Month: August 2020
Penance for Ryan Christenson
by Ken Arneson
2020-08-06 23:30

I’m going to retell a story here that my mother told me. I am absolutely astonished that this story from half a world away and three-quarters of a lifetime ago would ever have any relevance for an Oakland A’s blog, but here we are.

If you’ve followed me at all on these Internets, you know that I am of Swedish descent. My mother, however, was actually born in Norway. Her first language was Norwegian. When she was about five years old, her parents moved to take over a general store just across the Swedish-Norwegian border in a small village called Hällestrand. My mother became a Swede instead.

If you look at a map of Scandinavia, you’ll see that border between Norway and Sweden runs almost entirely in a north-south direction, except for a little piece at the bottom of Norway that does a turn to the west. My mother’s family comes from this area, where the border turns. My grandparents came from large families, so my mom had lots of aunts and uncles and cousins. I remember visiting these relatives as a child. Some of them lived on the Swedish side of the border, and others lived on the Norwegian side. They lived in two different countries, and spoke two different (but mutually intelligible) languages, but none of them lived much more than an hour’s drive or two from each other. When my mom was growing up, they would take trips to visit these relatives often.

Or they did, until two days before my mom’s 13th birthday, Nazi Germany invaded Norway.

The Nazis occupied Norway for the next five years. For five years, although they live mere miles from each other, the family was cut in half, some of them living in relative freedom in Sweden, the others forced to live with the flag of the swastika flying overhead, symbol of one of the most evil regimes in the history of mankind.

The Norwegian side of my family, I am proud to say, did not roll over for the Nazi invaders. Many of them joined the Norwegian resistance, helping to sabotage what they could, resolving to never make anything easy for their oppressors.

Apparently my mother’s grandparents, my great-grandparents, took part in this resistance. I don’t know what exactly they did, but at some point in 1943 or 1944, they decided it became too dangerous for them to stay in Norway. Although communication was very limited, somehow they got word to my grandfather, who met them as the snuck across the border with just the clothes they were wearing. They spent the rest of the war living with my mom’s family in Sweden.

The generation of people who lived through that experience are almost all no longer with us. My mom, now 93 years old, is the only one I know of who remembers World War II who is left on that side of my family. When they go, they take something that makes those stories real with them.

World War II ended 75 years ago. With that distance, the Nazis can seem preposterous. They can become cartoon characters of evil, not something real that real people lived through for five years, if they lived through it at all. And I’ll admit, I’ve held a detached, arm’s-length understanding of Nazis, too. Most of my experience with Nazis growing up was watching dozens of episodes of Hogan’s Heroes.

My mom had a cousin in Norway named Else who was the same age as her. They were very close. Else had been in the resistance movement, too. She passed away a few years ago. She was a small, energetic, upbeat, lively woman, very kind and sweet and generous. I remember the last time I visited her before she died. She told a story how she had recently visited a WWII museum in northern Norway. In this museum, there were some young German tourists, probably in their teens or early twenties. As she told it, these young students were being loud and boisterous, sometimes even joking and laughing, instead of being quiet and solemn.

Else was offended. Offended. Her eyes, which were normally so bright and welcoming, turned cold and hard and fierce and determined.

I’ll never forget that look in her eyes. That look made WWII feel more real to me than any book, film, lecture, TV documentary or essay ever could. Those eyes made it clear: This is not funny. Not to her. You. Absolutely. Do. Not. Joke. About. Nazis.

Yesterday, the Oakland A’s beat the Texas Rangers, 6-4. In a normal year, players coming off the field after are victory are greeted with a line of high fives. But because of the pandemic, however, high fives are not allowed this year. So the A’s have taken to greeting each other with forearm taps.

Everyone on the team held their arms out to the side to greet the incoming players with bent elbows. Everyone, that is, except A’s bench coach Ryan Christenson, who held his arm out straight, in a fashion that was identical to a Nazi “Heil Hitler” arm salute.

A’s closer Liam Hendriks, who is from Australia, immediately noticed this as he passed by, grabbed Christenson’s arm, and told him to bend the elbow. Christenson then turned around, faced the other direction, and then threw out the arm straight again.

There are two ways to interpret those events. One is that Christenson is a white supremacist, and intended those straight arms as a Nazi salute, either seriously or jokingly. The other is that he didn’t realize he was making a Nazi salute, and that when he turned around and did it again, he was confused why Hendriks had admonished him for it, then did it again to figure out why, and only then did the light bulb go on and he realized what a stupid thing he had done.

