Tonight’s game was a game the Oakland Athletics had absolutely no business winning, but either by sheer magic or by sheer Minnesota Twins ineptitude they did exactly that. Francisco Liriano held the A’s scoreless for 8 innings, struck out an astounding 15 batters in the process, that is if you don’t count the critical mistake he made to Jonny Gomes that the Pride of Casa Grande High School in Petaluma took deep for a grand slam. That one mistake was enough to tag Liriano with a loss, and in a time when the A’s are finding ways to win games rather than finding ways to lose them, this was the prime example of that phenomenon.
TURNING POINT: The A’s had been dominated for the first 3 innings by Francisco Liriano, he was on a feverish strikeout pace. Many A’s fans had visions of Kerry Wood v. the Houston Astros, which incase you were wondering is a very very bad thing. But the top of the 4th inning started differently. Jemile Weeks singled, and in an effort to keep the trend going Josh Reddick struck out, but then Yoenis Cespedes reached on an ultimately costly error by Denard Span, and after a Chris Carter walk Jonny Gomes strode to the dish. Gomes crushed a “get me over” fastball, the first pitch he saw and put the A’s ahead for good. Josh Willingham couldn’t hit enough home runs to make up for it.
ON THE HILL: Lost in the furor over Jonny Gomes salami was the fact that AJ Griffin earned his 1st big league victory in what was his least effective start so far. That’s not to say Griffin pitched poorly, but he allowed 3 ER in his 6 innings of work thanks to a couple of long balls by former A and now A’s killer Josh Willingham. Griffin scattered 8 hits and a walk, and struck out 5 Twins. Sean Doolittle relieved Griffin and pitched fairly well allowing a hit and a walk in 1.2 innings with 2 strikeouts, he got himself into a bit of trouble in the bottom of the 8th inning, but Grant Balfour was there to save the day… sort of. Balfour faced one batter tonight and he got Trevor Plouffe to line out to a well placed Jemile Weeks to end the threat with runners on 2nd and 3rd. Ryan Cook notched his 9th save of the season with a clean, 2 strikeout inning, just as he did in Tuesday’s All Star Game.
AT THE PLATE: If strikeouts were hits, the A’s would’ve had a hit parade tonight. But rather they wore out a path from the plate back to the dugout as many of them took the walk of shame after failing to make contact. Jonny Gomes though has to be feeling good, accounting for the bulk of the offense with the grand slam as well as an RBI single in the 9th inning for insurance. Jemile Weeks and Yoenis Cespedes also had 2 hits a piece. Brandon Hicks wore the dreaded golden sombrero in his 0-4 night, Coco Crisp had the ol’ hat trick in his 0-4 night, and Josh Reddick, Derek Norris, and Brandon Inge each had a pair of K’s. All told it wasn’t a pretty box score for the A’s lineup, but sometimes you can win anyway.
FINAL THOUGHTS: The A’s started off the 2nd half in the same fashion they concluded the 1st, with a victory. They have to feel good winning tonight’s game when they really didn’t have any reason to, but that just speaks to the character of this team. The A’s now find themselves just 1.5 games behind Baltimore and Cleveland who are tied for the 2nd wild card spot in the AL. I know most experts are proclaiming the A’s to be pretenders, destined to fade away in the pennant race, but the A’s don’t care what those people say about them. Many A’s fans heard on with Rick Tittle during the post game show were predicting the A’s were going to ride this wave all the way to a World Series championship, while obviously that would be incredible I’m not holding my breath. It’s undeniable the A’s have a good thing going right now, and I think they’ll ride that wave as far as it will take them. Tommy Milone (8-6, 3.57 ERA) takes on Cole De Vries (2-1, 3.00 ERA) as the A’s try to take this series against the Twins tomorrow night. Let’s hope the A’s have a little better hand-eye coordination against the young righty.
Topics: AJ Griffin, Brandon Hicks, Brandon Inge, Chris Carter, Coco Crisp, Cole De Vries, Denard Span, Derek Norris, Francisco Liriano, Grant Balfour, Jemile Weeks, Jonny Gomes, Josh Reddick, Josh Willingham, Kerry Wood, Oakland Athletics, Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle, Tommy Milone, Yoenis Cespedes