Sometimes it’s hard not to wonder whether this is actually happening.
I mean, can you imagine if during this past off-season, someone told you that on the 21st of August, Brett Anderson would be pitching for the A’s, not soaking up innings, but throwing like an AL pitcher of the month, the A’s would win their 76th game of the season, have a share of the AL West lead, and that our starting outfield would be made up of Stephen Piscotty, a player we received in exchange for Brandon Bailey, and another that we signed as a minor league free agent. Oh yeah, and on top of all that, we’ll also have among the best bullpens and defenses in baseball. I’d posit that even the most ardent and fanatical of optimists would have chuckled.
But here we are.
The A’s played another impossibly solid game en route to victory Tuesday night. Pitching. Defense. Situational hitting. Base running. Home runs — heck, opposite field home runs. It was all there.
The A’s offense started early, scoring a run in the first inning when Nick Martini came around on a Jed Lowrie RBI single. And while the bats didn’t push another across until the fifth, they well could have. It’s an odd line for Rangers’ starter Ariel Jurado - 5.2 IP, 10 H, 4 ER, 1 K. The lack of strikeouts shows how tight a rope Jurado was walking, but the A’s still came to bat in the sixth with just two runs on the board.
Even the run in the fifth inning nearly didn’t happen. Jurado retired the first two batters before allowing a double, a walk, and finally an RBI single. One could certainly make the argument that Jeff Bannister stuck with his starter an inning too long, but in any event, after a couple jabs, the A’s finally landed a pair of right hooks in the sixth and seventh.
The sixth and seventh innings were indeed quite different, despite both resulting in a pair of Oakland runs. Both innings can almost be seen as individual microcosms of why the A’s are where they are.
In the sixth, the A’s played good old fashioned baseball. After the first batter of the inning was retired, Marcus Semien hit a line drive into medium left-center. It was always going to be a hit, but Semien wanted more, and was clearly thinking about a double as he jolted out of the batter’s box. His hustle was rewarded, both individually and for the team.
The next batter, that guy we got for Brandon Bailey, Ramon Laureano, hit line drive single to Shin Soo Choo. But it was hit too hard, and forced Semien to stay at third. With first and third, and the A’s backup catcher at the plate, Laureano sensed a double play on the horizon and promptly stole second. Laureano’s foresight allowed Josh Phegley to contribute with a productive out, an RBI 5-3 that surely would have been a 5-4-3 otherwise. And that minor league free agent we signed before the season, Nick Martini, capped the scoring with a clutch two-out single.
Whether you want to call that sixth inning an example of the A’s playing traditional baseball or simply playing the game properly, the seventh was a clear example of Oakland’s mastery of the modern game. Jed Lowrie worked a leadoff walk, allowing Khris Davis to do this.
This blend of the traditional and modern was evidenced on the other side of the game too. Brett Anderson turned in just another fantastic start, going seven innings, striking out six, and allowing just one hit, one walk, and zero runs. After Anderson’s 93 pitches of work, Jeurys Familia worked out of a jam in the eighth inning, striking out one and getting the ever-dangerous Joey Gallo to fly out with two on to end the inning. And Lou Trivino pitched a clean ninth to complete the victory.
This was a nearly flawless performance. It’s baseball, and thus one can always find things to pick on, but other than Josh Phegley’s passed ball that didn’t actually lead to anything, I’m grasping at straws.
It’s a quick turnaround — the green and gold are back on the diamond at 12:35 tomorrow for the series finale. But with the way the A’s are playing, I doubt first pitch can come fast enough.