Belated Weekend Game Summaries, Brought to You by Crushing Deadlines
by Philip Michaels
Not content with scoring three runs in the first inning of Wednesday's game against the White Sox and then taking the rest of the afternoon off, the A's offense pulled off the same feat against the New York Yankees Saturday. Only this time, instead of eight innings of futility, Oakland treated the home fans to 12 innings of goose eggs.
Because these things tend to happen in threes, the A's did the same thing on Sunday -- score at will in the first and follow that up with a multi-inning nap. Things turned out much better this time, as you may have heard.
Here's the abbreviated summary for both weekend editions of "Whaddaya Mean First Team to Three Runs Doesn't Win?" in advance of tonight's Angels game, which I entertained thoughts of attending but which I will probably wind up watching from the comfort of my couch.
Game 12: Yankees 4, A's 3 (13)
Your Pitchers of Record: WP -- B. Bruney (1-1) LP -- L. DiNardo (0-1)
Went Deep: Rodriguez (7) The Yankees' Designated Hitter (2)
Your La Crema Pinot Noir Star of the Game: The Yankees' Designated Hitter, whose homer in the 13th put New York ahead to stay.
The Turning Point: Both teams had chances to win this long before the 13th, but since the storyline of the evening was Oakland's offense leaving the stadium early in order to beat traffic, let's focus on a particularly painful Athletics stumble. It's the bottom of the seventh, and the Yankees have just tied the score; Bobby Crosby reaches on an error by the suddenly butter-fingered Derek Jeter. Travis Buck, scourge of sensitive Yankees (see below) singles to right. So two on, nobody out, and the A's decided to play for the go-ahead run by sending Jason Kendall up there to bunt -- not a bad idea given the lateness of the hour. Unfortunately, it turns out to be very bad execution, as Kendall pops the first pitch he sees into Scott Proctor's glove. A deep fly out by Marco Scutaro and a Shannon Stewart ground-out later, and the A's have stranded two more runners.
"Good God," I say to the TV, immediately after Kendall's contribution to the "Don't Do It This Way" footage for the bunting instructional video. "Even when we send you up there to make outs on purpose, you can't do it properly."
Ray Fosse Would Like You to Keep Degree of Difficulty in Mind During Your Evaluations: Had Ray Fosse heard me say that, he would have been outraged, as Kendall had not even made his way back to the dugout in the seventh before the A's analyst was telling the viewers at home how very difficult it is to bunt the ball to the third baseman with runners on first and second. Later, in the 10th inning, when a horrific throw by Bobby Crosby sailed into right and set the Yankees up with a scoring opportunity that they failed to cash in on, Fosse also argued that Crosby was faced with a difficult play.
I'm beginning to think Ray Fosse defines "difficult" as "a play that an Oakland player should be able to make but, for some reason, doesn't."
Brian Bruney Does Not Approve of Your Emotional Outbursts: Perhaps you noticed that Brian Bruney, the losing pitcher in Friday night's affair, was a bit animated in celebrating the Yanks' extra inning win. I didn't, personally, but Pete Caldera of the Bergen Record did:
Afterward, Bruney said the victory was even sweeter because Buck had disrespected him the night before.
The A's rookie right fielder tripled off Bruney and eventually scored the winning run in Friday's 4-3 Oakland win. With Bruney nearby, Buck slammed down his helmet in jubilation after crossing home plate.
"I thought that was a little disrespectful," said Bruney, who admitted he got angrier by watching several replays on TV. "A guy slams his helmet in front of you .it just wasn't classy."
John Shea picked up the story for Monday's Chronicle, in which Bruney is quoted as saying: "Our guys win with class."
We discourage Mr. Bruney from reviewing the footage of New York's April 7 win over the Orioles in which Alex Rodriguez hit a game-winning grand slam. As we can see here, Mr. Rodriguez is flinging his helmet before touching home-plate in a decidedly non-Yankee, non-Brian-Bruney-approved manner of celebration. I would hate to think that such behavior would cause a rift between Mr. Rodriguez and Mr. Bruney, a noted champion of fair play and good manners.
