Athletics For Life

There is an A in FAIL

October 9th, 2013

628x471Is Josh Reddick’s ugly swing and miss at ball four with the bases loaded in the 8th inning of Game 4 of the 2013 ALDS going to be this season’s version of Jeremy not sliding or Byrnes not touching the plate? T-Long watching strike three or losing the ball in the sun? Is Bob Melvin’s sticking with Sean Doolittle despite righty batters hitting him hard going to be as bad as Ken Macha pinch hitting for Jermaine Dye when the Red Sox were about to intentionally walk him? Ugh. Just ugh.

Forgive me for my pessimism, but these are the Oakland A’s in the playoffs. The history is there. Since the 1990 World Series, the A’s have had twelve chances to close out a playoff series and move to the next round. You know how many times they actually came through? Once. Yep, they’ve lost eleven of those games and won only one, which was Game 3 of the 2006 ALDS against the Twins. Every other time, they’ve failed, often times in heart-wrenching fashion. They’ve also never won a Game 5 of the ALDS in five chances.

But here we are again, headed to Game 5 of the ALDS. The A’s will be at home, facing Justin Verlander like they were in Game 2. They won that game, as Sonny Gray matched the Tigers’ superstar inning after inning until Stephen Vogt could come through with an RBI single in the ninth. But can lightning strike twice? Can the A’s actually beat Justin Verlander twice in  a playoff series?

If they can, they will have definitely earned it. But if they can’t, add this series to the long list of playoff failures that this team has been racking up in the Billy Beane era. Go A’s….

One More

October 8th, 2013

balfourWell once the A’s got past Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, things got easier for the A’s offense. I know Anibal Sanchez led the American League in ERA this year, but they A’s haven’t had much trouble with him in the past – at least this season – and a lot of the team’s lefty hitters seem to like the hitter friendly confines of Comerica Park. Six runs – including homers by Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss, and Seth Smith – knocked Sanchez out the game in the fifth inning.

It helps that the Detroit’s offense has just been anemic (or has the A’s pitching just been that good?), as their three run burst to break a 20-inning scoreless streak only momentarily tied the game. They wouldn’t be able answer the three runs the A’s responded with and the A’s pretty much cruised to a 6-3 victory (with a little distraction from Grant Balfour and Victor Martinez in the 9th).

Anything can happen in a short series, so even though you could say the A’s are in the driver’s seat, I’m not going to feel comfortable with anything until a final out is made with the A’s having more runs than the Tigers. And you’ve got to figure Game 4 is a must-win for the A’s. Do you want to see Game 5 with Scherzer and Verlander both on full rest? I sure don’t.

Dan Straily goes for the A’s and Doug Fister for the Tigers in Game 4 today. The last time these two squared off in Detroit, this happened. I really, really hope it happens again. Go A’s!!!

SONNY

October 6th, 2013

bd10a1ddad7562213f0f6a706700d5cbHe wasn’t in the rotation until August, and he was making his 11th big league start in the ALDS. And he was going up against A’s killer and 2011 Cy Young and AL MVP Justin Verlander. It was very much the David vs. Goliath matchup as far as name recognition goes, but man, did Sonny Gray deliver for the A’s when they needed a win.

Gray pitched eight shutout innings, striking out nine (including Austin Jackson four times) and giving up only four hits. Verlander was just as masterful as you’d expect him to be, but thanks to Gray, the A’s got themselves into the ninth inning with the score still zero-zero, where they could string a few hits together and come up with the walkoff single, as Stephen Vogt singled home Yoenis Cespedes to seal the 1-0 victory.

This was a must-win game for the A’s, as they’ve got to go on the road for the next two games and now there’s still a chance that they could take care of business without having to see Max Scherzer or Verlander again. Winning on the road isn’t going to be easy, but neither is beating Verlander when he throws 7 shutout innings and strikes out 11, and we just watched them do that.

Monday morning (thanks TV schedule), it’s Jarrod Parker and Anibal Sanchez in Detroit. Go A’s!!

Houston Astros v Oakland AthleticsUnlike a lot of people, I’m not going to pile on Josh Reddick for striking out with Yoenis Cespedes at third and one out in the second inning. That was a big missed opportunity, yes, but Max Scherzer strikes guys out. Seriously, that’s what he does. He was second in all of baseball in strikeouts this season, and he’s probably going to win the Cy Young Award. It sure would’ve been nice if Reddick hit the ball and drove in a run, but Scherzer did what Scherzer does.

Instead, that stupid first inning is what doomed the A’s tonight. Bartolo Colon spent an inning throwing wildly and leaving pitches up in the zone that the Tigers wasted no time hitting all over the field, and the A’s were down 3-0 before Coco Crisp even stepped into the batter’s box. But then after that, Bartolo was fine. He pitched through the  sixth without giving up anything else, and then Dan Otero and Sean Doolittle kept the Tigers off the board the rest of the game. Cespedes’ two-run moonshot off Scherzer would’ve won the game if not for that lousy first inning.

The bad first inning also took the crowd out of the game right away and it really didn’t recover until Cespedes hit the home run. I don’t think the game was even going for five minutes when the score was already 2-0. That homefield advantage and that rowdy crowd were pretty much a non-factor.

So the A’s are now down 1-0 in the best of five series and have an uphill battle with Justin Verlander going for Detroit tomorrow night. Dropping one at home is bad. Dropping two at home and then heading on the road would be disasterous, so Game 2 is a must win, and it’ll be Sonny Gray on the hill for the A’s. No pressure, kid! Go A’s….

October Again

September 30th, 2013

628x471Well, here we are again. 162 games are in the books and the A’s are one of the remaining 11(!) teams with games still to play. This year’s A.L. West Division title came with less fanfare and drama than last year’s, but it’s still just as sweet to beat out a couple of teams most people thought were better than the A’s.

The 2013 A’s finished the regular season with 96 wins, two more than last season. I said at the beginning of the year that this year’s team was better than last year’s team on paper, and it turned out to be true in the standings. This year’s team posted a winning record in every month, and despite the little stretch after the All Star break where they dropped into second place for awhile, there weren’t many panic moments where I thought the A’s weren’t going to get it done.

I think this is mostly a testament to the depth and versatility of the roster. There was a time early in the season when Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, and Yoenis Cespedes were all on the disabled list at the same time. That’s the entire starting outfield, and it would’ve crippled a lot of teams. But the A’s got through it fine because of their roster depth. Cespedes didn’t even start to hit very well until September. The 2013 A’s are full of bench players on any given day that aren’t going to kill you if they have to be everyday guys for awhile.

Is this what’s finally going to make Billy Beane’s stuff work in the playoffs? I hope so. There hasn’t been much to cheer for in the playoffs in the Beane era. I can’t help but worry that will continue, but then again, I’m always full of optimism going into an October run. I truly believe it is a crapshoot, but one of these days, the A’s are going to be on the winning side of that crapshoot. Maybe, just maybe, 2013 is the year.

Go A’s!!!!!!

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