The Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants are slated to play six games this season, with a three-game set at each team’s park. The first half of that schedule is now complete, with the S.F. games done and the Oakland section coming next week after the All-Star break. Let’s look back at the best parts of this rivalry series so far, in no particular order.
1. The A’s won!
First and foremost, the most important thing is that the A’s came out on top by taking two out of the three games at AT&T. That’s not just crucial because of the rivalry, or the cool trophy that’s now at stake for the winner of the season series, but because Oakland is in an actual playoff hunt this summer. The A’s stand at 55-42, sixth-best record in MLB, only three games behind the Mariners for the second Wild Card and a real-life postseason berth. If you really wanna get cocky, they’re now only eight games back of both the first Wild Card (Yankees) as well as the AL West division lead (Astros).
Truth be told, Oakland had a chance to sweep this weekend. The first game’s final score of 7-1 belies how close it was for most of the evening, and with better fortune in the top of the 7th inning (down 2-1, bases loaded, no out) things could have gone differently. But they didn’t, and so we settle for “just” an awesome series win.
2. The Town takes over The City
Ever since arriving, A’s President Dave Kaval has made grand efforts to reinvigorate the Oakland fanbase. One way he’s done that is by amping up the local rivalry, from offering to swap a new A’s hat for your used Giants hat to charging increased parking fees at the Coliseum for Giants fans (unless they yell “Go A’s!” at the gate). Nothing harmful or insulting, just some good-natured fun.
The efforts continued on Friday, as the A’s blitzed AT&T Park from all directions to make their presence known. They came by air ...
... and they came by sea ...
It’s completely silly and pointless, but you know what else it is? Fun. I’ll take it.
3. Canha’s dinger and bat flip
The dinger itself turned a potential loss into yet another comeback win. The Giants already had one victory in hand and were cruising toward another, but one swing of the bat by Mark Canha shifted the momentum for the rest of the weekend.
And then there was the bat flip. We already covered it with a full post, but here’s the whole scene in case you missed it:
I don’t need a bat flip every day; they’re best when saved for special occasions. And on the Bautista Scale of severity, this one was rather mild — more of a mic drop, in the words of AN member Ratto’s Rambles, and about as polite and undisrespectful as a bat flip can be. He didn’t stare down the pitcher or the opposing dugout, just did his thing and enjoyed a celebration that he’d earned.
But the combination of this exciting moment, in this season, against that opponent, by this particular player, was just so perfect. I’m glad we got a bit of an exclamation point on top of it all.
4. Bleich’s MLB debut
The performance itself was abjectly terrible. Lefty reliever Jeremy Bleich entered in the 7th inning on Friday, trailing 2-1 with the bases loaded and no out. First he allowed a double to Steven Duggar to plate two of the runs, and then he pegged Brandon Belt to re-load the bases. And then he was pulled, in favor of what turned out to be Santiago Casilla’s last outing in green and gold.
All told, Bleich faced two batters, retired neither, allowed two inherited runners to score, later watched both of his runners score, and needed only four pitches to do all of it. His career ERA is currently infinity, which is even worse than Jim Johnson’s.
But the important part is that Bleich got here at all. He’s 31 years old, making him the fourth-oldest player to debut in MLB this season — two of the others are long-time Japanese veterans who just arrived from the NPB, and the third is former A’s farmhand Brandon Mann, now with the Rangers. Bleich was drafted all the way back in 2008 and spent a full decade bouncing around the minors, but now he finally gets to call himself a big leaguer. Hopefully he’ll get a chance to record an out before presumably heading back to Nashville at some point!
5. Lowrie is OK
The series got off to an ominous start, as All-Star Jed Lowrie left Friday’s game with an injury. While going after a fly ball in no-man’s land, he collided with teammate Stephen Piscotty in shallow right field and they both went tumbling.
Lowrie leaves the game after this 3rd inning collision with Piscotty. KD comes in at left field, Pinder to 2nd. pic.twitter.com/2Kw1hXLMRZ— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) July 14, 2018
The diagnosis came back as a bone bruise and a calf bruise, which was relatively good news since nightmarish visions of ankle sprains and knee tears danced through our heads. He was out of the lineup the next day but appeared as a pinch-hitter, and then he started Sunday’s finale and looked back to normal. This could have been much worse, especially considering Lowrie’s career has been defined by getting seriously injured on fluke plays like this one, but fortunately it was just a brief bump in the road and the A’s can continue to rely on their star second baseman.
6. Anderson hits!
I’m a full believer in the designated hitter, and I’d be just fine if pitchers stopped batting forever. But as long as they’re still doing it, it’ll be fun to see them get the occasional hit. Brett Anderson did so on Saturday, blooping a single down the left-field line in his first at-bat against Jeff Samardzija.
That was the eighth hit of his MLB career, raising his lifetime average up to .104 in 93 plate appearances. For the season, he technically leads the A’s with a .500 average and 1.000 OPS. The only other Oakland pitcher to get a hit so far this year is Daniel Mengden, who currently stands at 1-for-3. Anderson is not the best athlete in the league, so for him to be the one from the A’s staff who reached base is extra amusing.
Congrats to the A’s on a successful weekend in San Francisco! Here’s to another series full of positive memories next weekend in Oakland.