Baseball games at the Oakland Coliseum, I’ve found, always offer a taste of the unexpected.
When I lived in the Bay Area I would make a point of trying to go whenever the Mariners were in town, scavenging StubHub for some inexpensive tickets and braving the tedious, traffic-filled trek to the stadium. Soon the cacophony of BART would cede to the clanging of cowbells, and I’d settle into my seat inside that seagull-infested box of socket wrenches they call a baseball stadium for half the year.
I actually really miss it. Tickets were cheap, beers were cheap, and the food…well, I basically avoided the food. But the games were always memorable.
Back in April I watched James Paxton surprisingly struggle through four innings, surrendering his first 5 runs of the season, and two days later seeing Chase De Jong somehow conjure up four scoreless innings in relief. Often times the tonal whiplash was dizzying:
Today’s game, however, went almost exactly according to script. And after last night’s borderline cardiac event-inducing scrumfest of a baseball game, it felt pretty damn good.
Kyle “Corey’s Brother” Seager kicked things off in a hurry, taking dinger-prone A’s starter Jharel Cotton deep, scoring Segura and Canó in the top of the 1st:
It was almost enough to make you forget that Yovani Gallardo was starting today’s game for the M’s. Almost.
Seemingly on cue, Gallardo allowed a leadoff homer to Matt Joyce. He then continued to struggle with his command, but was bailed out by a Jarrod Dyson catch at the wall in center to escape the inning—what proved to be the first of two pivotal defensive gems from the M’s outfield this afternoon. More on that in a moment.
After everyone presumably dozed off for their 2nd inning siesta, a singular crack of the bat woke the sleepers in a hurry in the 3rd:
Statcast listed that shot at 450 ft and 115 MILES PER FREAKING HOUR off the bat. Yowza.
Khris Davis answered in the bottom of the inning with a little flick of the wrist that ended up just over the fence in center-right for a solo home run, but Nelson Cruz is not a man who is to be denied the last word. In the next frame he tacked on another 436 feet to his daily damage:
Gallardo’s general lack of control caught up to him in the bottom of the 5th, and though he exited the game mid-inning after surrendering a run on a Jed Lowrie double that narrowed Oakland’s deficit to 3 runs, it almost certainly would have been worse if not for Benny (Gamel) and his Jets:
Emilio Pagan entered the game with only one out and managed to retire Khris Davis and Ryon Healy on a pair of harmless groundouts. As someone who devoted too many hours last week to celebrating the emergence of the rookie reliever, I was pretty fired up.
2.2 shutout innings of two-strikeout, one-hit, no-walk ball later, young Emilio had put himself in line for the first win of his career. Confidently attacking the zone while working the corners with precision, the A’s hitters simply had no chance. Here’s what his strikeout to Matt Chapman looked like:
After Tony Zych cruised through the 8th, and Edwin Díaz shut things down for his 25th save of the year in the 9th, it was official:
The Mariners are three games over .500 for the first time all year. I’m still in a state of euphoric disbelief, so I’ll repeat myself: The Mariners are three games over .500 for the first time all year.
It feels somehow appropriate this win came in the Coliseum, that cold, concrete cathedral to the unexpected.
Tomorrow night they return home to take on the Angels, the first game of an absolutely massive series that accompanies Edgar weekend. But this afternoon, just like both of Boomstick’s Boomsticks, there was never really any doubt.
Go Nelly. Go Emilio. Go entire outfield defense. And go freakin’ M’s.