Obviously, Christenson claimed the latter, and apologized.

Is an apology enough? Or should Christenson be suspended, or fired? It largely depends on which of those two interpretations you believe.

What do you think? Answer that question to yourself, and hold it in mind, because there’s one more part of my mom’s story I want to tell.

The Nazi occupation ended in May of 1945, just as my mom turned 18. My mom and her family immediately crossed the border to visit those relatives they hadn’t seen in five years, and to bring them gifts of so many of the kinds of goods they had been deprived of in all those years of scarcity.

During one such post-war visit to a cousin named Synnøve, my mom saw a woman with a shaved head walking down the street with one foot on the sidewalk, and one foot in the gutter. “Why is she walking like that?” my mom asked. “She’s a ‘tyskerjente’,” was the reply. “That is her penance.”

My mother was appalled. She did not agree with treating these women that way.

‘Tyskerjente’ was the derogatory term given after the war to Norwegian women who had relationships with occupying German soldiers. There were an estimated 300,000 German troops stationed in Norway during the war. How many of them had relationships with local women during that time cannot be precisely known, but it is estimated to be between 30,000 and 100,000.

One of the goals of the Nazi regime was to create a master white race to rule the world. The Nazis regarded Norwegian blood to be even more ‘pure’ than German blood, so they strongly encouraged such relationships during the occupation. They created a special breeding program called Lebensborn to facilitate this eugenics program. Norwegian women who got pregnant with German soldiers received special privileges.

When Germany lost the war and the occupation ended, however, these women were strongly ostracized. They had given aid and comfort to their Nazi occupiers. They had participated in a plan to create an elite master race designed to rule over them and the world. They were regarded as traitors to their country.

They not only were forced to shave their heads and suffer other humiliations, they were also often jailed on fake charges. While they didn’t technically fit the legal definition of treason, authorities rounded them up and placed them into ‘investigative prisons’ where they were interrogated until some trumped up treason charge could be laid upon them.

While incarcerated, children of these relationships were separated from their mother and placed in special orphanages. These children were similarly ostracized, neglected and bullied, and grew up to suffer quite a bit of psychological damage. There were an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 of such children born from Norwegian mothers and German fathers during the war.

Some of these women tried to escape persecution by marrying their German boyfriends. They found, often to their surprise, that Norway had passed a law revoking Norwegian citizenship to anyone marrying an occupying soldier. Upon marriage, they became people without a country. A lot of them found themselves stuck in Communist East Germany, living under a government that didn’t care about them any more than the Norwegian one did.

Other women fled anywhere else in the world they could find a willing host. Often this meant to relatives who lived in Sweden or Denmark. One such woman had a daughter by a German father in December of 1945, fled to her mother’s home in Sweden to escape persecution, but died shortly thereafter. The girl was raised in Sweden by her grandmother, and grew up to be a world-famous musician: Anni-Frid Lyngstad one of the four members of ABBA.

Who was right? The Norwegian people for punishing these women who allied themselves with Nazi soldiers, the very people who were oppressing them for five years? Or my mom, whose instant reaction to the punishment of these women was abhorrence?

About a year after the fake prisons for these women were set up, they were disbanded. A single Norwegian official in charge decided that they too much resembled the concentration camps of their Nazi occupiers. But for over fifty years, Norway did little else to help these women, or their children.

In 2007, a group of these children sued the Norwegian government in the European Court of Human Rights. They didn’t win their case, on the grounds that they hadn’t exhausted local remedies before bringing it to a higher court. But as the people who remembered the horrors of the Nazi occupation first hand began to die off, sentiment began to change.

Finally, in 2018, Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg offered an official apology to the Norwegian women who were mistreated for their relationships with German soldiers:

“Young Norwegian girls and women who had relations with German soldiers or were suspected of having them, were victims of undignified treatment,” Ms Solberg said at an event to mark the 70th anniversary of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Wednesday.

“Our conclusion is that Norwegian authorities violated the rule fundamental principle that no citizen can be punished without trial or sentenced without law. For many, this was just a teenage love, for some, the love of their lives with an enemy soldier or an innocent flirt that left its mark for the rest of their lives.

“Today, in the name of the government, I want to offer my apologies.”

