Without a doubt, this was a game that the A’s seemed destined to lose. After bursting out to a 6-1 lead against Tim Lincecum, the A’s appeared poised to put this game in cruise control and take their third straight win against the Giants without much incident. But that would not happen, the A’s would hang on to win 9-6. Here’s how we got there.
Tim Lincecum was very shaky from the get-go, and the Athletics capitalized in the top of the first inning. Coco Crisp led off the game with a walk and was moved into scoring position by Jed Lowrie, then Yoenis Cespedes rocketed a ball over Gregor Blanco‘s head in center field for an RBI triple. The first of 3 errors by the Giants, this one by Marco Scutaro on a pop-up by Josh Donaldson would allow Cespedes to score the second run. A’s starter Tommy Milone would have an uneventful bottom of the first, but would allow Hunter Pence‘s second home run in as many days to cut the lead in half. The game would settle down a bit for the next couple innings, as both teams traded NL strategic moves by walking the number 8 hitter and retiring the pitcher to end the threat.
The A’s would put a crooked number on the board again in the 5th inning against Lincecum after Jed Lowrie doubled in Coco Crisp, and John Jaso singled in Lowrie. Lincecum would depart at this point, and the struggling Brandon Moss was lifted for Nate Freiman to face the sidewinding lefty Javier Lopez. Freiman would come through big time with a two run single to give the A’s the aforementioned 6-1 cushion. Then things began to get a little weird.
Tommy Milone wasn’t particularly sharp again, and was susceptible to the long ball. Brett Pill led off the 6th inning with a home run, and a couple singles would follow that ended Milone’s night. He allowed 4 ER in 5+ innings of work on 8 hits and 3 walks with 3 strikeouts. Two of those runs would score after Milone was in the dugout, but it was the 4th run of the night that really sent the Athletics fans into a frenzy. On a groundball down the line by Andres Torres that hooked into the bullpen area down the line, a fan reached out to attempt to grab the fair ball and made contact with the ball. Ordinarily this would result in a ground rule double and the runner at first, Gregor Blanco in this case, would have to remain at third base. The umpires thought otherwise and awarded Blanco the extra base in order to score. Torres went back to second base after reaching third, unaware of the ruling he apparently did this voluntarily. Bob Melvin vehemently argued the call to no avail, Chip Hale was ejected from the game. The Giants had been gifted a run and were now within two of the Athletics.
The A’s are no stranger to mind blowing umpiring miscues, and this one rivals the Angel Hernandez fiasco in Cleveland on Adam Rosales‘ home run that wasn’t. At the time, the Athletics had to have been considering playing the rest of the game under protest, or at least should have been according to me. But alas, it was not. A huge double play off the bat of Pablo Sandoval would mercifully end the inning. The umpires would rear their ugly heads once again on the first at bat of the next inning when Josh Donaldson clearly beat out an infield single. The umpire hesitated in making the call, assumedly so he could come up with a guess on the call, and declared Donaldson to be out.
Donaldson would make a spectacular diving catch on a Buster Posey line drive in the following half inning, and appeared to look in the direction of third base umpire Gerry Davis (Donaldson would say in post game interviews seen on CSN California that the look was directed at the fans who had been ragging him all night, but either way). Pat Neshek, who was on the mound for that play would also retire Hunter Pence before being replaced by Sean Doolittle after walking Brett Pill. Doolittle would finish the inning and work into the 8th.
The A’s would add a run in the top of the 8th to make it 7-4 on a sacrifice fly by Coco Crisp to drive in Eric Sogard who had led off the inning with a double. Doolittle would get into trouble in the bottom half of the inning when Marco Scutaro would drive in Gregor Blanco with an RBI double that Yoenis Cespedes seemed like he would catch, and Pablo Sandoval would add an RBI single to pull the Giants to within 1 run at 7-6. These were the first runs Doolittle had allowed since April 28. His ERA went from 0.78 to 1.48 with the 2 ER allowed in 1.1 innings of work. He clearly wasn’t at his best, but there’s no reason to panic about one bad outing.
The A’s would add 2 massive insurance runs in the top of the 9th when Josh Donaldson would single to left with Seth Smith at first base, left fielder Andres Torres would stumble as he attempted to field the ball and it would get by him and roll all the way to the wall allowing Smith to score from first. Big Nate Freiman would drive in Donaldson with his 2nd hit and 3rd RBI of the night to make it 9-6.
Grant Balfour worked the 9th inning, he allowed a lead off infield single to Hunter Pence, but erased it with a double play, and ended the game with a routine fly ball to right field. This was Balfour’s 12th save of the season, and 30th consecutive dating back to last season.
The impact of a win like this cannot be fully comprehended at this very moment. The Giants often play the role of the “team of destiny” when weird things begin to happen that break their way (See Hunter Pence’s broken bat RBI single in the NLCS when the ball was struck 3 times by the bat), and this game had destiny written all over it. The Athletics though are playing at such a high level right now that they were able to withstand the Giants momentum and emerge victorious. This win ensures the A’s a season series victory for the first time since 2008, and gives them a chance to sweep the 4 game home and home series tomorrow afternoon. This also puts them back at their high watermark for 2013, 8 games over .500 with a record of 31-23 that matches the 12-4 mark they jumped out to early in the season. Hopefully this time they can continue to build on that and stay well above .500 and beyond for the season.
A.J. Griffin (5-3, 3.84 ERA) will try to guide the A’s to the sweep against former Athletic Barry Zito (3-3, 4.13 ERA) at 12:45 tomorrow afternoon. The Giants felt momentum tonight, but the Athletics suppressed it to emerge victorious, a win tomorrow could propel the A’s to new heights in 2013.