I was planning not to watch yesterday's game at all, but as game time approached, a strange zen-like calm descended upon me. The nervousness I usually suffer during A's playoff games left me, and I was able to watch the fabulous pitching duel between Johan Santana and Barry Zito with great pleasure. For about two hours, anyway.
The best thing about yesterday's playoff games is that all the games were decided by great players making great plays: Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, Cris Carpenter, Johan Santana, Frank Thomas, Barry Zito. Any sport is at its best when its best players rise to the occasion when it counts the most.
How much money do you think free-agent-to-be Barry Zito earned with yesterday's performance? $10 million? He's already the most durable pitcher in baseball (he's never missed a start), with a Cy Young award under his belt. And now he can add "can outduel the best pitcher in baseball in a playoff game on the road" to his resume. Scott Boras went to bed last night a happy man.
This game was a great example of why Zito is a much better pitcher in 2006 than he was back in, say, 2003. Back then, he was strictly a three-pitch pitcher, and if one of his pitches was off, he had no way to adjust. Since then, Zito has added a slider and a cutter. When his command of a pitch is off, he has plenty of other options for attacking a batter. Yesterday, his fastball wasn't particularly sharp, but he still got batters out, by throwing his fastball out of the zone, and mixing in some changeups, sliders and curveball with masterful effect.
Santana was similarly masterful. The dude is awesome. He will, however, give up the occasional long ball. Which leads us to Frank Thomas. What else can you say about Frank Thomas? He is THE MAN.
So it was a beautiful day for baseball, with one exception. Which was exactly the sort of thing I had feared about facing the Twins: that great baseball would be ruined by bad architecture. In the ninth inning, the Metrodome decided to insert itself into the proceedings and score a run for the Twins, as Milton Bradley lost a fly ball in the roof.
I flipped out. I ranted. I shouted. I screamed in horror. I think I punched a wall for good measure. Thankfully, my wife stepped in and restored calm in the Arneson household, by ejecting me from the ballgame. I spent the rest of the game exiled in the kitchen.
Huston Street closed out the victory without me, and the A's have a 1-0 lead in the series. We A's fans know not to get too excited about that, though.
So here comes Game 2: Esteban Loaiza vs. Boof Bonser. Do I dare test the Metrodome fates, and watch the game again?
J. Kendall c
M. Kotsay cf
M. Bradley rf
F. Thomas dh
E. Chavez 3b
J. Payton lf
N. Swisher 1b
M. Scutaro ss
M. Ellis 2b
L. Castillo 2b
N. Punto 3b
J. Mauer c
M. Cuddyer rf
J. Morneau 1b
T. Hunter cf
R. White lf
J. Tyner dh
J. Bartlett ss