August 17, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Grant Balfour (50) high fives catcher Derek Norris (36) after the win against the Cleveland Indians at O.co Coliseum. The Oakland Athletics defeated the Cleveland Indians 6-4. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

A’s, Balfour Bend But Don’t Break Vs. Rays


Tonight’s duel with the Tampa Bay Rays had all the makings of a seesaw battle that would not be totally settled until the very final out was recorded, and that is exactly what it turned out to be.  Jarrod Parker and Matt Moore stood toe to toe as two of the game’s best young hurlers and sought to outdo one another.  Neither of them were particularly dominant, but not necessarily inneffective either.  The Rays got on the board first when Ben Zobrist led off the bottom of the 2nd inning with a solo home run against Parker.  After being shut out by Alex Cobb Thursday night, the A’s confidence at the plate may have been shaken a little bit, and they could ill afford to fall too far behind the Rays.

TURNING POINT:  The A’s showed a little bit of fight in the top of the 4th inning when with 1 out Yoenis Cespedes tripled and was driven in by the hot hitting Josh Donaldson.  The A’s added another run on an RBI single by Brandon Moss to give them a 2-1 lead.  The Rays would answer back with a run of their own in the bottom of the inning on a Jeff Keppinger sac fly, and the table was set for a mini slugfest in Tampa.  The final score ended up being 5-4 in the A’s favor, but it seemed much more dramatic than the score would indicate.

ON THE HILL:  Jarrod Parker scattered 7 hits and 2 walks over his 6 innings of work, he did allow 3 ER, but he also struck out 7.  He wasn’t at his best, but not his worst either.  Ryan Cook pitched a dominant 1.2 innings without giving up a hit, walking just 1, and striking out 4 to get the win.  Sean Doolittle struck out the only batter he faced to finish the 8th inning.  Grant Balfour got himself into a bit of trouble in the 9th inning as he attempted to save it, a walk to Ryan Roberts and an RBI double by pinch hitter Luke Scott put the Rays within 1 run with a runner at 2nd and nobody out, he retired the next 3 batters on ground balls to escape the jam and seal the victory.

AT THE PLATE:  Matt Moore was definitely hittable tonight and just about everyone in the lineup took advantage.  Jonny Gomes led the way with his huge 2 run homer in the 8th inning against his original team, no doubt he has to be feeling good with the success his hometown Petaluma Little League team is having (They play in the US Finals tomorrow).  Josh Donaldson collected 2 more hits with a run and an RBI.  Stephen Drew, Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss, and Adam Rosales each went 1-4 tonight, and Chris Carter was 1-3 with a walk.  Only Coco Crisp failed to reach base tonight.

FINAL THOUGHTS:  At this point the A’s simply need to keep winning games at all costs, this race appears as if it will be a huge dogfight down to the bitter end for the 2 precious wild card spots.  They are currently tied with the Baltimore Orioles for the 2nd wild card spot, and they both trail the Rays by 1.5 games for the top wild card spot.  The A’s will have to maneuver around the rotation spot once occupied by Bartolo Colon one more time next week before Dan Straily is eligible to be recalled from Sacramento, odds are Travis Blackley will get the nod.  The A’s and Rays have a bizarre Saturday getaway day tomorrow morning as the Republican Convention moves into town Sunday.  The A’s will send out Brandon McCarthy(6-5, 3.16 ERA) against the youngster Jeremy Hellickson (8-8, 3.28 ERA) in the rubber match of this series, the A’s can pull within a 1/2 game of the Rays with a victory, and will look to gain some ground on the Rangers in the AL West as well.

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