There are just so many things going the A’s way these days it’s hard to keep track of them. But the biggest catalyst to the A’s recent success has to be the newfoudn ability to hit home runs. As Yoenis Cespedes displayed with his 14th dinger of the season in the top of the 4th inning, the A’s feature some serious power threats right now. More on Cespedes later. Chris Carter supplied the other power display for Oakland, and if anyone still has doubts about his ability to hit a the Major League level they have to be strongly biased against him.
An innefficient yet effective start from Bartolo Colon was able to keep the Orioles off the board for 5.2 innings tonight. He worked in and out of trouble the whole time he was on the bump, but managed to wriggle out of trouble when he needed to. Jordan Norberto did an admirable job of eating up half the remaining outs needed to seal the victory, and Evan Scribner finished off the game although he did allow his first run of the season on Nick Markakis’ 9th inning solo home run that spoiled the shutout.
All in all this was a pretty drama free game as the A’s took control of the game and didn’t let up for one moment. But the play of Yoenis Cespedes really stood out today, not only did he hit a tape measure line drive homerun (which seems impossible, but not with him), he showed off his speed with an RBI triple and made a pretty amazing running catch in left center field to end the 8th inning. The man can do it all, as much of an example of a 5 tool player as you’ll find. With his strong play of late he has pushed his season numbers through the roof, his OPS now stands at a very impressive .902. We are very fortunate to see this blossoming star, and the best is definitely yet to come for Yoenis.
Coco Crisp was pulled from the game unexpectedly before the bottom of the 8th inning, which set the A’s fans into a speculative frenzy that some deal had been reached and Coco was being shipped out mid-game. But it turned out it was simply a tight hamstring. But as the trade deadline looms the anticipation of deals to be made leads to all kinds of rumors being started. The A’s did make a deal today though, acquiring recently DFA’d catcher George Kottaras from the Milwaukee Brewers who was the odd man out when they activated Jonathan Lucroy from the DL. And as Susan Slusser reported tonight, the player heading to Milwaukee will be reliever Fautino De Los Santos. FDLS has struggled desperately with his command, and has brought those struggles to Sacramento to the tune of a 7.25 ERA there. It seems like a little bit of a steep price for what seems like a backup catcher, but perhaps Billy Beane is just executing part of a bigger plan. At this point it seems hard to envision the A’s doing a whole lot between now and the deadline. They’ve cooled on Yunel Escobar, and the pricetag on Chase Headley may be too steep, and just about every other option is so marginal it may not be worth the trouble.
The big news coming from today has to be the fact that with the Rangers loss to the White Sox, and the Angels loss to the Rays the Oakland Athletics are in sole posession of 2nd place in the AL West by 1/2 game and are just 3 1/2 games behind the Texas Rangers. They have made up tremendous ground in a very short amount of time as the two AL West powerhouses have stumbled. The A’s are so close that they have to keep this roll going and do the impossible by catching the Rangers. In insignificant but at the same time extremely important news, their record of 55-45 puts them dead even with the San Francisco Giants who gave the Dodgers “some extra batting practice” as one local LA affiliate put it (on a mini vacation in SoCal) in their 10-0 loss to the boys in blue. It means absolutely nothing as far as playoff hopes or anything, but the amount of abuse that is dealt the A’s fans way makes it sure nice to have a rebuttal like that. The last time the A’s had a record this good was in 2006, and they went to the ALCS (but we won’t talk about how that went).
The A’s go for the sweep in Baltimore tomorrow as Travis Blackely (3-2, 2.69 ERA) seeks his 4th win in 2012 against Wei-Yin Chen (8-6, 2.82 ERA) who is quietly putting together a very solid season in his first year in MLB for the O’s. The A’s will bring back their lefty pitcher lineup, so that will likely mean Jonny Gomes and Brandon Hicks will be in there. They’ve made pitchers pay for their mistakes, and they must do the same tomorrow to put the Orioles hopes of a playoff berth in doubt and to boost their own aspirations.