It’s safe to say that anyone who predicted that a 3 game series between the Oakland Athletics and the Baltimore Orioles in mid-September would be huge would have probably been laughed out of the room. But alas that is what we have on our hands here. In front of a packed O.co Coliseum (combination of Star Wars fireworks night and this huge series) the A’s found answers for everything the Orioles tried and took game 1 of this series by a score of 3-2. Tommy Milone was effective, but he was not particularly sharp. He endured baserunners all over the place over his 6.1 innings of work, but managed to snuff out rallies by the Orioles by inducing 3 double plays, and having 1 more by Pat Neshek to clean out any potential inherited runners who might score and be charged to Milone. Overall, in collecting his 13th win, most ever by an Oakland rookie, Milone pitched 6.1 innings, allowed 6 hits, 2 runs (1 ER), walked 2, and struck out 2. Not the dominant Milone we’ve seen at times in Oakland, but certainly adequate.
The A’s offense didn’t do particularly well against Orioles starter Joe Saunders, who the A’s know very well from his days as an Angel. Through the first 3 innings the A’s only had a single baserunner, and didn’t seem to show any signs of starting a rally. In the bottom of the 4th though Jonny Gomes led off with a single up the middle, and after Josh Reddick struck out, Yoenis Cespedes hit a laser beam worthy of Star Wars onto the steps in left field for a 2 run home run to give the A’s a 2-1 lead at the time. The only other run the A’s would score would come on an RBI single off the bat of Jonny Gomes in the bottom of the 5th to retake the lead following Chris Davis‘ game tying homer in the top of the inning. The A’s would never relinquish the lead from that point forward.
Grant Balfour closed out the 9th inning with little incident, but the A’s did dramatically and emphatically end the game as Derek Norris gunned down would be stealer Xavier Avery at 2nd base for the final out.
Tonight’s game was special for many reasons, the sheer importance of the game taking place, and the atmosphere in which it was contested. In watching this game from the right field bleachers, it was immediately obvious that this game had a different feel. It feels like the playoffs have already started, and in many ways that is true as the A’s battle for a spot in the postseason. There are precious few regular season games left at the O.co this year, and hopefully more people choose to attend those games because it will provide an atmosphere like no other.
Prior to today’s game myself and Kevin Mendez were able to take part in a special A’s Blog Day, we were given a peek at some of the day to day activities in the Coliseum before the fans are even allowed. We were able to talk to Bob Melvin, a couple A’s players, and a very special surprise guest as well. Kevin and I will detail our experiences in the coming days so be on the lookout for that.
Till then, the A’s take on the O’s once again tomorrow evening, Jarrod Parker (10-8, 3.56 ERA) will take on the lefty Zach Britton (5-2, 4.72 ERA) as the A’s look to guarantee themselves yet another big series victory. As they prepare to head out on a massive road trip on Monday, the A’s have a chance to make one last statement, a victory tomorrow would go a long way toward making that happen.