The A's ensured that I would be unable to use my "This offense just doesn't score enough" macro by ringing up 16 runs against the Rangers. Indeed, the A's offense -- which, this season, tends put up a crooked number early and then take its foot off the gas -- scored eight in the second, two in fourth, and six more in the eighth for an honest-to-goodness laugher at the expense of former third-base coach Ron Washington.
Naturally, the game wasn't on TV back in the Bay Area so the home-town fans have no video evidence of this rare offensive outburst.
In fact, this was the first game of the season that I was completely shut out of -- no TV, no radio, only a fleeting glimpse at the Web and then the out-of-town scoreboard at Phone Company Park to keep me apprised of the situation in Arlington. Yes, I spent Friday night at the Giants-Diamondbacks game, watching San Francisco's 4-2 win in the lap of luxury.
My company, you see, has a handful of tickets in the Club Level at Phone Company Field. These are the seats where, when the action on the field fails to entertain, you can repair to the lounge where an assortment of hand-carved sandwiches and tomato bisques and beverages, alcoholic and un-, await your consumption. Or if you prefer, you can dispatch one of the ushers to fetch you an order of garlic fries, lest you miss a single at-bat.
Most of the time, these seats are allocated to Important Men discussing Important Deals. "So it's decided," one of them will declare. "Johnson will control the molasses trade west of the Mississippi and McShane will agree to extend political protection from the judges he controls. Now let us cement this new understanding with some chocolate sundaes from the Ghirardelli stand. Garcon!"
Anyhow, the Important Men don't always use these seats -- when you're out doing Important Things, you don't have time for such trivialities of baseball -- so sometimes these seats are distributed amongst the peons. And there is no one more peon-like than me. So I grabbed the free ticket and sat among the swells. And I enjoyed my hand-carved barbecue beef sandwich while watching a strange version of baseball in which the pitcher is forced to bat. And I spent a good deal of the Giants game watching the out-of-town scoreboard and hoping that the inning number would flip to "F" before Texas mounted one of those comebacks that is oh-so-common at the Ballpark at Arlington No Longer Named After Ameriquest.
Looks like I got my wish.
Game 16: A's 16, Rangers 4
Your Pitchers of Record: WP -- J. Blanton (2-0) LP -- B. McCarthy (1-3)
Went Deep: Buck (1), Stewart (1), Swisher (2)
Your Gordon Biersch Marzen Star of the Game: Drive in five runs and hit your first Major League home run, and I think you can make a pretty convincing claim on the award, Travis Buck.
The Turning Point: I don't know -- the second inning? The A's sent 13 batters to the plate that inning, without recording an out until batter No. 8 (Eric Chavez on a run-scoring ground-out). Of particular interest, to me, at any rate: four of the first five batters to reach in the inning did so with two-strike counts. Of course, the killing blow came with the score already 5-nil, when the Rangers intentionally walked Milton Bradley to face Travis Buck with the bases loaded and two outs; Buck responded by hitting a bases-clearing double to give the A's an 8-nil lead -- insurmountable, perhaps even in Texas.
Who's Irritating Phil Now?: Having been handed an 8-run lead, Joe Blanton responded in an unconventional manner -- he walked Hank Blalock on four pitches. Joe Blanton -- as fearsome a hitter Hank Blalock may be, I'm pretty sure hitting a go-ahead nine-run homer with the bases empty is not something that is in his skill set. Perhaps you should try throwing strikes.
Indeed, Blanton opted for this predictable-if-effective strategy on the next better, throwing a called strike to Ian Kinsler, who proceeded to ground the subsequent 0-1 pitch into a 6-4-3 double play. Hopefully the lesson to Joe Blanton was well-learned -- when nursing an 8-run lead, you need not fear having the opposing batters put the ball in play.
Dreaded Larry Davis Sighting: Milton Bradley lives! Milton Bradley lives! Call back the search party! Cancel the Amber Alert! Tell the Hostage Recovery Team in Quantico to stand down!
If, however, you can follow Rich Harden's ever-changing status, you have a stronger stomach than I.
And Now Notes on Games I Actually Witnessed: The Giants-Snakes game was an entertaining if not exactly memorable game that turned out to be decided by an early miscue in which one of the central figures was just about the last person you'd finger for such a critical error.
I think we're all agreed that Orlando Hudson is a pretty good second baseman; I could probably make the argument that Hudson is the best defensive second baseman in the Majors right now without sparking too much of a spirited counter-argument. We can certainly say that a large chunk of sinkerball-throwing Brandon Webb's Cy Young Award probably belongs in Hudson's trophy case with all the ground-ball outs Hudson recorded on Webb's behalf last year.
So here's the game situation: bottom of the first, game tied at 1, two out, bases drunk with Giants, and the light-hitting Pedro Feliz (Happy Pete!) is at the plate. Happy Pete hits on those barn-silo home runs -- a high pop-up straight up in the breezy air. Both Hudson and shortstop Stephen Drew start making with the "I got it" arm gestures; according to the Chronicle story linked way high above, neither heard the other due to the crowd noise. At any rate, they bump into each other, the ball hits off Hudson's glove, and the Giants plate two more runners they had no business scoring.
