From the first pitch of Sunday afternoon’s series finale between the Oakland Athletics and the Los Angeles Angels, it appeared as if this wasn’t going to be a breeze for the A’s and starter Jarrod Parker. He walked both J.B. Shuck and Erick Aybar to open the game, setting up the Angels for a big first inning. At one point Parker was within a strike of emerging from the inning unscathed, but an RBI single from Howie Kendrick opened the floodgates. Four runs later, the A’s got their chance to return fire. They were shooting blanks. The Angels tacked on another run in the 2nd inning and looked to be well on their way to cruising to victory, and splitting the 4-game set.
Parker on the other hand looked destined for an early shower, as he had allowed 5 hits, 4 walks, and 5 ER through his first two innings. The bullpen had become active during the 4-run first inning, and looked to be called upon sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, Tommy Hanson was fixing to put his outing on cruise control with the big lead, and did so through the first two innings. In the bottom of the 3rd though, things started to change. A lead off walk, and an RBI double off the bat of Eric Sogard got the A’s their start. The game was 5-1 now, but a huge weight had been lifted from the shoulders of the Athletics. Then a big two-run double from what shouldn’t be, but was an unlikely source. Yoenis Cespedes, who has been struggling as badly as anyone has ever seen from him finally delivered when the team needed him.
A few well placed hits, and some defensive hiccups from the Angels allowed the A’s to get back into the game, tie it at 5, and ultimately win the game by a score of 10-6. The victory, led by 3 hits and 4 RBI from Yoenis Cespedes was exactly the kind of victory the Athletics needed. For weeks now the offense has sputtered, and has been itching for a game like this one. For Cespedes, he has been searching all year for the quick, powerful, consistent swing that made him a star in his rookie campaign in 2012. Today, he may have found it. He told Susan Slusser after the game that after his first at bat “I started to feel comfortable at the plate.” That is an amazing sentence to hear from Cespedes (technically heard from Ariel Prieto interpreting), because for most of the season he has looked far from comfortable. If he thinks this day, where he made solid contact to all fields and got positive results, will be the start of a big turnaround for his season, then I will believe him. He knows himself more than anyone, and if he’s feeling good then we all should feel good.
Not to be overshadowed in this game is the contributions of Eric Sogard. I have been perhaps one of his biggest critics throughout the course of this season, and while I don’t think I was ever wrong about him in the past, he has turned his fortunes around in a big way and has done the things I wish to see from a starter on a team like this. He is driving the ball now, and getting extra base hits. He’s always had the dependable defense, and if the bat catches up then the A’s have much less reason to pursue help from outside the organization.
While I prefer the A’s don’t make a habit of creating 5 run deficits just so they can make big comebacks, a win like this demonstrated what this team is really made of. Jarrod Parker had nothing, but helped the team by battling through 5 innings to preserve the bullpen. In return the offense picked him up by coming back to get him off the hook, and then decided to finish off the job an win the game as well. Their reward is now a 6 game lead in the AL West, and an Angels team who’s season is on life support. The team functions as a unit, not as a collection of individuals. That’s why I think this team is built to make a run to and through October.