As I'm sure you know by now the A's have set the AL consecutive win record with 20 after another dramatic ninth-inning rally to beat the Royals last night 12-11, their third straight walk-off victory. If you watched any of the game though you know that it was nowhere near this close at the beginning. Through the first few innings, it more closely resembled an industrial softball league game featuring the best team against the worst. The A's were slashing hits all of the place and the Royals were struggling just to keep up. It was very scary. Apparently, the Royals caught up while the A's were in the dugout getting oxygen after round the bases too many times.
- Rey Durham led off the first with a slicing hit towards the ball in right on a 1-0 pitch. The ball bounded away from rightfielder Michael Tucker who slipped on the slick turf (you could see puddles on the warning track).
- John Mabry battled Royals starter Paul Byrd and finally on the sixth pitch (with a 2-2 count) hit a ball into center to score Durham.
- Miguel Tejada was hit by a 1-0 pitch. (MVP! MVP!)
- Eric Chavez hit the first pitch he saw the opposite way into left for an apparent single. Leftfielder Raul Ibanez did his best Billy Buckner impersonation, and when the dust cleared Chavez was a-hugging third and two runs had scored (3-0).
- Jermaine Dye hit a 1-2 pitch into deep rightfield. Tucker gave chase but couldn't catch up with the ball. Another triple, another run (4-0). Tucker already had a shellshocked look on his face (or is that how he always looks). He looked like the kid that elects to play right so that no one hits it his way, but then spends the day chasing down monster shots by the opposition's lefty power hitters.
- Byrd seemed to settle down striking out David Justice swinging on three pitches and running an 0-2 count on Mark Ellis. Then Ellis hit a deep fly ball to center scoring Dye (5-0). It was a long sac. fly-he didn't miss it by much.
- Terrence Long hit a 2-1 double to left.
- With the count 2-2, Ramon Hernandez drove a ball to deep right-center for a double scoring Long (6-0).
- Durham ended the inning with a deep fly ball to left that Ibanez ran down.
- That was it for Byrd. He was relieved by Darrell May, who was an African-American OF-DH when I was a kid. Go figure. He, like Joe-A Roa and Salomon Torres, is pitching for the first time this year since 1997. It's catching. Maybe Julio Franco and Felix Jose will come back, too. By the way, Byrd did not keep one ball (well, maybe the one that hit Tejada) in the infield and most of the outfield hits were over the outfielders' heads.
- Mabry homered and then May retired the side in the second without further incident.
- The third, however, was back to scoring for the A's: Double, single, walk, a second monster double by Hernanadez, and an infield single left the score 9-0 with the bases loaded. By the way, the infield hit by Durham was a short-hopper that ate thirdbase man Joe Randa up but didn't allow Long to score. It was the first ball hit in the infield all night by the A's. There was a grounder to first for the force at home. Then Tejada (MVP! MVP!) hit a fairly deep ball to left and the throw home got away from the catcher and went to the backstop. Even so, the thirdbase coach held a ticked-off Hernandez at third, the theory being that they did not want to rub it in. That mistake could have been costly given how the game ended up. (By the way the announcers producly stated that the A's are trying hard to pad Tejada's RBI totals-see not below regarding Byrd.) It was academic after Chavez brought two more runs in with a single to right (11-0).
- The Royals did score 5 in the fourth on the strength of one double, 4 singles, and one costly error by Tejada (MVP! MVP!) dropping the ball while trying to turn a routine double play.
- I have to say that I missed their 5-run eighth-I had to go to bed. Of course it's never interesting to the A's unless they get to win it in the ninth.
- ESPN2's (The Deuce, you say?) coverage featured Tony Gwynn "golly-gee"-ing through the night. He was extremely impressed that the A's were able to rough up 15-game winner Paul Byrd for 6 in the first. Well, Byrd has given 6 or more on 5 other occasions (3 in a row) this season and in 4 of 19 starts last year. Believe me, as a Phillies fan familiar with Byrd, he can throw a shutout and look hittable the entire time. That is part of the reason the Phillies got rid of him last year: He got hurt, was ineffective when he returned, got on Larry Bowa's last nerve, and finally got shipped out of town. Of course, his departure coincided with the Phillies' annual pitching staff youth movement as well. Gwynn was also very impressed by Tim Hudson hitting prowess in college in the SEC conference (He must have said SEC conference three times).
- By the way, the commentators almost congratulated the Royals for re-arranging their staff to give him a chance to get to 20 wins, like it was charity work or something. Why is it that players are reviled for padding their individual stats at the expense of the team, but when the team does it, it's a nice thing?
- One final note on ESPN2's coverage, it didn't start until the middle of the first. Those of us who tuned in at game time, 10:05, were greeted by the sight of the Team USA basketball team losing to Argentina, of all places. What, can you dribble with your feet in the international rules? I'd rather watch a preseason WNBA game than international basketball. People talk about baseball players being spoiled and lazy, but you don't see an All-Star team losing to La Argentina Gauchos in baseball. As it turned out, we only missed the Royals go down 1-2-3, but what if they had had a big inning that jeopardized the streak?
Twenty-Two Or Schilling and Johnson and Pray for Sidney Ponson
Randy Johnson won his 20th game of the season yesterday beating LA 7-1. He came within an out of the shutout, but Shawn Green broke it up with a home run. It is his third straight 20-win season in a row and his fourth for his career. He also passed the underrated Bert Blyleven in all-time strikeouts into fourth place (3705) with 8 on the night.
It wasn't all that long ago that we were debating whether or not he was a Hall-of-Famer. Does anyone doubt it know?