Oakland Athletics fans took two hours and 53 minutes away from their Simpsons marathon binge watch (well into season 4), to watch their beloved green and gold take on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in California of the United States in game one of a three game home stand. Sonny Gray took the mound in an attempt to turn the A’s recent fortunes around and gain some ground on the Angels who have enjoyed a lead in the American League West for four days and turn those fortunes he did with a 5-3 victory and his 13th win.
The first inning looked like it was going to be another shaky start from Sonny Gray who, since the all star break, has a 3-4 record and a 3.57 ERA (compared to his pre all star record of 10-3, 2.79) when he gave up a solo shot to Mike Trout and quickly found himself pitching on the losing team.
He followed the first inning with a 10 pitch second and 10 pitch third and, with the exception of a second homer from Josh Hamilton, a solid fourth inning. At the end of the day Sonny Gray pitched 8.1 innings, gave up 6 hits and 3 earned runs and left the field to a thunderous ovation from the nearly sold out O.co.
It was upon his exit when things got a little scary as Sean Doolittle, who we have seen very little of as of late, ended up loading the bases, including a rare walk, and struggled to get the final out of the game. Despite the soap opera ending and the threat of a comeback, Doolittle held on to the lead gifted to him by Sonny Gray and all was right in the world.
And, but, also, our hitters started doing their thing again! Tonight was like an A’s game from June or July. At bats were productive, guys got on base, batters moved base runners and those base runners capitalized on defensive mistakes and the long ball was the story of the night. Even through the Athletics victories in the last month there has been a noticeable funk and while it is too soon to say that funk is gone, tonight proved that the funk will be temporary and that this team has what it takes to go the distance.
Coco Crisp was stellar, first belting a solo shot on his first at bat and then a double later which he would turn into a run on an error. Steven Vogt had his believers cheering when he sent one to the right field stair well as a pinch hitter (he went 1 for 2) and Sam Fuld had an RBI triple.
Tonight was the type of game that the A’s needed, Sonny Gray needed and the fans needed. I’m sure the bandwagon fans are already changing their tone after seeing tonight’s performance and, although it’s only one win, this win feels more important than some of the others. This win felt like the unofficial start of the pennant race and we’re out of the gate in pretty good shape. The A’s are now 4-0 when facing the Angels at home (which they do five more times) and 7-3 against the Halos on the season. If it’s going to come down to two teams in the west, the A’s proved tonight that they’re not going to roll over and let the Angels beat down on them, no matter how good the Angels may be playing.
Tomorrow night sees Lester on the mound and fireworks in the air so it will be another excited, packed house. A win will also mean the A’s are tied for first in the division and insure that Sunday’s game, which is nationally televised, will be the most important baseball game ever played. But before we get to Sunday, let’s go out and cheer on our boys and hope for a second consecutive win, a feat we haven’t seen since August 7, 8, and 9.
Final Score: A’s 5 – Angels 3
Winning Pitcher: Gray (13-7)
Losing Pitcher: Grilli (1-4)
Save: Doolittle (19)
Game Time: 2:53