Norwegians were victims, for five years, of one of the most evil states in history. They were angry, and hurt, and naturally wanted anyone who aided in that evil to be punished.

This is the sort of thing that happens when an injustice is done, but the legal system is inadequate to address that injustice. Something wrong happened, and just because the legal system can’t do anything about it, it feels wrong that you should just move on as if nothing had happened at all. When that happens, people take justice into their own hands, and/or manipulate the system to get what they want. And all the kinds of mistakes that happen when people manipulate the system, and take the law into their own hands, end up happening. They punished these women, and their children, as much as the law allowed. And when the law was not enough for their liking, they punished them even further by shunning them from their society.

The A’s have the legal right to decide what happens to Christenson. Ryan Christenson gave a Nazi salute. Twice. Whether it was intentional or not, it happened. Giving a mere apology, and then moving on as if nothing had happened, feels inadequate to many people. Apologies are inadequate because they don’t cause any loss of dignity, any loss of status. And if it feels inadequate, the issue will not go away. People will continue to pursue the issue, to try to punish Christenson further, until they feel justice is done.

If the A’s feel Christenson did not intend to do a Nazi salute, which I’m sure is their position, firing Christenson is an excessive punishment. But if they want this issue to go away, they should do something that is proportional to the act.

Perhaps the A’s should suspend Christenson for a couple of weeks. Or perhaps Christenson ought to pay some penance on his own volition, the 2020 equivalent of walking with one foot on the curb and one in the gutter, so that Christenson suffers some loss of dignity, some loss of status, from his offensive act. And once that loss of status is noted, that the contrition is recognized, then we all can forgive, and move on.

The Science of a Mustache
by Ken Arneson
2020-08-05 23:30

If I have a mission in life, beyond my family, it is to get everybody on the planet to understand the difference between the two types of memory in the human brain, and why that difference is so important to every aspect of human endeavor.

So far, I have been a complete and utter failure at my mission.

It’s not that people disagree with me. Nobody disagrees with me because, well, face it, I’m right about this. It’s more like those movies where a kid discovers there’s an alien in the backyard, and goes in to tell mom, and says “Hey mom there’s an alien in the backyard!” and mom, who is on the phone and not really paying attention says, “That’s nice, dear” and goes back to talking on the phone.

Part of the problem is that here is no standard nomenclature for these two types of memory. Every endeavor is affected by this issue, but every endeavor gives it a different name, so you can’t really see that the problem Matt Olson is having with his batting slump is the exact same problem as, say, a guy trying to convince people with an essay that there’s an alien in his backyard.

Neuroscientists call it “nondeclarative and declarative memory”, behavioral economists call it “System 1 and System 2”, psychologists call it “the subconscious and the conscious”, philosophers call it “passions and reason”, but nobody seems to realize that when baseball players talk about “zoning in” and “pressing”, that’s the same thing, too. They’re all talking about the architecture of the brain.

Matt Olson was in a slump. He hit a walkoff homer in the first game of the season, but had done not much of anything since. So yesterday, he decided to grow a mustache, to see if that could change his luck.

And ha ha ha, what do you know, he hit two home runs in his first game with the mustache, and the A’s won the game 6-4. Ha ha ha, now he has to keep it, because ha ha ha, the mustache worked and made him hit those homers. Ha ha ha.

Why are you laughing? Because we know correlation is not causation, and we know the mustache did not really make him hit those homers?

Stop laughing. I’m going to argue, seriously, that the mustache did make him hit those home runs.

The System 1/nondeclarative/subconscious/passion/zoning system of the brain is primarily built for two things: pattern recognition and muscle memory. This is different from the System 2/declarative/conscious/reason/pressing system of the brain, which is built to slowly and consciously work through problems that are too difficult to solve with pattern recognition and muscle memory alone.

Hitting a baseball is not too difficult to problem to solve with pattern recognition and muscle memory alone. In fact, just the opposite: a baseball comes at you too fast for you to be able to use any sort of rational process to figure out what to do. You have mere fractions of a second to recognize a pitch, and then swing (or not swing) at it. If you try to insert rational thought into the problem of trying to hit a baseball while it’s on its way towards you, you’re going to react too late to hit the ball.

By the time a player reaches the Major Leagues, he has trained his pattern recognition and muscle memory brain cells to an extremely fine degree. Those brain cells know exactly what to do.

