After a road trip through three cities in which the A’s went 5-4, our beloved green and gold sit with a 6-6 record on the 2011 season, exactly .500. I don’t think you could have asked for much more after after the disappointing Toronto series.
The series with the Chicago White Sox was indeed a wild one. All three games were decided in ten innings, the first time in A’s history that has happened in a three-game series.
As dramatic as the comeback was in Wednesday’s game, I still think Monday’s win was the more improbable one. Both perfect game starters, Dallas Braden and Mark Beuhrle, were on top of their games, keeping opposing hitters off balance. Going into the 9th inning, all the offense came off the bat of Chicago’s #9 hitter, Brent Lillibridge, who hit a solo homer off Braden in the 5th.
With the A’s down 1-0, Andy LaRoche led off with a double. Then Juan Pierre put the A’s in business by dropping a Daric Barton fly ball to left, and the run scored to tie the game. Barton’s fly would have been the second out. At best, pinch runner Coco Crisp might have tagged up and made it to third base on the play, but Conor Jackson was the next batter and he struck out. So this had 1-0 loss written all over it, and it should have been. But the A’s caught a break, and then a 10th inning Kurt Suzuki homer and a Brian Fuentes save nailed down the win.
Tuesday night, Trevor Cahill took the mound with his new contract intact and he was rusty to say the least. Perhaps he was pressing with the added attention on him and his 30 million guaranteed dollars. But he was not sharp, and neither was Chicago starter Edwin Jackson, and this was a bullpen game by the fifth inning, as both starters were pulled after pitching just 4 2/3 innings.
As bad as the White Sox’s bullpen has been, at least their manager kind of knows how to use it. Bob Geren simply made the wrong move bringing in Bobby Cramer to pitch the 10th inning. When you’re in an extra inning game on the road, and the score is still tied, you cannot give up a single run. So why leave your best pitcher sitting in the bullpen, in hopes of having a save opportunity? Surprise, surprise, the A’s did not get the chance, as Cramer served up a meat pitch to Alexei Ramirez and the White Sox shorstop put it on the board… yes.
I understand that Cramer is the long reliever, and Tyson Ross had already been used for three outstanding, game-saving innings the night before. But Grant Balfour was the A’s best available pitcher, and should have been in the game, not sitting on his butt in the bullpen. If you lose with your best on the mound, so be it. But if you lose with your worst on the mound, what were you thinking?
Thankfully, the A’s were able to pull off their best win of the season yet in Wednesday’s final game of the series, so we didn’t have to dwell too long on Geren’s obvious gaffes the night before. Of course as soon as I saw Wednesday’s lineup and that Daric Barton, who had gone 4-for-5 the night before, was given a day off, I took to Twitter to voice my displeasure in our manager. Thankfully, he got our hot-hitting first basemen into the action in just the nick of time.
It was a 4-1 game going into the 9th inning, and the A’s looked to be in big trouble. But Jackson led off the inning with a double, and then scored on Josh Willingham’s single. Hideki Matsui followed with a hit, and we had two on, nobody out, and were down by only two runs.
Ozzie Guillen tried to pull the right strings with his bullpen, but nothing worked. After he brought in Jesse Crain to face Kevin Kouzmanoff, Geren pinch hit with Barton (correct, Bob!) and he walked. Then after Crain struck out Kurt Suzuki, Guillen brought in Matt Thornton to face Ryan Sweeney, and Sweeney struck out. Hawk Harrelson was all kinds of excited in the White Sox announcers booth, declaring, “He gone!! It’s all good!!” after both strikeouts.
But they still had to get through Cliff Pennington. And I admit, I did not think little Cliffy was going to come through. But he got a pitch he could handle and it was a soft liner into center field. One run scored. Two runs scored. And we had ourselves a tie ballgame!
Geren again made the right call in bringing Balfour in to face the White Sox in the bottom of the 9th, and he took care of them in order. Then in the 10th, the A’s continued driving the stake through the White Sox’s hearts with an RBI single by Crisp and a 2-RBI single by Barton. The A’s were up 7-4, and Fuentes took care of the White Sox for the easy save.
The A’s head home now, hopefully with a ton of confidence. We’ve got four games with the Tigers, who are coming in with a little momentum of their own. It should be a good series.