Monday night’s series opener between the Oakland Athletics and the Los Angeles Angels was anything but pretty. Quite frankly it was a bloodbath. The Angels stopped the Athletics’ momentum, and their five game winning streak in harsh and decisive fashion with a 12-1 drubbing. So, the Athletics were in need of a short memory tonight as they took on the Angels once again.
Sonny Gray, pushed back a day by the illness that had befallen Jarrod Parker and thus moved his start to Monday, was taking the hill against another talented young right hander in Garrett Richards for the Angels. After launching a home run against Pedro Figueroa on Monday that closely resembled a Yoenis Cespedes batting practice session, Mike Trout connected for a second straight night against Gray. This shot was undoubtedly impressive as well, though not anywhere near the bomb he launched against Figueroa. For many young starters, a tape measure home run in the first inning might rattle their cage a bit, but Gray was unfazed and would limit the damage to that one mistake. The A’s would answer back in the bottom of the inning as a Brandon Moss ground rule double drove in Coco Crisp to knot the game at one.
Neither team would be able to convert on a number of chances from both sides throughout the course of the game as Gray and Richards traded zeroes on the board. Each team reached double digits in runners left on base. Gray managed to work through six innings, thanks in large part to a five pitch 5th inning. That inning featured a highlight reel diving catch by Josh Reddick off the bat of Mark Trumbo, had he not made that play there would have been a strong chance Gray wouldn’t have gotten the chance to pitch the 6th. Gray allowed 5 hits, 1 ER, 1 BB, and struck out 5 in his outing today.
Ryan Cook came on to work the 7th inning, having struggled badly of late, and appeared poised to post a solid inning before he completely lost his command with two outs. A single by J.B. Shuck, and two hit batters against Howie Kendrick and Mike Trout loaded the bases and compelled Bob Melvin to call upon Jerry Blevins to face Josh Hamilton. Hamilton had only one hit in ten at bats versus Blevins with six K’s, so the matchup made total sense. Jerry came through in a huge way, notching his seventh strikeout against Hamilton to end the inning and the threat. Sean Doolittle worked a scoreless eighth inning with little incident aside from a bunt single by Erick Aybar. Grant Balfour came on to pitch the ninth, and after some initial wildness, buckled down and struck out the side in order to send the game to the bottom of the ninth.
A lead off single by Alberto Callaspo, who was pinch run for by Jemile Weeks, set the table for the ninth inning heroics. Weeks moved to second on Stephen Vogt‘s fly ball, and after an intentional walk to pinch hitter Jed Lowrie, Angels reliever Michael Kohn walked Coco Crisp after a lengthy battle to load the bases. Manager Mike Scioscia brought in a fifth infielder to help cut down the winning run at home with Daric Barton at the plate, but Barton would strike out, leaving it up to Josh Donaldson to win it for the A’s. After going down 0-2, Donaldson lined a fastball into right-center field to seal the victory for the A’s in walk-off fashion.
The win, coupled with a victory to snap their seven game skid by the Texas Rangers keeps the A’s lead in the AL West at 6.5 games. Their magic number though continues to dwindle, now sitting at just 6 games. Keep in mind also, each win goes toward guaranteeing a worst case scenario of being in the wild card game. Nobody in Oakland wants to even think about that, but it’s a safety net of sorts anyway. A.J. Griffin (14-9, 3.81 ERA) takes the mound tomorrow afternoon in the series finale against longtime tormenter of the A’s Jason Vargas (8-7, 4.20 ERA). The goal at this point is to make sure that magic number goes down each day no matter what, and as we’ve said here recently, just winning games will ensure that happens.