The problem here is that those brain cells are subconscious. You cannot directly and deliberately control them. They function automatically. They learn automatically. If you want to manipulate those brain cells, you can’t just decide to change them. You have to trick them into changing, with practice and repetition.

It’s a very very very common mistake, however, to try to decide to change them. A small run of failures, and a player can start consciously second-guessing what they’re doing. They start trying to do something their brain is not trained for, like a home run hitter trying just to hit a single, or a singles hitter trying to hit a home run, or a pull hitter trying to go the other way, or a slap hitter trying to hit the ball in the air, or a guy who is normally patient at the plate waiting for a good pitch decides to start trying to hit everything.

It’s so common, that baseball players have a word for it: pressing. “I’m pressing,” they say.

“Pressing” is trying to insert a System 2/declarative/conscious function into a normally fully System 1/nondeclarative/subconscious process. You’ve been failing a bit, so you try to consciously figure out why you’ve been failing. This can often make things worse instead of better.

If you start pressing, if you start inserting conscious thought into what should be a subconscious process, it’s a really good idea to give your conscious thought a distraction. You want a distraction that gives your System 2/declarative/conscious brain process something to think about that is completely unrelated to the subconscious process, If your conscious system is working on something unrelated to the subconscious process, then the System 1/nondeclarative/subconscious process can just go back to doing what it does best, without the unnecessary and unhelpful meddling from the conscious mind.

If Matt Olson goes to the plate thinking “I’m in a slump, I really need to get a hit here, how do I get a hit?”, then the System 1/nondeclarative/subconscious brain system isn’t free to do the thing it’s been trained to do best, to just “see ball, hit ball”

And so, a mustache.

If Matt Olson goes to the plate, and his conscious thought process is, “I’m at the plate wearing a mustache, I’ve never worn a mustache at the plate before”, that may be on the surface a ridiculous thing to thinking about there, but it also may be just what he needs. His upper lip is not involved in the swing mechanism. If his conscious mind is busy interfering with his upper lip mechanics, then it’s not interfering with the processes of pitch recognition and swing mechanics.

And boom, two home runs in one game. GIVE ‘EM THE STACHE, THE STACHE, THE STACHE!

Just the Facts, Ma’am
by Ken Arneson
2020-08-04 23:30

Nobody reads old blogs. Maybe historians will, a thousand years from now. But usually, like baseball games, they are very much a thing of their moment, and forgotten soon after.

So I suppose it’s rather pointless that I’ve always had a goal, with my blogging, to make them readable not just in their moment, but many years down the line. But if, for some reason, someone does decide to go back and read these things, I think I somewhat succeeded in that goal. By focusing on what it feels like to be an A’s fan, instead of going into detailed analysis of each game, I think the previous version of Catfish Stew is still readable, fifteen years later.

If the blog was merely a list of “Kirk Saarloos did this in the third inning” and “Dan Johnson did that in the fifth inning”, and “What do the A’s do now that Bobby Crosby is injured?” on the other hand, aside from the nostalgia of reviving forgotten names, it would be a dreadful bore. Facts and events are local. Emotions are universal.

The exception is, of course, when moments of significance happen. Those are always fun to revisit, even if it’s just the facts. Today’s A’s-Rangers game was bookended by two such moments.

The first moment was A’s rookie sensation Jesús Luzardo’s first major league start. He was magnificent, even if he didn’t have all his pitches working. His fastball was sparkling, he located it well, and he kept batters off balance with his changeup. He went five innings and didn’t allow a run.

He accomplished that without having his slider working very well. He tried to get some right-handed batters to chase his backfoot slider, but he wasn’t quite locating that pitch exactly where he wanted it. It started low and inside and ended up even more low and inside, so hitters never chased it for a strike. The exciting thing is, if he does manage to find that pitch so that it starts out looking like a pitch over the plate, and ends up in the dirt by the back foot of the right-handed hitter, he will be even more difficult to hit.

I haven’t been this excited about a young A’s pitcher since Rich Harden. He looks like a star in the making to me.

Luzardo did not get the victory in this game, as the game proceeded the way most of the A’s games have proceeded this season. The A’s offense did nothing against the Rangers starter, Lance Lynn, who was similarly magnificent in this game, moving his fastball in and out with various cuts and sinks like a vintage Bartolo Colon. Luzardo left the game with the score tied, 0-0. The Rangers scored a run off Luzardo’s successor, Yusmeiro Petit, in the sixth inning. Matt Chapman managed to time one of Lynn’s fastballs in the seventh for an opposite field homer to tie the game at 1. The game then moved to the ninth inning, tied 1-1.

