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Game #154: Maxwell Kneels for Anthem, Alcantara Sits Rangers Down

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MLB: Texas Rangers at Oakland Athletics Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Before getting into the action from the game itself, it is vital to note that Bruce Maxwell became the first player in the MLB to take a knee during the National Anthem in the wake of the incendiary comments from President Trump. The A’s organization simultaneously released a statement supporting Bruce and his decision to kneel, and Maxwell’s teammates clearly had his back as well. Both politics and sports are deeply woven into American daily life and culture, and while many turn to one to avoid the other, trying to keep them separate is naive and nigh-on impossible. Politics and baseball, in particular, have always been closely linked.

The sport was first played in the United States in the years building up to the Civil War, and it took nearly a century for men of all races to play the game in the same league. There were times of war where so many stars and role players joined the military that an official women’s league was formed to fill the void. Labor disputes have forced seasons to end early. In today’s game, everything from the wages of minor leaguers, to how international players from Cuba and all over the world are able to immigrate to the United States to play ball, to the militarization of baseball (and sports in general), to even the amount of netting that should extend down the sidelines, are all inherently political issues. Owners, players, and fans alike shouldn’t shy away from these issues because they make them uncomfortable, or because the issue doesn’t affect them personally. Sweeping politics under the rug in the name of sports doesn’t make the politics go away. Most of the politics that impacted baseball one hundred years ago still exists in some form today, and will continue to persist so long as those issues are ignored or misunderstood.

Bruce Maxwell is a human person, with an opinion, who also happens to be among the few hundred most talented baseball players on the planet. He can choose to use his stage, influence, and sizeable income however he pleases. Maxwell, like every other athlete playing for a national league, is employed by a hundred-millionaire or billionaire team owner, who is also a human person with an opinion. The team owner can choose to use his power, influence, and very sizeable income however he pleases. Sports fans, typically human people, also have equally valid opinions and reactions to what they see on the field in front of them, and can respond to the actions of athletes or owners however they damn please. What is most important is that Maxwell’s right to express himself is not impeded upon. Athletes are more than the game itself.

Oh, and speaking of the game, it was Star Wars night at Rickey Henderson Field! The Force. Midichlorians. Light Sabers!

***Click Here to Revisit the Game Thread***

Raul Alcantara began this season as one of the A’s starting five. Over his three starts in April, Alcantara managed to pitch only seven innings, with an ERA of 16.71. As a result of his abysmal results, Alcantara was sent away to Dagobah to train with Yoda and harness his powerful fastball and re-discover what had once made him a top prospect in the A’s system. It appears that his time away has paid off.

Alcantara re-announced his presence with 3.2 scoreless innings in a spot start versus Detroit, pitching on a day where Jharel Cotton went down with a groin injury just hours before the game began. Alcantara got the chance to repeat his performance tonight only because Sean Manaea went down with an upper back injury just hours before the game began. Not only did Alcantara repeat his performance, but he improved upon it. Once again showing off a high-nineties fastball with good bite, Alcantara carved through a very talented Rangers’ lineup, inducing tons of weak, harmless contact and Texas never even threatened to score. All in all, Alcantara’s final line on the evening was five innings pitched, with just two hits and two walks allowed, with five strikeouts and no runs allowed. Having turned off his targeting computer, it did sometimes appear as though Alcantara wasn’t exactly sure where the ball was going to end up, but he ultimately trusted his abilities and completely destroyed Texas’ offensive attack.

Raul’s performance was not only impressive but completely necessary, as the A’s offense squandered an early scoring opportunity and then shut down for the rest of the night. Offense was at a premium.

After a quiet, 1-2-3 first inning, Khris Davis khrushed the first pitch thrown in the bottom of the second inning halfway to Tatooine for his 40th home run of the season, and gave the A’s a 1-0 lead in the game. Matt Olson and Ryon Healy followed the home run with sharp singles that placed runners on the corners, and then Matt Chapman was hit by a pitch to load the bases with none out. However, despite the glorious opportunity to pile on a struggling and ineffective Rangers’ starter, no other A’s scored in the inning. Mark Canha hit a sharp line drive right out Elvis Andrus for one out, Dustin Garneau struck out after some questionable strike calls, and Marcus Semien flew out to end the threat.

Apart from a Mark Canha shot down the left field line that had home run distance, but hooked foul last moment, the A’s never threatened to score again, and the game remained a taut 1-0 affair.

Not stretched out to go deep into games, it was inevitable that Alcantara was going to have to be relieved after his fifth inning of work. Luckily, the A’s bullpen was primed and ready to go following Graveman’s long outing yesterday. Ryan Dull faced five batters and got five outs, Daniel Coulombe retired a tough lefty in a key spot, Chris Hatcher successfully danced around a single in the eighth inning to preserve the lead, and Blake Treinen shut the door on the Rangers. A’s win 1-0, on the backs on Alcantara’s start and Khris Davis’ home run.

The A’s win in multiple ways on the evening. The small, ill-equipped and battle beaten rebel A’s defeated the dark and imposing Texas empire in a hard fought, low scoring affair, further burying the Rangers’ playoff hopes, and Bruce Maxwell, by kneeling, took a stand that no other major league baseball player has taken. The A’s victory on the field bodes well for the team’s future, and Maxwell’s actions before the game bodes well for baseball’s future.