It's funny, isn't it? I mean, in that sort of ironic way; the A's were tearing up Spring Training, scoring at will, double-digit runs here and there, and bring on the first "real" series of the year, and bam. Nearly back to back shutouts, save for an error in the eighth inning. Narrator voiceover: But the A's were not, in fact, shut out.
But really? Jeff Samardzija? Five nearly-perfect innings, allowing a single and a walk as he mowed down A's hitter after A's hitter. Not that his replacements were much worse; the A's collected a paltry five hits on the night; the single run scoring only because the base-runner reached on an error. Meanwhile, Jharel Cotton pitched through four innings, allowing five hits and a single run, but his team definitely helped him dance through raindrops; interestingly and awesomely, the A's did not make a single error in the field tonight.
Tonight's game started off with low drama, as Samardzija struck out the first two A's he faced, and Cotton shut the Giants down in their half of the first. Things were different in the second; as the A's went down on seven pitches, and Cotton experienced his first trouble of the night.
Brandon Crawford, who was already warmed up to big games, thanks to the World Baseball Classic, got the Giants on the board with a lead-off home run off Cotton to open the second inning. And just like that, before the A's had a hit, the Giants had two and a run. Nunez, following Crawford, gave it a similar ride, but the ball was caught by Canha. Cotton responded by walking Jarrett Parker on a full count, but Phegley uncorked a perfect throw to nail him at second for the second out, despite a very good jump. It saved a run, as Panik singled immediately after. Cotton was able to get out of the inning by striking out the pitcher, and for a long, long time, it looked like the Crawford solo blast would hold up for the final score. Both teams scored in the eighth inning; the Giants' the game-winner, on a play at first, the runner safe by an eyelash.
Marcus Semien recorded the first A's hit of the night with a lead-off single in the third, but he didn't move past first base; in fact, he was thrown out at second on a force out from Rajai Davis to end the inning. Cotton survived a lead-off single by Denard Span thanks to a force out by Brandon Belt and a nicely timed strikeout of Hunter Pence.
Although the offense looked Little League against the Giants' parade of pitchers, the A's had a pretty good merry-go-round themselves, throwing Casilla, Madson, and Doolittle for an inning each. All of them held the Giants scoreless and kept the A's in the game.
Jaff Decker made a really great diving catch in the bottom of the seventh to save further damage and to set the stage for the Don't Call it a Comeback of the eighth inning. With one out in the inning, Mark Canha reached on an error by Nunez. After Phegley flew out for the second out, up strode Jaff Decker to the plate. He promptly smacked a ringing double, and just like that, after 17 innings of abject frustration at the plate, the A's were on the board and in a tie game.
It would last about 5 whole minutes. Enter Ryan Dull. Single, double, pop-up, intentional walk, and nearly, nearly, so-close-you-could-taste-it, missed double play. The go-ahead run scored on the force out at second as the runner was safe at first.
Max Schrock and Matt Chapman both singled in the ninth to set the stage for the A's with one out, and Lambo would later walk to load the bases, but those two hits, plus Decker's and one by Semien and Phegley earlier in the game, were the only success the A's had at the plate. So it came as no surprise that Rosales struck out in the ninth for the first out, Ryon Healy struck out for the second, needing only to make contact to tie the game, and Ryan Lavarnway ended the game with a neat hit up the middle that was taken away by Brandon Crawford, that jerk.
So there you have it. What to make of it all, I don't know. But what I do know is that baseball starts in exactly two days for the A's, and ready or not, I'm excited. See you all on the real threads, starting Monday night!