inning of work. Going into the eighth inning, in many games previously this season, after coughing up a lead in the fashion the team did, commonly the bats would go cold and the A's would lose the game with a whimper, rather than a roar. There would be bad at bat after bad at bat, with hitters seemingly ignoring the context surrounding their at bat and taking questionable approaches until the 27th out. But the A's are getting healthier, they've been playing as a unit for longer, and the offense has finally started to show signs of consistency, and tonight they proved all of that. Khris Davis walked. Khris Davis walked. Then Stephen Vogt walked. Semien knocked a single up the middle to drive Davis in to score and called for a pitching change, Cory Gearrin unable to retire any batter he faced in the top of the eighth getting replaced by lefty Javier Lopez. The introduction of a lefty into the game prompted the pinch-hitting appearances of Josh Phegley and Jake Smolinksi, replacing the first base spot and the pitcher's spot respectively. Josh Phegley gave the second pitch he saw a huge ride towards deep right center field, but center fielder Denard Span got a great read on the line drive and made a very difficult running catch near the wall. Stephen Vogt advanced to third, but it felt as though the A's were robbed of a rare opportunity to mount a second three-run comeback in the same game.
Jake Smolinski immediately assuaged any of those concerns with a deep three run home run to left field that absolutely stunned the packed crowd, with an accompanying bat flip. The A's took a 9-8 lead and cheers of "Let's Go Oakland!" were heard within San Francisco's baseball cathedral. Before the crowd, or the Giants, could recover from the devastating blow from Smolinski, Coco Crisp hit a hustle double and Jed Lowrie single him in, extending the A's lead to 10-8. That lead would eventually extend to 13-9 as the A's managed to hold on behind two "good enough but still bad" innings from Ryan Madson, last available man standing in the bullpen, in which he gave up one run in the eighth inning and back to back solo home runs in the ninth, ending the game at a final score of 13-11 after nearly fifty laborious pitches from Madson.
This was a fun game. Hopefully there are many more like it to come.