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Game 26 Summary: Buck Shot!
2007-05-01 23:58
by Philip Michaels

Earlier today, when recapping this weekend's A's-Devil Ray games, Ol' Man Grumpus wrote:

And with the Red Sox already beginning their ceremonial beatdown of the A's as I type this...

And you know what? That sentence was deadly accurate at the time it was constructed. The Red Sox jumped out to a 3-0 lead over the A's in Tuesday night's game, and by the time, I began the walk from my office to the Ferry Building, it was 4-1 Boston, with all signs an portents pointing to a merciless thrashing at the hands of the BoSox.

And yet, by the time the ferry pulled into Alameda, the A's had closed the gap to 4-2. And before I could drive home, it was all knotted up at 4 on the strength of a Travis Buck home run.

So yeah, that made my little preamble to the previous post -- not to mention the decided negativity -- look positively outdated less than three hours after I posted it. And I, for one, couldn't be happier to look so foolish.

Game 26: A's 5, Red Sox 4 (10)

Your Pitchers of Record: WP -- J. Duchscherer (2-1) LP -- B. Donnelly (0-1) S -- H. Street (7)

Went Deep: D. Johnson (1), Buck (3)

Your Undrinkable South African Shiraz Star of the Game: I think a 3-for-5 performance that includes a game-tying home run off a closer who had, prior to tonight, yielded just two hits all year is more than enough to push Travis Buck over the top. For those of you scoring at home, this makes Buck the first player to repeat as our Star of the Game honoree in 2007. (If you were dying of curiosity, the first player to repeat as Star of the Game in 2006 was Nick Swisher, who followed up his two-homer performance against the Tigers on April 18, 2006, with a top performance in an April 24 game against Texas.)

By the way, if I can pass down one piece of advice to you folks before Ken takes my posting privileges away, do not drink Lindeman's South African Shiraz, 2005 vintage, no matter how compelling the price point at your local Albertson's. This 99-pound-weakling-bodied red has the faint aftertaste of turpentine with hints of licorice and ass. Serve it only to felons or people you don't particularly care to drink with ever again.

The Turning Point: The Buck home run, coming as it did against the normally automatic Jonathan Papelbon and on an 0-2 count to boot.

To Joe Blanton, Our Deepest Apologies: Joe Blanton didn't pitch that poorly in the first inning, but still found himself on the short end of a 3-0 game, thanks to some dinky hits and a poor fielding decision by Bobby Crosby. The old Joe Blanton -- or at least, the caricature I've constructed in my head -- would have fallen apart after the first, yielding walk after walk and looking like he'd rather be any place else in the world than on the pitcher's mound.

That didn't happen tonight: Remove that first inning from consideration and Blanton pitched six innings of one-run ball on just two hits. Maybe that's not All-Star caliber stuff, but he kept the game within reach until the A's could start stringing consecutive hits together to erase the Red Sox's lead.

At the beginning of the year, I said that I would be more than happy to admit how wrong I was about Joe Blanton if he kept turning in effective pitching performances. He kept up his end of the bargain, so I'll keep up mine. Joe Blanton's a good pitcher; the A's are fortunate to have him. And my earlier exhortations to trade him are, again, the reason why the only way I should be allowed anywhere near the Coliseum is with a paid ticket.

Phil's Phun Phacts: It took Bob Geren 26 games to match Ken Macha's four-year total for getting ejected from a baseball game.

Geren was thumbed in the fifth inning, ostensibly for arguing a swinging third strike call on Eric Chavez by Charlie Reliford. I was incommunicado at this particular moment, but I'm going to guess that what Geren's real beef was the preceding call when Mark Ellis hit a ball down the third base line that the ball boy fielded. The umps awarded Ellis a ground-rule double and made Jason Kendall stop at third. I have a sinking suspicion that Geren suggested to Reliford, in blunt and forceful language, that he jobbed the A's out of a run. (Edited to Add: Errrr... not exactly. Susan Slusser's report, which contains details that the AP version did not, says that Geren was in fact arguing Reliford's call of a check swing when he got the heave-ho.)