The other moment of significance happened in the bottom of the ninth. Just like in the first game of the season, the A’s loaded the bases in a tie game with one out. A sacrifice fly would win the game.

In the first game it was Matt Olson who came up in that situation. This time it was Stephen Piscotty. Just like Olson, Piscotty was facing a new reliever coming into the game. And just like Olson, Piscotty hit the first pitch he saw into the air into the outfield, deep enough for that sacrifice fly. And also just like Olson, Piscotty’s ball kept going, and flew over the fence for a game-winning walkoff grand slam. Final score: A’s 5, Rangers 1.

This was the first time the A’s had ever hit two walkoff grand slams in a single season, and they did both of those in a span of less than two weeks. And given that this is a shortened season where each game is worth 2.7x what a game is worth in a normal 162-game season, I joked on Twitter soon afterwards that “The Oakland A’s are the first team in major league history to hit 5.4 walkoff grand slams in a season.”

And that’s the fact, Jack.

Or What You Will
by Ken Arneson
2020-08-03 23:30

Life is full of drama, and you have to take that seriously, but sometimes you just need a little break from that with a fun 11-1 comedic romp. Here is, as I remember it, a basic summary of what happened on the Twelfth Night (a/k/a Tenth Game) of the Oakland A’s season:

There are these infielders, Matt Chapman and Matt Olson, and nobody can tell them apart, even though one is right-handed and the other is left-handed, because, you know, they’re both named Matt, and they end up shipwrecked and separated in this town full of Mariners called Seattle, and they both think the other is dead, and they go and have a bunch of interactions with various characters in this town, and sometimes these characters think they’re interacting with one Matt, while they’re really interacting with the other Matt, and all sorts of hilarious mixups ensue, but it all turns out happy in the end. Oh, and Ramon Laureano wears big yellow socks for some reason.

Matt and Matt are the lead characters in the show, and they are therefore considered the big stars. But really, the juiciest role is Ramon Laureano. Just imagine if you had the legs to pull off big yellow socks, and an arm to die for to boot, people are going to remember you when they go home more than boring old Matt and Matt. But what nobody knows is that you’re also an excellent swordsman, although nobody seems to even notice that, because of the yellow socks and all. You just can’t get any love. But you’re the best, Ramon Laureano. Really, you are.

Ha ha ha, what a great show that was!

by Ken Arneson
2020-08-02 23:30

I have spent a lot of time over the years contemplating the role of sports in our lives. Why is it so important to us? Why is it so popular, everywhere across the planet? Its global reach, even with local flavors, must say something about human nature itself.

I have my theories, which center around allowing us to satisfy the tribalist and competitive aspects of our nature in a manner which were, in previous generations that didn’t have sports, satisfied in violent and destructive ways. Sports becoming so popular is a very important innovation towards the welfare of human beings. It shouldn’t be dismissed as just mere entertainment, an unimportant, frivolous activity.

But there is a value to sports that I hadn’t even thought to consider until now. Being without any sports to follow for several months at the beginning of this pandemic, every single day seemed to just blend into the next. When you get up and there’s nowhere to go and you just do whatever whenever because you’re alone and there’s no one you need to particularly coordinate with, the clock and the calendar begin to disconnect from your life. There were times in May and June that I thought it was Tuesday, and it was actually Friday.

The rhythms of a shared sporting culture provide structure to our lives. What time is the A’s game on today? Is it a day game? Night game? Who are they playing? Is it the first game of a series, or the last?

Other things can provide that kind of structure, too, of course. Commuting to work five days a week. Going to church every Sunday. Participating in these rhythms, particularly with other people, creates a feeling of stability and belonging. The pandemic has removed many of these kinds of rhythmic structures in our lives. We’ve been forced to creatively find alternatives, or suffer the psychological penalties of going without.

Baseball is back. For how long, we’ll have to see. At what risk, at what cost, I don’t know. But it’s not just a frivolous vanity. It’s not without value. Whether that value is worth the cost, is a valid question. But planning my day around the time of first pitch, watching the game, talking about it with other people on Twitter, and then ritually writing about it here on this blog afterwards–all of that fills a part of my soul that has felt empty for months now.

