In for John Hickey …
It’s nothing short of amazing that the A’s pulled out Friday night’s 3-2 win. They were a pitch away from disaster much of the night against a Cleveland team that has a legitimately scary lineup. As I wrote in my game story, this one won’t go in the Beautiful Baseball Hall of Fame, but it was a gritty win nonetheless and one that stacks up as very important in the standings.
For one, it got the A’s back within a half-game of the Rangers in the A.L. West. Just as importantly, it opened up more space between the A’s and their closest challengers in the wild-card race. They’re 4 up on Baltimore, 4 1/2 on the Indians. The Indians, conceivably, could have come in and by sweeping a three-game series, gotten back within a half-game of the A’s, and now that won’t happen. So it doesn’t really matter how the victory was achieved. It simply was.
A couple of noteworthys …
–Yoenis Cespedes has his power stroke back. His first-inning two-run homer was his fifth in 17 games after that 25-game homerless streak. He’s still not the Cespedes of last season, but the confidence seems to be coming back, and a hot last half of August could be crucial for the A’s to get through a tough part of their schedule.
–Dan Otero was a nice pickup for Oakland off San Francisco’s scrap heap. He has a rubber arm and he’s a nice bridge to the back end of the bullpen when needed. He pitched a 1-2-3 sixth protecting a 2-1 lead, and even though Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour weren’t at their best, most times it’s going to be lights out. Game ball to Otero.
–Eric Sogard has convinced me he’s the second baseman for the long term. It was questionable whether he could hit enough, but he actually is a nice balance of offense and defense, and just an all-around good guy to have in a clubhouse. Clearly, he just required regular playing time.
–That Josh Donaldson bunt in the fourth inning after Brandon Moss’ opening double drew raised eyebrows everywhere. It seemed strange that Bob Melvin would make that kind of call. Turns out, according to the manager, that Donaldson had the option of bunting or swinging away against the tough righthander Justin Masterson. He got the bunt down and Moss went to third, but the A’s didn’t score. Donaldson probably should have taken his chances on delivering a big hit there and not giving himself up. Too early to be playing for one run there.
–Thought sure we might see Jason Giambi against Balfour in the ninth. That would have something to see. Maybe Saturday night’s game. We need a Giambi at-bat for old time’s sake before this weekend ends. This might well be the last time we get to see him in uniform here in Oakland, at least as a player. C’mon, Terry Francona, thrill the home folks and let them see a player who provided them so many thrills once upon a time.