WE HAVE A FRIDAY NIGHT WIN! THIS IS NOT A DRILL!
And yes, it really was as magical as a Disney script. After struggling in his first four at-bats—and his first two strikes of his fifth—and barely a heartbeat after he threw out the Tigers’ potential go-ahead run at third in the top of the inning—Ramon Laureano, with two outs and two strikes, came through in the most dramatic of fashions with the game-winning single—the first in his major league career, to score the only run of the game to send the A’s home with the 1-0 victory.
Obviously the A’s pitching was incredible; including Brett Anderson’s 7 complete; the defense was spectacular behind him and the 6 bullpen innings, but nothing was sweeter than this extra inning victory for the rookie.
Normally on Friday nights, I would have the entire recap written by the seventh inning. For the entire month of July, I might as well have used a template: A’s lost to _____ tonight behind _____. The A’s only managed _ hits and _ run(s). I’m so glad everyone’s having fun watching the amazing games on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights. Nothing to see here; move along.
But tonight was different. For starters, how do you even set an early tone for a 0-0 recap? Where every play, every moment, every swing, every (rare) hit, every pitch even, is crucial to the game and each play swings the game to one side or the other? You don’t. You watch the game, in its entirety, you root for the A’s, you live and die with every pitch, you hold your breath every extra inning, and you cheer like crazy when they walk it off. And then you sit down and try to explain what you watched, even though your snappy two hour game suddenly took four hours. And somehow you know you could have waited six hours if it resulted in an A’s win on a summer Friday night.
To truly enjoy the end of this game, we have to take it back to the very beginning, where Brett Anderson started this game, and was magnificent from the outset; he took just 10 pitches to retire the Tigers in order in the first. And then he did it again in the second. The third. The fourth. And then, the fifth. Yes, believe it or not, Brett Anderson pitched a perfect five innings to open the game. He didn’t allow his first hit (a double) until one out in the sixth. Normally, this would be something to enjoy as an A’s fan, and we did, but the stakes were firmly raised at the grown-up poker table when you realized that on the other side of the diamond, the A’s didn’t have a hit either. Through six full innings, Blaine Hardy held the A’s hitless; allowing two walks to Matt Olson and nothing else. Helped by the heavy marine layer rendering the bats (mostly the A’s) at warning-track power, or maybe just mired in a good old-fashioned pitchers’ duel, neither offense could get off the deck.
The closest the A’s came to a run was a reviewed foul ball which just curved foul at the top of the pole off the bat of Matt Olson, right before he worked a great at-bat into a walk in the second. He walked again to lead off the fifth, and never moved from first.
Quite without exaggeration, it took until the seventh inning for this game to even show a spark of offense. The Tigers put their first two runners on against Anderson via a single and a walk, but Anderson induced the pitcher’s best friend; a 5-4-3 double play for two big outs, and would get the third on a ground out to complete his seven full innings; the longest a starting pitcher has stayed in an A’s game in a long time. Meanwhile, in their half of the seventh, Jed Lowrie meekly beat out an infield hit for the A’s first. And then was erased on a double-play by Olson.
Jeurys Familia pitched the eighth, allowing a single and no more, and the A’s finally knocked Hardy out of the game to start their eighth. A promising lead-off double by Piscotty opened the inning, but Mark Canha’s inexplicable Home Run Derby swings in multiple at-bats tonight led to the all-important strikeout, which obviously didn’t move the runner, which means the run didn’t score on the subsequent fly ball, which means the A’s didn’t have the lead when Blake Treinen came in to pitch the ninth.
He allowed a single and a stolen base, but helped himself with a little PFP, and escaped out of the ninth with enough pitches left to pitch the tenth, as well. The A’s had a chance to win it in the ninth, with one out singles from Chapman and Lowrie, but Davis’ double-play ended the regulation game and sent us into bonus baseball. Like his previous inning, Treinen allowed a single and a stolen base; this time the bag was swiped on a called strike three; which for all the world looked like a make-up call from the real strike three on the previous pitch. Nearly all of the balls and strikes calls went the A’s way tonight.
