Rich Harden and the A’s were cruising along, leading 6-0 going into the bottom of the 8th with Harden throwing a one-hitter, when quite suddenly, a baseball game broke out.
Harden tends to run out of gas in an instant. One minute he’s dominant, the next he’s wild and/or hittable. So after the first two runners in the bottom of the eighth got on, Ken Macha yanked him. Justin Duchscherer, his replacement, was uncharacteristically wild. Next thing you know, the tying run was on-deck with two outs, and Macha had to summon Joe Kennedy to get out Raul Ibanez. Kennedy did his job, and the A’s escaped the inning leading 6-1. Whew, right?
Not really. In the bottom of the ninth, Kirk Saarloos was brought on to nail down the last three outs, but he was wilder than Duchscherer. Suddenly the tying-run is on deck again with two outs, and this time the tying run is Ichiro. So Macha summons Huston Street to put an end to this nonsense. Whew, right?
Wrong. Somehow Willie Bloomquist, of all people, managed to get a hit off of Street to bring Ichiro to the plate as the tying run. So then Ichiro hit a hard grounder up the middle, which Street managed to snag. Whew, right?
Wrong. Street decides, for some unfathomable reason, to throw the ball about 60 feet underhanded to first base. Of course, he throws it way too high, making Nick Swisher have to jump to catch it. Swisher came down and collided with Ichiro, tagging him in the process. Whew, right?
Wrong. The umpire, seeing that Swisher landed off the bag, and not seeing the tag, called Ichiro safe. Next pitch, Ichiro stole second, so now the tying run was in scoring position.
Then Street got Jose Lopez to hit a grounder to Bobby Crosby, who fired a bullet across the diamond to Swisher. Game over. Whew, right?
Yeah, I guess. But when you combine Street’s throw with Milton Bradley’s “forgot to step on third” blunder on Friday, you have to accept the fact that, even though the A’s won each game, the A’s have committed two colossal brain farts in three days. You can look at numbers all you want, but this sort of thing is real reason Billy Beane’s $#!^ hasn’t worked in the playoffs.
Even if the A’s go 160-2, clinch a playoff berth in July, sweep the ALDS, ALCS, the first three games of the World Series, and hold a 6-0 lead and an 0-2 count with two outs in the ninth inning of game four, I am now, thanks to this weekend, still going to be horribly nervous that Oakland is about to be destroyed with yet more unbelievable brain farts (or failing that, earthquakes, firestorms, large objects falling from the sky, and assorted other supernatural disasters) until that very last out of the World Series is finally secured.
Then, and only then, will I finally feel good about exclaiming, “Whew!”