Simply put, the A’s let Tim Lincecum off the hook, and in the end it proved to be a very costly turn of events. The Giants ace was extremely shaky in the first inning, so much so as he allowed 3 runs to the A’s that the Giants had begun to warm up the bullpen. There was a distinct possibility that the 2 time Cy Young Award winner would fail to escape the bottom of the 1st. The A’s had plenty of chances to deliver a knock out blow, but figuratively and literally they whiffed on all 3 chances. Lincecum recovered to strike out Brandon Moss, Kurt Suzuki, and Cliff Pennington to escape the jam, and he set his game to old fashioned cruise control for the remainder of his 6 innings of work.
Lincecum’s opponent, A’s starter Jarrod Parker had what I would characterize as a solid but unspectacular outing. He lasted 6 innings (plus 1 batter in the 7th), gave up 4 hits and 1 ER while walking 2 which is pretty good for him, and striking out 4 in the process. His pitch count was approaching 100 and the match ups favored bringing in the lefty Jerry Blevins to stamp out the flame of a rally in the 7th, so Bob Melvin made the move. The combination of Blevins and Grant Balfour managed to finish off the inning without any damage being done. The bottom of the 7th and 8th innings are going to be the other points in this game that will cause A’s players to lose sleep tonight.
The 7th inning saw the first two batters retired, but an error by Ryan Theriot on a Jemile Weeks ball, and a walk to Josh Reddick put Yoenis Cespedes at the plate with a chance for a big insurance run. Fresh off his dramatic walk off homer against the Dodgers on Thursday, many A’s fans expected him to come through in a dramatic moment yet again. It wasn’t meant to be, he harmlessly grounded out to end it. The bottom of the 8th inning is a moment that will drive fans of any team insane. After a walk by Brandon Inge, a Kurt Suzuki single, and a Cliff Pennington walk the bases were loaded for Coco Crisp. This was a huge situation as the A’s had a chance to blow the game open with their shiny new shut down closer waiting in the bullpen to slam the door shut, but Crisp took a called strike 3 to end the inning. Nothing is more infuriating than leaving the bases loaded on a called 3rd strike, just ask Terrence Long how much love he gets in Oakland.
So we moved on to the top of the 9th inning, with Ryan Cook on to save the game, and perhaps he’s been watching old highlights of Brian Wilson walking the tight rope. After all, Wilson’s antics in the 9th inning were the reason the Giants adopted that nauseating “torture” slogan in the first place. Many A’s fans though have seen Cook as infallible, mainly due to the nasty slider he exhibits. But the achilles heel of the young right hander is his affinity for issuing free passes, and that is exactly the thing that spelled disaster for him tonight. The moment he walked Buster Posey to lead off the 9th I knew it was going to be trouble, the moment he walked Pablo Sandoval to put 2 on with no outs, I knew it was over. Many A’s fans probably felt that same sense of dread, the Giants were about to conjure up a little of that magic they’ve had in their back pockets for the last 2 years, and Ryan Cook was about to be their victim. A Brandon Belt double tied the game at 3, a Hector Sanchez single gave them the lead, and a Gregor Blanco single dealt the decisive blow. Ryan Cook didn’t retire a single batter, and it took Sean Doolittle a few batters to get his bearings and get out of the inning. But the damage had been done.
Josh Reddick homered in the bottom of the 9th inning to make it a 5-4 game (according to many A’s fans on Twitter Jemile was on the receiving end of some shotty strike calls and should’ve been on 1st, which would’ve lead to a tie game), but it was not a spark of a comeback rally. The A’s went quietly after that and the Giants took the first game of this series. All of the good feelings, and optimism, and confidence that had been built up since the beginning of the Colorado series was wiped out by one disastrous outing from Ryan Cook. This was his 5th out of 6 games, so perhaps he was a bit gassed, or perhaps his propensity to walk hitters simply caught up with him finally. Either way his ERA skyrocketed from 0.57 to 1.71. That scoreless streak sure seems like a long time ago now.
The A’s will attempt to recover from this brutal punch to the gut tomorrow as these two teams tangle again at 4:15 PM PST in front of the entire country on FOX. Tyson Ross (2-6, 6.11 ERA) will start in place of the disabled Bartolo Colon, Ross was shaky yet dominant in his last start against the Padres when he allowed only 1 hit in his 6 innings of work despite control issues. Madison Bumgarner (8-4, 2.92 ERA) will toe the rubber for the Giants as they look to win the season series with a victory tomorrow. It’s hard to say this rivalry isn’t personal for the A’s fans, the feeling remains that the Giants are fighting to deny the A’s their very existence, it may be business but I take that very personally. There’s nothing I would like to see more than the A’s come out and embarrass the Giants on a big stage so let’s not get down on our boys and lets see them take it to those guys from across the bay.