Everyone romanticizes long and elaborate evenings with longtime friends or partners filled with lots of fun activities and dressing up nice and treating yourselves to a night of adventure and drama. But also, everyone is secretly happy when those plans fall through to allow for the much calmer, straightforward evening of relaxing, reading a nice book, and cuddling up with the other resident human or animal that is around. While there is always a time and place for adventure and drama, in anyone's life, sometimes easy and simple is preferable. And with all the negative press surrounding the A's lately, paired with the less than lackluster play on the field, the team desperately needed a drama-free, cozy win at home. Tonight they delivered.
After a perfect 1-2-3 inning for Sean Manaea in the top of the first, the A's offense immediately went to work against great, young starter for the Indians, Danny Salazar. While Salazar clearly didn't have his best control tonight, given that the A's lineup has a longstanding history of making the most layman pitchers look elite for a night, the outburst that the offense would have tonight was both very unexpected but very refreshing. Two quick singles set the stage for Khris Davis, who did what he has done all season (sans April) and muscled a 95 MPH fastball the opposite way to right field for a three-run home run. This would not be Davis' only hit of the night, as his bat stayed hot with an additional double, single, and, most significantly, a walk.
From there, with Khris Davis and Danny Valencia acting as table setters, the newest Athletics would start to drive the offense. Chad Pinder got his first career RBI with a base hit to center field in the third inning, in what would wind up being his only hit of the night (his fielding was good tonight, as he didn't squander any of his chances and made accurate throws while playing shortstop). Ryon Healy was the main offensive force for the A's today, however, as he extended his hitting streak to eleven games and had three hits, two of them doubles, as well as drove in a run.
Sean Manaea is starting to look comfortable in the majors, now, and appears to be pitching and not aiming and throwing. Through the first three innings of the game, Manaea didn't allow a hit, and through four he was only one batter over the minimum. Manaea was aided by some surprisingly strong A's defense today, as Valencia got his third outfield assist of the season by throwing out Mike Napoli at second base on what was the first hit of the game for the Indians and Jake Smolinski made a gorgeous leaping, over-the-shoulder catch in deep center field later on in the game, but it was clear from the start that Manaea's stuff was really deceiving the Indians' hitters. The one blemish on Manaea's pitching line would wind up being a home run that he gave up to the backup Indians' catcher Chris Gimenez (he of the temporary Oakland Athletic and Billy-Butler-shouter-atter fames) leading off the sixth inning, but at this point in the game the score was 6-1 in the A's favor and Manaea responded to the home run with two strikeouts and a ground out to end the inning. After pitching a scoreless seventh inning, Manaea would exit the game having only allowed three hits and the one run, with eight total strikeouts and only two walks, both of which came in his third inning.
The bottom of the eighth inning witnessed a defeated Indians' team play lots of sloppy defense as it became clear that the A's were determined to make this game a dull one. After excellent young players Healy and Maxwell hit doubles to continue the A's scoring, a botched throw to first on a double play followed immediately by a dropped pop up on the outfield grass just beyond first base added plenty of insult to injury as the A's pushed their lead to 9-1, where a perfectly simple and straightforward top of the ninth ended the game without a hitch.
The team's performance today justified any and all completely irrational expectations for the 2017 season. This year may be too little too late for that ever-elusive championship run, but the young guys getting called up are making significant impacts, and have a culture of winning together in the minors. The team did not need flair or drama in order to take the victory in today's game, just good approach and execution, proving that simple and straightforward can be just as satisfying.