With a quick day game turnaround Wednesday, this will be an ultra-brief recap …
The A’s offense looked as good as it has over the first four innings Tuesday night as it has all season. Maybe not the total production. Just the rhythm of a lineup that is pretty much back together as intended at season’s outset, showing its strength up and down the lineup. As Josh Donaldson keenly noted afterward, the A’s are not unlike the Reds in their makeup when they’re close to full strength. They work pitchers. They have speed at the top. Then they have guys who can do damage throughout the order. And when it’s all humming as it was early in the game, it’s a beautiful thing to watch. Many players contributed with key hits and RBIs — Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss, Josh Reddick, Seth Smith, and of course, Donaldson with his two-run homer in the third. Coco Crisp didn’t get a hit but he walked twice and scored both times.
The Reds are a hell of a team. I picked them to win the National League this year, and still believe they will. So a 7-3 victory in which the A’s simply took it to starter Bronson Arroyo was a terrific way to start an eight-game homestand against the N.L. Central, including two of its best teams in Cincinnati and St. Louis. These five games against the Reds and Cardinals are going to tell us a lot about Oakland’s legitimacy, because quite frankly, I don’t see any teams in the A.L. as good as these two N.L. clubs.
The A’s got through it even though starter Tommy Milone struggled, largely because the bullpen got back on its horse and pitched like it can. Pat Neshek, who hasn’t had as many righty-righty situational confrontations as he did last year after coming to the A’s, finally got a big one in this game and he nailed it. Bases loaded, tying run at the plate in the fifth, he came in and threw three straight strikes to Chris Heisey to nail down the final out.
Just as impressive — maybe more so considering the hitter — Jerry Blevins faced the same bases-loaded situation in the sixth with two out against the lethal Joey Votto. Blevins got ahead quickly 0-2 and then finally retired Votto on a short popup to left field. Huge.
The bullpen needed that after a rough patch in recent games. Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle each pitched a scoreless inning, which they needed as well, and Dan Otero finished it off with a 1-2-3 ninth. Didn’t even need Grant Balfour.
It will be interesting to see if Oakland can back it up Wednesday behind A.J. Griffin, who will be facing Homer Bailey. If nothing else, the A’s got Cincinnati’s attention in a very entertaining first game. Too bad it’s just a two-game series, because this is a dynamite matchup, as will be the weekend series against St. Louis. A successful run against these two teams could go a long way to catapulting the A’s to a fabulous second half. If they can keep the lineup they fielded Tuesday night healthy, I like their chances.