"Well, these [white] cleats were meant for walking, and that's just what they'll do. Often these days these [white] cleats will just walk all over Yu."
For the first half of the season, full of delightful memories for each and every fan of the lovely A's, the A's were 28th in the entire MLB in walks, and 24th in runs scored. In August, the team was once again 28th in the entire MLB in walks, and was 30th runs scored. In September, the A's are 5th in the entire MLB in walks, and are 8th in runs scored. Obviously, this is proof that correlation equals causation, and the biggest problem with the A's offense this season has been exactly what everybody has been saying was the biggest problem this season.
The A's scored eleven runs tonight, with each of the team's rallies (apart from the final one in the eighth inning) either started or sustained via the walk. After Joe Wendle continued to enamor himself to his new ballclub and fans by sending the third pitch of the game over the right field fence on a smooth and easy swing, the erratic Yu Darvish would lose control of the strike zone. The second inning would begin with three consecutive walks to Ryon Healy, Yonder Alonso, and Marcus Semien, Darvish throwing twelve balls and two strikes over the three batter stretch. Ignoring traditional wisdom and taking the first pitch from a pitcher who can't seem to control where the ball is winding up, Bruce Maxwell rapped a first pitch meatball back up the middle for a two-RBI single. Adhering to traditional wisdom and taking the first pitch from a pitcher who can't seem to control where the ball is winding up, Brett Eibner took a first pitch meatball for a strike and then struck out with runners on the corners and no outs. Noting the first strategy was the best strategy, Wendle would knock a hard line drive on Darvish's first pitch well-deep enough for a sacrifice fly to drive in Semien and make the score 4-0 A's after 1 ½ innings.
Even with Josh Reddick gone (for now, the hopeful fan adds), the Andrew Bailey trade continues to have a positive impact for the A's. His first start long removed and forgotten, Raul Alcantara allowed a single to Carlos Beltran in the first inning but struck out the other three batters he faced throwing a steady stream of fastballs and the odd changeup and slider, the latter of which looked much stronger tonight than in previous efforts. After that Beltran single, however, Alcantara retired ten consecutive Rangers without little effort needed from the defense behind him. While he couldn't maintain his torrid strikeout pace, batter after batter though four innings would meekly fly out or pop out (the Rangers hit zero ground balls through four innings) and Alcantara remained too-much for the Rangers' offense.
Healy would extend his hitting streak in the fifth inning, and after Alonso walked on four pitches behind him, Semien would take a slider and just miss a fastball before timing a second fastball perfectly and hit a high fly ball that just kept carrying and carrying until it dropped over the tall wall in left field for a three run home run that gave the A's a commanding and comfortable lead.
Alcantara's consecutive-batters'-retired streak would end at ten as Rougned Odor hit a sharp ground ball for a single in the fifth inning, but got out of the inning without any further trouble and looked primed and ready to return in the sixth. After the A's quickly went down in order in the top half of the inning, Alcantara did return but looked anything but primed and ready. His pitch count approaching eighty, the clearly tiring rookie surrendered a sharp single to Elvis Andrus to start the inning and promptly allowed a no-doubt home run to Carlos Gomez to bring the score to 7-2. After Carlos Beltran worked the count and reached on his second single of the game, Adrian Beltre got ahead in the count and just barely missed pushing the score to 7-4 before Khris Davis caught the fly ball on the warning track. Alcantara would be relieved by John Axford after putting up a final line of 5.2 innings, five hits, two runs, no walks, and three strikeouts with the one home run.
Following a Stephen Vogt (who had a bad game while everyone else didn't) flyout to start the seventh, Khris Davis worked a walk after having molded himself into some sort of walking-threat (or at least molded into not being walking-deficient) in the past week or so, and following a Healy pop out, Alonso ripped a ground ball double down the right field line that Khris Davis was easily able to score on to deny the Rangers a shutdown inning.
Five walks directly resulted in five runs, and the A's had a massive offensive outburst for the game as a whole. Whodathunkit? Rocket surgeons, probably.
The A's offense would be done as Maxwell and Wendle singles set up a Danny Valencia three-run home run that oh-so-barely cleared the wall in the deepest part of center field, putting the A's up 11-2, a score that suddenly feels normal as the season slowly winds down. The Rangers more or less gave up and didn't put up any semblance of a fight or effort over the last few at-bats.
Whatever you do, do not temper your hopes and excitements and dreams for the A's next season.