The sky was the sickening color of Houston Astros jerseys being sent through a meat grinder.
There was the usual morning marine layer of clouds covering the Bay Area in the morning. But above that layer was an additional layer of smoke and ash clouds from fires burning to the north, south, and east of the Bay Area. These smoke clouds filtered out the normal blue light coming from the sky, leaving only yellow, orange, and red light able to get through the marine layer to reach the ground.
Normally, the daytime sun will burn off the marine layer of clouds before noon. But with the smoke above blocking some of that solar energy, the marine layer failed to burn off, and persisted all day long. As a result, the entire day looked like a sunset or an eclipse, with dimmer light and ever-shifting colors.
Another odd effect of this persistent marine layer is that the water vapor clouds caught a lot of the fine smoke particles from the smoke clouds that fell towards earth. Only the heavier pieces of ash could manage to fall through the marine layer and hit the ground. So everything was on the ground was dusted with a thin layer of ash. But because the small air particles that are actually hazardous to breathe weren’t making it to the ground so easy, the air quality wasn’t so bad considering what the sky looked like. The air quality index hovered around 120 all day, which is in the “Unhealthy for sensitive groups” category. Considering that the AQI has been over 200 multiple times in the last few weeks, it could have been worse.
It was against this backdrop that the A’s and the Astros played the fourth game of their five-game series. The game started before sunset, so the strange orange color was still visible against the sky at first pitch.
Jesús Luzardo pitched a pretty good game, yielding only a couple of solo homers in seven innings of work. But the A’s didn’t score until the bottom of the seventh, when a blooper down the line off the bat of Tommy La Stella bounced off the leg of left fielder Kyle Tucker, allowing two runs to score and tie the game.
The game continued tied at 2 until the bottom of the ninth, when Sean Murphy led off by drawing a well-earned walk to lead off the inning against Astros closer Ryan Pressly. Stephen Piscotty pinch ran for Murphy, and got to second base when Tony Kemp was hit by a pitch. Then with two outs, Ramon Laureano drove a ball into the left-center gap for a single to win the game for the A’s, 3-2.
The Astros probably need to win four out of the five games in this series to have a reasonable chance to win the division. But now the A’s have taken three of the first four, so it will take a ridiculously unlikely collapse by the A’s in the last two weeks of the season for the A’s to fail to win the division now.
You would think that the A’s hour has come round at last. But stranger things have happened. In a year when each day brings a new bizarre condition for us to deal with, it would surprise no one if some indignant darkness drops again, and some new rough beast falls from our blood-dimmed skies to vex us further.