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Game #32: May the Fourth Be With You (or at least the defense)

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Jed(i) Lowrie knocks in the A’s winning run

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Oakland Athletics D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

The ups. The downs. The Game Thread here.

Let’s just get this out of the way. The Baltimore Orioles are not good. Three errors and six A’s runs later, and after the smoke cleared, it’s pretty evident that the big difference in the game tonight was, quite simply, defense. The A’s sparkled and shined in the field tonight, none brighter than the seventh inning, where every out made was a highlight, while the Orioles gave the A’s absolutely every chance to win (and almost despite themselves, the A’s did).

The Orioles are basically the Manny Machado show and nothing else. I’m not saying that the A’s pitching (save Sean Manaea) is anything to write home about, but I can’t imagine the excitement the Yankees and Red Sox will have at playing the Orioles 19 times this year. Basically the script reads, Don’t pitch to Machado. Pitch to everyone else.

Daniel Mengden took that a little too seriously; he could have been hitable today, but the only hit that stuck was a first inning home run by Adam Jones that gave the Orioles the short-lived 1-0 lead. I barely had time to bemoan the deficit before the A’s struck back hard.

Matt Joyce walked to lead off the A’s first inning and the first of the three Orioles errors put Marcus Semien on base as well. After Jed(i) Lowrie popped up (don’t worry, he would end the night with a 3-5 line and credited with the winning run), Khris Davis deposited a ball in center field for the A’s first three runs. Not to be outdone, Matt Olson went back-to-back, staking the A’s and Mengden to a 4-1 lead before the second inning.

The A’s would bring Khris Davis up again in the second, again with two on base (Semien walk, Lowrie single), and for a brief moment you really did wonder if he might collect 6 RBI in two innings. But he harmlessly struck out and all was quiet for the next four innings, save for a pretty great Piscotty catch in the third.

Daniel Mengden was pulled with 84 pitches and five innings complete. Good call. Replacing him with Yusmeiro Petit? That was the bad call. Petit’s night was a lesson in maximum damage in minimum time. He pitched a third of an inning that went like this: single, single, single (4-2), single (4-3), strikeout, single (4-4).

At this point, I was willing to have Jake Smolinski pitch. Melvin elected to replace Petit with Lou Trivino, who spun one of the biggest plays of the game; an inning-ending double-play to preserve the tie.

The A’s did their best to not score in the sixth, but Jed(i) would have none of it. Piscotty reached on an(other) Orioles error to lead off the inning, and Lucroy (who was 3-4 on the night with doubles!) doubled him to third. Do you think the A’s could score their runners from second and third with no one out? Hint: They could not. A short fly ball by Matt Joyce couldn’t get the run home and neither could an infield squib to second base by Semien; the runner was thrown out at home. But you know who could? It’s May the Fourth. Jed Lowrie could dump yet another hit into the field to score the go-ahead run and give the A’s the 5-4 lead.

The seventh inning was the best. With one out and a runner on second, Marcus Semien stopped a ball heading for the outfield and threw out the runner at first; the throw up the line, where Olson grabbed it in the webbing, and tagged the runner on the foot in the same motion, just before the runner got to first. It even held up under the subsequent replay. It was an amazing play.

[insert intentional Manny Machado walk here]

Not to be outdone, Matt Joyce made the third out with a leaping catch, diving against the wall, preserving the A’s slim lead, and ending the seventh inning.

Ryan Dull struck out the side in the eighth, in a dominant display of pitching. It was weird. From the moment he came in, I was reasonably sure the A’s would win this game, insurance run or no, Friday night or no. And the A’s did get the insurance run. Another Lucroy double in the eighth and a Semien single gave Blake Treinen all the room he would need. His one, two, three ninth inning gave the A’s the win, raised them to .500 and sent everyone home happy.

When you’re a .500 team aiming for a winning season (and let’s be honest, they have the offense and they don’t have the pitching), you beat teams like the Orioles. And the A’s did.

Let’s do it again tomorrow. 6:05, Trevor Cahill vs. Kevin Gausman.

Friday night win streak stands at 2. baseballgirl out. May the Fourth Be With You.