The official scorer gave the error to Hudson since he was the poor sap unfortunate enough to make contact with the ball. But if I'm Stephen Drew, perhaps I'm letting the Gold Glover take charge from now on.
Eric Byrnes Sighting: I have no idea why the Giants don't try to trade for Eric Byrnes; he always smacked them around at Phone Company Field when he played for the A's, and that trend seems to continue now that he's taken his act to the desert. He led off the game with a double, which eventually turned in to Arizona's first run, and finished with a 2-for-4 night. Why the Giants wouldn't want to get 81 games of that is beyond me.
Well, maybe it's because they see the rest of the Eric Byrnes package, also on display Friday. The Snakes had a runner on third and two outs in the fourth, with Byrnes facing a 3-0 count from a suddenly struggling Russ Ortiz. No, a walk doesn't necessarily help Arizona here, but it certainly keeps the inning going. Naturally, Byrnes swings at the 3-0 pitch and naturally he grounds out to end the threat. Ah, but fans of his hustle will be pleased to know that Byrnes hurled his helmet in frustration after the ground out -- you just don't see that kind of helmet-throwing effort from today's laconic professional.
While I'm taking cheap shots at Byrnes' expense, here's one I've been sitting on for a few weeks, from a throwaway line in a Bruce Jenkins column:
Brandon Webb's sinker is so good, Eric Byrnes said he once "panicked" in the outfield when a ball actually came his way.
I know the feeling; during Byrnes' tenure in Oakland, I often panicked when balls were hit at him.
Phil's Phun Phacts: From the A's game: By the math I just did in my head, the A's output on Friday night accounts for 25 percent of all the runs they've scored thus far in 2007.
From the Giants game: Both starting pitchers -- Doug Davis of the Diamondbacks and Bob Timmermann-favorite Russ Ortiz of the Giants -- have their salaries paid for by Arizona.
Alex Rodriguez's Reign of Unsportsmanlike Behavior Continues Unabated: Earlier this week, we relayed the story of Brian Bruney's great displeasure at the sight of Travis Buck celebrating the A's April 13 win over New York by slamming down his helmet. "A guy slams his helmet in front of you .it just wasn't classy," Mr. Bruney told his hometown scribes. And: "Our guys win with class."
Let us fast forward to Thursday's exciting Yankees-Indians game, won by Alex Rodriguez on a walk-off homer. Let us turn to the Associated Press for a recap of this thrilling come-from-behind Yankee victory (with the relevant portion of the story bolded for your convenience):
A-Rod connected on a belt-high pitch from Joe Borowski (0-1) and sent the ball soaring to center. Rodriguez knew immediately it was gone, flipping his bat toward the Yankees' dugout and raising both hands in triumph.
He slapped the hands of Bowa after rounding third, then slammed his helmet to the ground.
The raucous Yankee Stadium crowd grew silent, and the Yankee players immediately stopped celebrating the win to stare at Rodriguez.
"You classless bore!" New York reliever Brian Bruney screamed at the Yankees third baseman. "Your antics have cheapened this victory."
The rest of the Yankees stormed off the field, leaving a red-faced Rodriguez to apologize to the 40,872 fans in attendance for his behavior.
OK, everything after the second paragraph is a vicious lie. But the question lingers: if Brian Bruney is upset at the sight of a player celebrating a walk-off victory with a helmet slam, as he appeared to be last week, shouldn't he be upset when one his teammates does the same thing? If the Yankees win with class, as Mr. Bruney asserts that they do, shouldn't Alex Rodriguez be celebrating those walk-off homers, not by slamming his helmet, but with a few hearty handshakes and a "better luck next time, old sport" nod toward Joe Borowski?
Look, don't get me wrong. I don't care if A-Rod celebrates each walk-off homer by rounding third and back-flipping his way the remaining 90 feet, while the rest of the Yankees form a kick-line and break into an elaborately-choreographed Busby Berkeley-like production number the minute he touches home plate. But if you're going to whine and piss and moan about how other teams celebrate a hard-fought win, then you better make sure your team doesn't do the exact same thing. Otherwise, people might get the impression that you're a poor loser or a whiny baby or a career mediocrity who should just try pitching instead of giving us lectures on proper sportsmanship.
Tech, Tech, VPI: The wife is a proud alum of Virginia Tech (class of '94), and she was heartened to see this bit of news from Friday's games after a rather trying week.
Joe Saunders wore his old college cap, wrote "VT" on his cleats and scribbled "Virginia Tech" in the dirt on the mound.
Then the only Hokies' alumnus currently in the majors finished up his tribute by pitching six scoreless innings Friday night in the Los Angeles Angels' 8-4 victory over Seattle on Friday night...
He said the game finished his tribute, but that the shooting "is always going to be in the back of my mind. Both my mother and father and my uncle went there. The family's got a lot of history there."
"So this was pretty special," added Saunders, drafted by the Angels out of the school in 2002.
During a moment of silence for them before the game, Saunders seemed near tears.
Commissioner Bud Selig had given him special permission to wear the school cap, and Saunders said, "I can't thank him enough for that."
Joe Saunders, you are all right by me.
All in All: Any day the A's can score 16 runs and I can watch a baseball game in the lap of luxury is a day I'm not going to complain about, TV blackout or no.