The A’s are back at .500! There was never any doubt. Never doubt about the A’s, or about Chris Carter, or about the fact that the 0-1 pitch he punished for a home run would fly over the wall. It didn’t just fly over the wall though, it nearly flew over the bleachers in left field. Carter’s homer extended the A’s streak of games with a long ball to an astounding 16 games.
This was a game that for the most part looked like a shut outfox the A’s, and a hard luck loss for Tommy Milone. The Mariners scored their first and only run in the top of the 1st inning against Milone, and it really did look like that 1 run would stand up. The A’s bats were silenced for 7 innings by the crafty veteran Kevin Millwood, who’s having something of a renaissance this season. The A’s mustered just 3 hits and 2 walks against Millwood while he was in.
TURNING POINT: The A’s were certainly not disappointed to see Millwood taken out of the game after his 7 innings of work. After Shawn Kelley retired Brandon Inge for the first out of the 8th inning the Mariners brought in lefty Charlie Furbush to turn Cliff Pennington around to bat right handed. Bob Melvin countered by pinch hitting Brandon Hicks for Pennington, and it paid off almost instantly as Hicks missed hitting a game tying home run by about a foot in right center field. Hicks ended up at 2nd base and was driven home by a 2 out Jemile Weeks single up the middle. Suddenly all the pressure and frustration of the night was washed away, and it might have taken a couple extra frames but the A’s were able to capture their 5th straight victory.
ON THE HILL: Tommy Milone continued to excel at home with another 7 strong innings. Tonight though he added the strikeout pitch, notching a career high 9. He settled down nicely after allowing the 1st inning run, retiring 10 of the next 11 Mariners he faced. Sean Doolittle continued to dominate at the Major League level pitching another scoreless inning while allowing just 1 walk. Ryan Cook worked a scoreless 9th inning, allowing a triple to Carlos Peguero with 2 outs and retiring Dustin Ackley to escape harm. Grant Balfour and Jordan Norberto dominated in their scoreless innings, not allowing a single base runner between the two; Balfour struck out 1 and Norberto struck out the side in the 11th.
AT THE PLATE: Despite the victory, there really isn’t a lot to discuss about the A’s with the lumber tonight. Jemile Weeks, Josh Reddick, and Seth Smith each had 2 hits tonight, and Brandon Hicks and Chris Carter obviously accounted for the other hits off the bench. Brandon Inge and Cliff Pennington continue to struggle at the plate, both failing to reach base tonight. Their flirtation with the Mendoza line continues to be an issue.
FINAL THOUGHTS: It’s hard to quantify exactly what is happening with the Oakland Athletics over the last few weeks, but the character they have shown is starting to translate to wins on the field. Matt Steinmetz who is known for being the CSN analyst for the Golden State Warriors mentioned this afternoon on 95.7 The Game how there seemed to be some similarities between the 2012 A’s and the “We Believe” Warriors team that went to the playoffs and shockingly upset the number 1 Dallas Mavericks. While I think we are getting way ahead of ourselves talking about the A’s going to the playoffs this year, it’s fun to think about nevertheless. With the 2nd wild card in play, and granted it would take some serious leapfrogging the A’s currently sit just 3.5 games out of a playoff spot. They now need to just win 1 of the final two games of the “1st half” to go into the All Star break at .500 or better. Tomorrow night Jarrod Parker takes the hill with a 5-3 record and a minuscule 2.46 ERA against the inconsistent but always tough on the A’s Jason Vargas (7-7, 4.31 ERA). Not to extinguish the flame that is fueling the A’s right now, but winning tomorrow would mean a ton because King Felix himself looms on Sunday and there is no way any team can bank on a win against him. Screw it though, let’s sweep these guys right out of our house and put the fear of the Green and Gold in the hearts of the American League when the second half begins a week from tonight.