Oakland 3, Pittsburgh 2 (WPA Graph from Fangraphs)
A's Current Record: 37-40
Ah, the hapless Pirates, the cure for whatever ails your team. When Pittsburgh arrived in the Bay Area, the A's were in the midst of a season-worst tailspin, falling to 6 games under .500 and further out of the picture in the AL West. Three games later, I feel a lot better about the team even though they only gained 1 game on the Rangers --- winning will do that to you.
This was a game that the A's has absolutely no business winning --- they managed just 3 hits, walked more guys than they struck out, and looked pretty listless against the worst team in the majors. Thankfully, the Pirates suck and also gave the game away.
Gio Gonzalez has started to establish himself as a solid major league starter (and along with Trevor Cahill, has basically kept the A's afloat recently) and going against a lineup with 3 legitimate major league hitters (McCutchen, Doumit and Jones), I was expecting more. He did throw 6 shutout innings before the Milledge HR that knocked him from the game, and his overall line looked okay, but he walked 4 and struck out just 2 (with only 47 strikes out of 87 pitches). Against a better team, it would have been a mediocre outing at best --- which is why Geren pulled him so quickly. Unfortunately, Brad Ziegler gave up two rare hits to righties and blew the save --- but the decision-making was sound.
The A's only scored any runs thanks to the generosity of the Pirates --- the first run was particularly reminiscent of Little-League as Cliff Pennington walked and then scored all the way from first on two throwing errors on an errant pickoff play. The next run was thanks to a walk then a dropped flyball, then a misplay by the pitcher Ohlendorf on a Pennington "single", then another walk to force in a run. That the A's failed to score any more with the bases loaded and 0 out is illustrative of how poorly they played.
Finally, the winning run was absolutely perfect --- after catcher Jason Jaramillo botched a foul pop-out with two outs in the 8th, Kurt Suzuki made him pay (and made Ray Fosse look prescient) by pounding a solo HR into the left-field bleachers. Gotta love second chances. Andrew Bailey didn't look too sharp, giving up a leadoff single (erased on a Jaramillo GIDP...not a good 10 minutes for that guy), and another walk before the game ended perfectly --- with Pedro Alvarez at first, Jose Tabata hit a sure-fire single to right...before it struck Alvarez as he was running to 2nd, an automatic out to end the game.
So, the A's took care of business against the Pirates and now get to face the AL-worst Orioles while the Angels and Rangers go against each other. They have a chance to gain ground here --- realistically the gap has got to be around 5-6 games at the most by the All-Star Break to avoid going into full-fledged selling mode.