With two outs and a runner on second, Iglesias hit a screaming, sinking line drive to right field, and Piscotty decided in that moment to go for it all; if the ball drops, the Tigers take the lead, so in an all or nothing, do or die effort, he made a fantastic diving catch to save the inning, possibly the game, and fire up Blake Treinen, who exhorted his team to walk it off. However, he would have to wait a few more innings.
Much like the previous two innings, the A’s had a promising start to the tenth, as Matt Olson, who had as good of a game as one can in a scoreless contest, doubled to right field to put a runner at second with no one out. He was replaced by Franklin Barreto as a pinch-runner, and without bringing negativity to my amazing game, that did not go well. Literally on the next pitch, as Piscotty grounded to short, Barreto was thrown out at third base trying to advance. Let’s hope he, his hands, and his helmet are all okay as he smashed everything on his way back to the dugout as Mark Canha’s double-play ended the inning.
On to the eleventh we go! From the revolving carrousel of bullpen arms we call for the next one in line; Yusmeiro Petit. Barreto exits stage left in favor of Shaken Not Stirred. He would become important later. Like every single pitcher the A’s put on the mound tonight, Petit looked sharp, crisp and awesome for the eleventh, setting down the Tigers in order with minimal drama. Unfortunately, the A’s followed suit.
Onward to the twelfth! Another perfect Petit inning, this time with two strikeouts instead of one. Meanwhile, the A’s drew someone called Buck Farmer and they couldn’t hit him either.
To the thirteenth! The new pitcher is Emilio Pagan.
To really understand the fun of this inning, you have to walk back Laureano’s first major league start; from the first moments of his debut today. He made a nice play early in the game by running down and catching a deep fly ball before crashing into the wall, and in his first plate appearance, a routine ground ball to shortstop, he came just a couple of steps away from beating it out. If Iglesias did anything other than scoop and throw, Laureano’s safe. He can run. His first at-bat, he was in the hole 0-2, his second he struck out after going down 0-2, he grounded out in the eighth, and struck out again in the eleventh. He also didn’t take charge of center field in the thirteenth and let what should have been the third out drop just shy of Lowrie’s outstretched glove, far into the outfield. But, as they say, baseball, like life, turns on a dime; as does the instant switch from zero to hero. And he turned both his defense and his offense around in the same inning; he will always remember the thirteenth inning of that Friday night game, when the magic happened.
The Tigers tried again for the steal of second, and Lucroy threw the ball into the outfield, rolling toward Laureano and a second chance. A routine catch to end the inning would have been one thing, but you know what was better? Laureano uncorking a perfect, zippy, 92 mile an hour throw straight into Chapman’s glove to nail the would-be-go-ahead-run at third, a play that would hold up even under the pressure-filled replay. And that’s how the inning ended for the Tigers and the rookie, with the underlying confidence of “I belong here”.
And with that, as baseball does, the A’s could finally win the game. Martini walked to open the inning and on the next two pitches, both Piscotty and Canha flew out. Lucroy singled to move Martini to second, bringing up Laureano. Whom Bob Melvin kept in the entire game, even in a playoff race. Even in a 0-0 game. Even with earlier pinch-hitters available. This was always going to be his game and it was only ending one way. With a smoked ball past the right fielder; the A’s needed only one run to score to win. And just like that, in the blink of an eye, shirts were torn off, pie was thrown, Gatorade was dumped, hugs were doled out, the sweet, sweet strains of Celebration began to echo into the summer night as the A’s win again. And this time, I got my Friday night victory and it was awesome.
19 games over .500.
1.5 games over Seattle, who lost again.
4.5 games behind New York, who also lost
5.0 games behind Houston, who won; thanks a heap, Dodgers.
We do it again tomorrow night, 6:05PM, Edwin Jackson vs. Jordan Zimmermann. Let’s win the series. If it’s a dream, don’t wake me up.
CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES, C’MON!