But it would help to overcome that feeling of one day just bleeding into the next if the baseball game I watch didn’t just repeat itself in consecutive games. The A’s 3-2 victory over the Mariners today played itself out very much in the same manner as their 3-2 victory over the Mariners yesterday.

Both games: the A’s fell behind early. Both games: the A’s bats were listless against the Mariners starting pitchers. Both games: the A’s pitching was good enough to keep the team within reach in the game until the offense could do something. Both games: Mariners manager Scott Servais let a left-handed reliever pitch to a right-handed A’s batter when he didn’t really need to, and that A’s batter hit a home run that gave the A’s just enough runs, despite their meager offense, to hold on to a win.

Like a matinee performance of a Shakespeare play, the script was the same, but some of the cast was different. The understudy stepping into the starting pitcher role this time was Chris Bassitt instead of Mike Fiers. The right-handed batter hitting the homer was played by Ramon Laureano instead of Chad Pinder. And this time, they ended the play in nine innings instead of ten.

Like watching multiple versions of the Scottish play, I’m willing to watch a decent script multiple times with different players. I won’t turn down more 3-2 victories if that’s the script that works for the A’s this year. But there are other great scripts we could try, too. How about a fun comedy with an effective offense and a nice, easy victory for once?

Calibrate Good Times, Come On!
by Ken Arneson
2020-08-01 23:30

Each game this season is worth 2.7 games in a normal season. The first time I heard that fact, I assumed people were just rounding it to 2.7, and the real number was something like 2.7182818284. There would have been something extremely satisfying about having the value of each baseball game be worth e, but then I did the math: 162 ÷ 60 actually equals exactly 2.7, no rounding needed.

I now know the number 2.7 in my head as a fact, but I still haven’t quite accurately calibrated my emotions to this idea. Sometimes this season, I’ve watched games with the normal detached indifference of a regular season game being just one in 162, and sometimes I’ve watched like each game is worth 27 games, not 2.7, and a single loss would mean the season is basically over.

But then again, the pandemic could bring an end to the season at any moment. Today’s game was the eighth game of the season, and if the season did end today, each of those games would have been worth 162 ÷ 8 = 20.25 games.

So perhaps my emotions haven’t been wrong after all. Perhaps my intensity will just ratchet down as the season goes on, along with the certainty of how valuable any particular game can be. Today’s game was 20.25 as intense as a normal game, the next one will be 162 ÷ 9 = 18x, the following one 162 ÷ 10 = 16.2x, and so forth.

But then again, baseball is meaningless right now if you think logically. Place baseball for even a second in its proper perspective in the world, and your intensity ought to rachet back down to zero.

And it does, for me, in those moments of clarity and perspective that I have. But the honest truth is, most of the time, when I think about the meaninglessness of this baseball season, it’s not because I’m trying to be rational. Really, what I’m doing is thinking about it that way because my team is losing, and I’m looking for an emotional escape from the pain of that failure.

I’m an emotional yo-yo, is what I’m saying. And also an intellectual fraud.

Be that as it may: yesterday, in a moment of compartmentalization over perspective, I felt very annoyed at how crappy the A’s have played so far this season, and how they were playing in this game. The A’s were listless. The A’s should be better than this. From the first inning through the ninth, I felt certain the A’s were about to lose and thereby fall another 20.25 games behind the first place Astros. I was full of despair.

But somehow, the A’s managed to squeeze out a 3-2 victory in 10 innings over the Seattle Mariners. Instead of going 0-for-infinity with runners in scoring position, the A’s went 2-for-infinity instead. The Mariners left a left-hander in to face the extreme platoon-splitty Chad Pinder for some reason, who homered with Mark Canha aboard to tie the game at 2-2 in the 7th. Then in the 10th, Robbie Grossman, who might have pinch-hit for Pinder had the Mariners brought a righty in to face him in the 7th, pinch hit in the 10th instead, and doubled home the winning run. Along with some pretty good pitching, and the Mariners going 0-for-infinity themselves with runners in scoring position late in the game, that was enough, barely, for the A’s to win.

As the Astros also played extra innings but lost, the late evening felt like it had suddenly turned into a huge 40.5-game shift in the standings. It felt like the A’s went over the span of a couple of innings from being virtually eliminated from the playoffs to being tied for first place instead.

What a moment of sheer, fraudulent joy that was!

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