Back to Macha: His first and only ejection came on May 9, 2005, when he was sent to the showers after arguing balls and strikes with Mark Carlson during the midst of a 13-5 thumping. The player involved? Jason Kendall. The setting? Fenway Park. What is it about those two things that make A's managers so irascible?

Bonus related phun phact! This is the second road game this year in which an Oakland player belted a ball down the line into no man's land, only to be forced to stop at second when the home team's on-field personnel stuck their figurative nose where it didn't belong. In the first inning of the April 22 game in Arlington, Eric Chavez hit a ball down the line that the Rangers' ball girl decided to pick up. Chavez was ordered to cast aside his dream of a two-out triple and pull up at second.

Boston grounds crew -- please watch the umpires at all times for fair/foul signals before fielding would-be foul balls during Wednesday's contest.

Easy, Street: I've been to one game at Fenway Park. Assuming you don't run into any vile drunkards -- hey, good luck with that, friend -- it's a lovely place to see a ballgame. But I've never really subscribed to the widely held viewpoints about its charm and its splendor and its magic. Again, setting aside the aforementioned vile drunkards, Fenway Park is charming and splendorous and magical -- that is, until the team you root for has to go into the ninth inning protecting a one-run lead and suddenly the pop flies down the line that are easy outs in your cow pasture of a ballyard turn into walk-off home runs for the local nine. Take your charm and your splendor and cram it, Roger Angell!

One good thing about Fenway, though -- it hastened the advent of Huston Street, Closer. Think back to the halcyon days of 2005, just a day after Ken Macha defied all medical pronouncements and got himself ejected. On May 10, then-closer Octavio Dotel was called upon to protect a 2-1 lead. With one out, he walked David Ortiz and then served up a fat ol' pitch to Kevin Millar who knocked it into the theoretically cheap seats for a 3-2 Sox win. The very next day, Dotel was again called upon to protect a lead, this time a 5-4 margin that came about after a four-run A's rally in the top of the ninth. Ortiz walked, Millar flied out, and then Varitek homered. Thank you, fans, and drive home safely.

Less than a month later, Huston Street had recorded his first save. And yes, he only became the closer after Dotel underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery. But still, the solace I take in those two miserable games is the knowledge that the Street Era was going to begin sooner rather than later.

And Street plays a considerable role in the A's recent run of good fortune against the Sox. In the admittedly small sample size of 9.2 innings, he's never given up so much as run, let alone blown a lead. I still have to turn off the TV in the late innings when Boston's up at bat, but at least when I turn the TV back on, I'm more confident that the A's won't be dead and buried with Street in there.

All in All: I have an unfortunate tendency to dwell on the negative. If this were an action movie, Ken would be the unflappable scientist that proposes rational, well-thought-out solutions, I'd be the panicky, hot-headed military guy who screams things like, "We don't have time for your theories! The President needs us to take action now!" and whom the audience secretly hopes gets punched in the face by the hero before the final reel.

Well, no negativity this evening. The A's got a good win against a fearsome opponent in a ballpark where their failures outweigh their successes. As the saying goes, this win in Boston was as sweet as the cream pie for which the city is named.

2007-05-02 06:19:42
1.   salb918
Very nice summary. A friend and I were at the game, sitting behind the Boston bullpen not too far from where DJ's homer landed. We wanted to erupt when Buck tied the game, but limited ourselves to polite applause so as not to draw the ire of the locals. (In reality, the section we sat in had a lot of families and students, and was for the most part very friendly.)

Your comment about the fear of pop flies is spot on. When Kevin Youklis flied out to end the game, my first thoughts as the ball left the bat were, "Oh no -- pop fly monster home run?" Big sigh of relief, a small fist bump, and we made a beeline to the exit. No point knifed on the way out.

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