Do we have your attention now? The Oakland Athletics have swept the New York Yankees right out of Oakland, just like we all wanted them to, but nobody really expected them to. Except for the A’s themselves. At the beginning of this week I wrote that the upcoming week of games against the best teams in baseball were going to be critical, that they were indeed the most important games since the 2006 ALCS. It has been the habit of this team to come up very small in very big situations, the few they have had, over the last few years. This time was so different in so many ways. Instead of the typical dread A’s fans would watch games with, waiting for the critical error to cost the team the game, the fans can now watch the games waiting for that slight opening so the team can snatch away the victory.
Today’s game looked to be one of those games where the Yankees put up a crooked number off the bat of Alex Rodriguez, and the Yankees were poised to cruise to a series salvaging victory. In the grand scheme of things I would have been quite satisfied with taking 3 out of 4 from the Yankees, and going 4-2 on this home stand. But with a historic 4 game sweep of the Yankees in our sights, it was clear that 3 of 4 just wasn’t going to cut it. When Brandon Inge went deep in the 5th inning, there was a glimmer of hope, but when Kurt Suzuki went deep for the 1st time in 2012 it was clear that this wasn’t going to end well for the Bronx Bombers. An RBI groundout cut the lead to 4-3, setting up the dramatic and incredibly clutch solo home run from Seth Smith in the bottom of the 9th inning against Rafael Soriano. Soriano has been a very effective replacement closer in the absence of Mariano Rivera, so the fact that he blew the save and was denied the chance to untuck his shirt after sealing a win is pretty remarkable. That untuck thing is really bush league by the way if you ask me, especially for a Yankee. But I digress.
The exceptional work by the A’s bullpen, specifically Jordan Norberto and Jerry Blevins made this win possible. Over a total of 5.1 innings they only allowed 5 base runners on 3 hits and 2 walks. That was more than enough to cover for Bartolo Colon’s relatively shaky outing where he allowed 4 ER in 6.2 innings of work. As the game progressed to the 12th inning, the A’s were determined to finish this thing off. Derek Norris snapped his 30 AB hitless streak with a 1 out single, he was moved into scoring position by Jemile Weeks as the A’s looked to take a shot for the win with Coco Crisp at the dish. Coco wasted no time whatsoever, slapping the first Cody Eppley pitch into right field to drive Norris home and send the O.co Coliseum into pure delirium.
The A’s are in a very interesting position now, they have a share of the 2nd wildcard spot alongside the Baltimore Orioles, they are just 1/2 game behind the Los Angeles Angels for the 1st wildcard spot and for 2nd place in the AL West as well. But most importantly, they are now just 5.5 games behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West. It seems crazy to even conceive of the A’s catching the Rangers, but they do have 7 games remaining with them over the final week and a half of the season. At this point it would be foolish to rule the A’s out of anything happening this season. It’s hard not to get really excited about what the next 2 months will hold. Many A’s fans probably feel as if this is all too good to be true, and the downfall of this team is just over the horizon. But my advice to everyone is to enjoy every single game you can, this is why we all love baseball and love this team. It might have been a cheesy marketing campaign of MLB a few years back, but we truly do live for this. Sit back and enjoy the drama as it unfolds. The A’s and Blue Jays lock up Tuesday night as Travis Blackley (2-2, 2.86 ERA) and Brett Cecil (2-2, 6.34 ERA) take the mound at 4:05 PM PST from Toronto. I for one, can’t wait to see what’s next.