All in All: An irritating loss, both because of the manner of the defeat -- hey, didn't we just live through this Wednesday? -- and the identity of the Yankee delivering the fateful blow. Also, I had a writing assignment that I kept putting off from about the eighth inning on -- "Hey, someone's gotta score soon," I kept telling my wife -- and all of a sudden 13 innings are in the books, and it's 10:30 at night, and I don't have word one written. If I'm going to waste that much of my life, I'd at least like to see a win or at the very least a loss that doesn't come at the hands of my least favorite player in all of professional sport.
Game 13: A's 5, Yankees 4
Your Pitchers of Record: WP -- J. Marshall (1-0) LP -- M. Rivera (1-1)
Went Deep: Scutaro (1)
Your Coca-Cola Star of the Game: It is a little known bylaw of the Star of the Game competition that if you get two Catfish Stew PhotoEssays chronicling your exploits, you automatically win. Marco Scutaro, please come forward to accept your prize.
Also, for several years now, I have been waiting for the A's to offer a Macro Scutaro t-shirt jersey, much as they do for other players; it has been a long and fruitless wait. I expect that this home-run will be the tipping point that will finally force the A's to issue that long-desired No. 19 jersey, and when I attend the A's-Mariners game next Wednesday, I expect that shirt to be waiting for at a conveniently located souvenir stand. If it is not, a campaign of sustained whining and juvenile antics will ensue.
Trust me, A's merchandising czars -- you do not want it to come to that.
The Turning Point: Well, there's the Scutaro home run, obviously. That had some impact on the game. But let's go to something a little less obvious.
In the top of the eighth, the Yankees had runners at the corners with one out. Alex Rodriguez hit a booming shot to center field that sent Nick Swisher all the way back to the wall. Swish -- playing out of position, we note -- leapt and caught the ball; yes, Damon was able to tag up and score, but without Swisher's efforts, that's a three-run homer. Kiko Calero got the last out, and the Yanks only enjoy a seemingly insurmountable two-run lead instead of a definitely insurmountable four-run advantage. And thus, the table is set for Scutaro's heroics.
Dreaded Larry Davis Sighting: Rich Harden strolling off the field flanked by Larry Davis and Bob Geren is the stuff of nightmare fuel for me. Harden says he's fine, but I assume that he's probably fibbing.
Years from now, I will be bouncing my theoretical children on my actual knee, and I will tell them tales of the A's of the Aughties. "There was an outfielder, Milton Bradley was his name," I say. "And his play in the field was as enjoyable and savvy as the board games that bore his name."
"What became of him, father?" my theoretical children will ask.
Also, a couple more games and we're going to have put Mark Ellis' face on the back of a milk carton.
A Few Kind Words About Jason Kendall: We are usually quite snippy when it comes to Jason Kendall -- see our latest bit of savagery a few paragraphs ago -- but fairness dictates a tip of the cap for his hustle to retrieve a wild pitch and fire it back to Harden for a run-saving, inning-ending putout in the sixth. Kendall seems to be good for about one of those kinds of plays a year, and for a team that needs to prevent every run it can to stay in ballgames, the importance of plays like that cannot be overstated, though Ray Fosse seems to try his level best to do so.
All in All: During lulls in the A's game -- and there are a lot with this offense -- I kept switching back and forth to the Chelsea-Blackburn FA Cup semi-final match I had TiVo'd earlier that morning. Without getting too much into the details, that game featured Chelsea going up 1-nil on an early goal only to squander the lead -- just about the same time Harden and Davis were on their way back to the dugout -- after Blackburn really picked things up. The game went into extra time, until the normally useless Michael Ballack scored the game-winner in the 109th minute. Less than an hour later, Marco Scutaro was doing the same thing for the A's.
So, exciting afternoon of televised sport for me is what I'm getting at.