It certainly wasn’t the prettiest victory we’ve ever seen, but the Oakland Athletics made a decisive statement today by beating the LA Angels 9-8 to take the series and solidify their standing in 2nd place in the AL West. It was a topsy turvy back and forth game that will not be cited in any future pitching clinics as how to attack professional hitters, but that made for quite the exciting bout. Dan Straily was not sharp at all except for the 1st inning when he struck out the side. He looked like he was going to dominate the Angels like he did so many teams in the minors this season, but Kendrys Morales started the Angels attack in the 2nd inning with the 1st of his 2 home runs to put the Angels ahead. That homer seemed to rattle Straily and he was anything but sharp from that moment on.
Chris Ianetta homered in the 3rd inning to chip away at the 4-1 lead the A’s had established in the 2nd inning on George Kottaras’ 1st home run with the A’s and RBI singles from Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick. Straily failed to complete the requisite 5 innings to qualify for the win as Torii Hunter homered in the 5th inning to cut the A’s lead to 1, and Kendrys Morales gave the Angels the lead with his 2nd dinger that knocked Straily out of the game. But Jordan Norberto was able to put out the fire and keep the deficit at 1. Norberto and Pat Neshek (Who would get the victory) would team up to take down the Angels in the 6th with Neshek striking out Albert Pujols to end the inning.
The A’s uprising came in the 6th inning as Coco Crisp drove in Cliff Pennington with an RBI double, then Yoenis Cespedes drove in Crisp and Josh Reddick who had walked with a solid opposite field 2 run single. The A’s had claimed the lead, and Chris Carter added the exclamation point with a home run that Ken Korach accurately described as being hit as high as it was far, the A’s were up 9-5 and would need every one of those 9 runs.
The A’s bullpen at the end of games has been a bit of an achilles heel for the club lately and that showed once again today. Grant Balfour surrendered a tape measure longball off the bat of Mark Trumbo to get a run back for the Angels in the 7th right after the A’s took the lead. Sean Doolittle got into immediate trouble in the 8th but managed to fight his way out by striking out the side with runners stuck at 1st and 3rd. Then came Ryan Cook, unfortunately the A’s answer to Brian Wilson on many occasions. He did quite the impersonation as hits by Albert Pujols and Kendrys Morales set up the rally and after a well placed grounder put Pujols and pinch runner Vernon Wells in scoring position, Howard Kendrick drove them both in with a solid single to tighten the game up just a bit more. Kendrick would steal his way to 2nd base but Cook would induce a groundout from Erick Aybar to escape with the save and secure the victory for the A’s.
Bob Melvin has to be seriously considering giving Cook a break from the closer role at the very least because right now he isn’t getting the job done. He was fortunate that this was a 3 run lead he had to protect because he would have blown it otherwise. It’s tough to say who should take over the closing duties, but right now perhaps the experience of Grant Balfour would be best suited for the 9th inning and Cook can be allowed to rebuild his confidence in a setup role again. It’s not terribly likely the solution will come from outside the organization so the A’s will have to figure out a way to make this work.
For now though they can take solace in knowing they can hang with the supposed big boys of the division as they head off to Chicago to battle the White Sox in an important test on the road. Brandon McCarthy is slated to make his return from the DL Friday night so we will all keep our fingers crossed that not only is he effective in his return but that he stays healthy for the duration of the season.