After a 6-2 loss in the series opener against Houston on Thursday night, the A’s 6-2 victory on Friday was completed in classic A’s style by some classic A’s players.
Often you find teams looking to new recruits to get a team going again, but we’re not the sort of club that tends to bring in the type of impact players that can be true game-changers.
Instead, when we needed some big performances to finally get a win against that mob, it was some old faithfuls who got the job done.
On the pitching side, Sean Manaea bounced back from his previous Astros outing with a very solid six innings before Petit, Trivino and Diekman held it down from the bullpen (the latter in more dramatic fashion then was necessary, thank you Jake).
As for the offence, we hit as many home runs in this single game (3) as we had been able to muster in the previous eight combined. Lowrie (sort of a ‘new recruit’, I guess), Olson and Canha did the damage, with the three-run Oly Bomb in the eighth inning turning the game on its head. The non-socially-distanced Minute Maid Park had the air sucked out of it when Oly put that ball into the second deck, which was probably for the best considering pretty much none of the clowns were wearing masks.
For 20 years or more now, the A’s have been seen as a team that shuns so-called ‘small ball’ tactics in favour of big innings based on big blasts. Like most stereotypes, this is a generalisation that doesn’t really tell the whole story. It’s not that the team doesn’t steal bases or do little things like sacrifice bunts, just that they balance the risk and reward differently to others and therefore are more selective in when they decide to roll the dice.
Last night’s game provided a good example. With a 4-1 lead in the top of the ninth inning and Elvis Andrus on first base with no outs, Aramis Garcia put down a perfect sacrifice bunt. It made sense there for two main reasons.
Firstly, Garcia was hitting in the nine spot and isn’t in good form at the plate right now, so there was a good chance he would make an out or even ground into a double-play. You might as well accept the out here and give the top of your order the chance with a runner in scoring position (so we could be “risping away” …).
Secondly, the criticism of small-ball tactics largely comes back to it often meaning you are sacrificing outs just to score one run. Doing that earlier in a game doesn’t make much sense because your opponent has plenty of time to get the run back. In this case, the Astros only had three outs left to play with making it more valuable to move from a 3-run lead to a 4-run lead.
It turned out that Mark Canha smacked a pitch into the left-field Crawford Boxes for a two-run home run. I think that counts as the baseball equivalent of having your cake and eating it.
There’s long been a debate as to whether the A’s approach is partly why the team has fallen short in the play-offs so often, that if the bats go quiet for a few games we don’t have a Plan B and can’t ‘manufacture’ a run or two.
Much smarter minds than mine can crunch the numbers on that. What I do know is that whilst a home-run approach can be frustrating when we lose, it’s a huge amount of fun when it works. It’s like the difference between winning a boxing match on points and winning it with a couple of left hooks.
Let’s hope we can land a few more blows on them today to finish up this tough 10-game opening stretch on a high. At the very least, another Oly bomb or two landing into the crowd might knock a bit of sense in to a couple of their fans.
First pitch is 9.05 pm UK time (1.05 pm Oakland) and the game is being broadcast live here on the BT Sport/ESPN channel.