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Game #75: The Team We’ve Been Waiting For

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Chicago White Sox Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

On this day in 1979, the A’s had one of the most impactful major league debuts in history for the franchise, and for all of baseball, as a scrappy, confident outfielder was called upon to join the big league squad. The twenty year old had set the minor leagues ablaze with his legs but possessed a five tool skill set, and there was little doubt that the young outfielder was poised for a long and successful big league career, but few, other than the outfielder himself, expected him to become one of the greatest ballplayers of all time. A single, a double, and the first of thousands of stolen bases later, Rickey Henderson’s storied career was in motion.

We all know what we’re here for.

Barreto’s performance today went thusly:

Barreto’s first bit of action in the big leagues was on a ground ball to second base to start off the White Sox bottom of the first inning. A speedy Alec Hansen slapped a ground ball towards Barreto that forced him to range several steps to his left before corralling the bounding ball and tossing it easily to first for the out. The very next batter, Melky Cabrera, also hit a ground ball to Barreto, but that ball went directly to the prospect and was also easily handled for the second out of the first inning. He successfully fielded back-to-back routine plays in the bottom of the third inning, as well, before booting what would be the third straight ground ball hit directly at him, going as an error. In Barreto’s defense, here, the ball did take a fairly funky hop right before reaching his glove. This error wound up costing the A’s a run, as back-to-back singles drove the gifted runner in.

Barreto had less action on defense throughout the remainder of the game, but when he was involved he made the fundamental plays and appeared to always be in proper position. His turns on double plays went very smoothly.

He first came up to bat leading off the top of the second inning against White Sox starter James Shields. The first major league pitch he saw, Barreto took for a strike on the inside corner, and on the next pitch he fouled the ball hard off of his shin, the ball bounding all the way to short stop, before Barreto had an ugly, waving swing at a pitch bending low and away for strike three.

In his second at bat, Barreto came to the plate with a runner on first and one out. He showed off a good batters’ eye by working the count 2-2 and successfully taking some bad pitches low and out of the zone, and showed off good fight by fouling off some tough two strike pitches, and then Barreto did the unbelievable- he crushed a high fly ball to left field that kept carrying, and carrying, and carrying until it landed safely in the Chicago bleachers for his first career hit, home run, RBI, and run scored. Barreto’s legend was born right here.

His third at bat began similarly to his second, with one out and Maxwell standing on first. Once again, he worked deep into the count and eventually went to a full count, fouled off some tough two strike pitches and had good takes on others, before stroking an easy line drive in to left field for a single. In his fourth AB, in the sixth inning, he battled to another 2-2 count before lofting a lazy fly ball to right field for an out.

Barreto’s fifth final at bat of the ballgame came in the eighth inning, leading off. He swung at the first pitch he saw, a fastball that caught a good chunk of the plate and hit another lazy fly ball to right field for an out. His batting line on the day was 2-5 with a home run and a single, and one strikeout and two runs scored. In the field he made just the one error and otherwise looked just dandy out on the field.

While not perfect, it can be hard to ask more of a player in the first game of their career.

The rest of the team played pretty well, too.

Non-Barreto A’s were clicking right off of the bat in this game, especially his fellow rookies, as every starter for the A’s today got a hit. After Matt Joyce had a good at bat to start the game, working a walk after spitting on some tough two-strike pitches, Matt Olson finally got his first major league home run on the first pitch he saw from Shields. Olson’s home run was absolutely launched, deep into the right field bleachers, as he was finally able to flex some power after a tough start to his career.

Rookies kept the fun going in the second inning, after Barreto had his first major league at bat, Jaycob Brugman (fresh off of a nice diving catch to end the previous inning) lined a straight fastball right down the heart of the plate just over the right field wall for his own first career home run in the bigs.

After Barreto hit his own homer in the third, in each of the first three innings, a rookie on the A’s hit their first long ball, and the team had a 6-0 lead. Such an event has never occurred in the history of the MLB (It DID happen once over a century ago in a short-lived league called “The Federal League” that used to be comparable to the American and National League).

For good measure, non-rookie, but still young, Ryon Healy knocked in another A’s run in the second inning on a ground ball single up the middle on a tough low-and-away offering from Shields. But perhaps more impressive was Healy’s phenomenal sliding stop and strong throw to first on a hard ground ball heading down the left field line for potential extra bases in the next half inning. While he did have an error on the day, Healy looked less stone-bodied in the field all game.

Good, hard playing, over-aggression on the base paths likely cost the A’s a run in the fourth inning, as Matt Olson was gunned down at second base trying to tag up on a fly ball into deep center, but it took a perfect throw to get Olson and it was refreshing to see the A’s keep their foot on the gas and take some risks on the diamond in the middle innings. In the fifth, back-to-back one out singles from Maxwell and Barreto, and a walk from Jaycob Brugman, loaded up the bases to set the stage for some veterans to take the spotlight for a few fleeting moments. Adam Rosales and Matt Joyce hit a well-placed infield single and worked a walk, respectively, to drive in two more runs.

The A’s weren’t even done from there. The seventh inning began with some dramatics, as Adam Rosales reached first base when Jose Abreu ever so slightly slid off of the first base bag when receiving a throw from third base on a slow ground ball, leading to a double ejection of third baseman Todd Frazier and White Sox Manager Rick Renteria when the two argued the call after replay had finalized the decision. With the White Sox fired up, their relief pitcher Petricka tried to groove a mid-90’s fastball passed Matt Olson, much like James Shields did in the first inning, and much like he did to James Shields in the first, Matt Olson took Petricka deep, this time to the deepest part of the yard in center field, for his second home run of the game, and the fourth total for the A’s on the day.

Meanwhile, Daniel Gossett made his third career start today for the A’s, and he had his second consecutive strong start. The one thing that clearly wasn’t clicking today for Oakland was, surprise surprise, its defense, as the A’s made another handful of errors and misplays on the day, but Gossett was cool, calm, and collected despite it. Over the course of his six innings pitched, Gossett struck out five, walked just one, gave up five hits, and only two runs, both of which were unearned.

He was working on a perfect game and a Maddux when the defense forced him to try and get extra outs and throw more pitches. Most all of the contact that Gossett allowed was weak contact that was more threatening to gophers than the scoreboard, and often bore down and made his best pitches of the game when the White Sox were allowed to rally by the A’s defense.

A hell of a lot happened in today’s game, and just about all of it was good. The focus was rightfully on Franklin Barreto before the start of play, but the spotlight wound up shining upon just about every player in Oakland who represents the future of this team. This season has been long and frustrating to date, but it’s less than half over and the team is rapidly becoming more athletic, more talented, and, most importantly, more fun.

It should be noted that the newest generation of A’s being called up to the show have a long-established culture of playing hard and winning championships in the minor leagues. They play hard, and they play up to their competition, and they look damn good while doing it.

This is the A’s team everyone has been waiting for, and the future is bright.

A’s win 10-2, and look to secure a ROAD SWEEP tomorrow at 11:10.