So I had this bit planned Friday afternoon that I never got around to writing -- I was going to predict the outcome of all three A's-Yankees games. And of course, the predictions were going to be ridiculous exaggerations on the A's inability to score runs -- my favorite gag was going to be where New York activates Chien-Ming Wang from the DL and he ends up retiring the A's on 27 ground outs, 20 of which were hit by Jason Kendall. The point -- at the risk of beating an already thin premise into the ground -- is that the A's are so inept the plate that even a debilitated pitcher could set them down with ease. Ha ha ha.
Kei Igawa isn't debilitated, but I'm not sure he's very good either. Yet, through five innings, he had surrounded just one hit and the only run he gave up came as the result of a three-base error and a run-scoring ground out.
"Damnit, it was supposed to be a joke," I screamed at my TV set. "You guys aren't supposed to be that horrible at the plate in real life."
Fortunately, the A's weren't that horrible, at least for the remaining six innings of the ball game. Oakland overcame a 4-1 deficit to win in extras, even hitting a pair of home runs in the process. And, for a day at least, they relegate my visions of supreme offensive ineptitude to the realm of satire. For now.
Game 11: A's 5, Yankees 4 (11)
Your Pitchers of Record: WP -- H. Street (2-1) LP -- B. Bruney (0-1)
Went Deep: Chavez (1), Swisher (1). According to Steve Kroner of the Chronicle, Chavy's homer in the sixth off of Igawa ended the longest homerless period since a nine-game drought in September of 1983. You knew I'd be honor bound to look up the particulars of that streak, didn't you? On September 13, 1983, Mike Heath hit a solo shot off of Texas pitcher Frank Tanana in he fifth inning of an A's 6-5 win in Oakland. The A's wouldn't homer again until September 25 against the Blue Jays, when Dan Meyer -- no, not that Dan Meyer -- hit a solo shot in the second inning off Dave Steib. Meyer's homer was his first of the season and the last of the 86 home runs he hit over a 12-year career. The '83 homerless streak came as the A's were completing a lackluster 74-88 campaign that saw them finish 25 games behinds the White Sox; not even Steve Boros' Apple II computer could stop the slide. Let's hope things work out better for this punchless crew.
Your Gordon Biersch Marzen Star of the Game: A lot of back and forth on this. Sentiment would dictate Travis Buck, who hit the triple that set up the A's win and had the added bonus of annoying Johnny Damon in the process (more on that below). Of course, without Nick Swisher's homer in the eighth off Kyle Farnsworth -- I don't know what the Bronx Banter folks are so upset about; I love watching Kyle Farnsworth pitch for New York -- then there are probably no extra innings in which Buck can triple. Kiko Calero and, to a lesser extent, Justin Duchscherer acquitted themselves nicely out of the bullpen.
But in the end, I'm going to have to give it to Eric Chavez. The A's were dead and buried after a three-run Bombers outburst in the top of the sixth -- at least, they were pronounced dead in buried (quite profanely, I might add) in the Michaels home. So when Chavez followed up Piazza's one-out double by cranking an 88 mph Igawa pitch to right, it got Oakland back in the game. Throw in a nifty little catch of a Doug Mientkiewicz foul ball to quash a potential Yanks rally in the 10th -- off the glove, in the palm, nothing but an out! -- and I can't think of an Oakland player who contributed more to Friday's comeback.
The Turning Point: Two that I can think of: in the aforementioned top of the sixth, the Yankees had the bases loaded, nobody out, and two runs already home when Mientkiewicz stepped up to the plate. One pitch later, Alan Embree induced a 4-6-3 double play; sure, Jason Giambi, Dark Lord of the Sith, scored on the play, but it turned out to be the last run the Yankees would score that inning and for the rest of the game.
And the other turning point? That would be in the eighth when the Yankees again had the bases loaded, this time with one out, and it looked for certain that at least New York run and a ninth-inning appointment with Mariano Rivera was in Oakland's future. That's when Mientkiewicz came up again and hit a looping little ball back to the pitcher's mound. Duchscherer fumbled it, but was able to recover quick enough to force Alex Rodriguez at the plate. A 4-3 grounder from Melky Cabrera later and the A's were again out of a jam.
I don't know what the Bronx Banter folks are so upset about; I love watching Doug Mientkiewicz bat for the New York.
Johnny Damon Does Not Appreciate Your Candor, Young Man: Buck made no secret of his plans to try for a triple the minute he saw Johnny Damon attempting to field his 11th inning gapper. Says the AP:
"I basically made that decision coming out of the box," said Buck, whose father grew up a Yankees fan. "Damon doesn't have that strong of a throwing arm. I wanted to test it. ... Crossing the plate with the winning run to beat the Yankees ... I'm still trying to calm down."
The AP article goes on to say that "Damon wasn't worried about Buck's comments," but you'd be hard-pressed to reach that conclusion based on the quote from Damon:
"I think he was kind of lucky the ball did bounce off the wall," Damon said. "He would have been out. He's a young kid. He'll learn."
He'll learn what exactly? To quake in his boots at the mere thought of your noodle arm? To stop in his tracks and admire the beautiful arch of one of your parabola-shaped tosses back to the infield? Or that Bobby Abreu probably should have fielded that ball instead?
A Kind Word about Ray Fosse: I've said some less-than-charitable things about the A's TV analyst -- nothing too untoward, I hope -- because of his increasing penchant for littering broadcasts with a lot of rah-rah-home-team commentary. Basic fairness requires me to point out that Foss gave an excellent breakdown of Swisher's home run -- how he was able to drive the pitch and so forth. And that's why I'm probably tough on Fosse -- I know what he's capable of when he doesn't resort to incessant boosterism.
Everyone Who's In the Starting Rotation Step Forward... Not So Fast, Kennedy: That last link up above also unveils the A's plans to skip Joe Kennedy's spot in the rotation due to all the off days this week. Kennedy's next start won't be until the end of April, either against the Rangers or the Orioles; instead, Chad Gaudin, who wasn't even in the rotation plans until the last week of spring training, will pitch on turn.
I'm no soothsayer, but I'd say this bodes ill for Kennedy's continued presence in the rotation once Esteban Loaiza returns from the DL.
Day Becomes the Night: Saturday's game starts at 6:05 p.m., the first of six Saturday night games at the Coliseum this year. I don't have the official numbers to verify this, but trust me -- that's a lot, particularly compared to the A's schedules of my youth when Oakland always played its weekend home games in the afternoon.
The reason, of course, is television. Fox blocks any games from airing between 12:55 p.m. and 4 p.m., so if you're not on the schedule, you might as well bump your teams games to the evening to enjoy some local TV revenue.
I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, the A's typically have a substandard TV schedule, so anything that gets more games on the tube is probably a good thing, especially for me and my Attend Fewer Games in Person This Season policy. Plus, I've fought a 35-year battle against my arch-nemesis the sun, so if I do wind up going to a game, at least it won't be slathered in eight coats of SPF-5000. (And as I write this, it's pouring rain, so an afternoon game today would be in danger of getting rained out.)
But... weekend baseball games should be played during daylight hours. I'm sorry but they should. I have nothing to bolster this argument except for sentiment, so I'll just move on.
All in All: Any Oakland fan have a problem with beating the Yankees after trailing by three runs? Didn't think so.