Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.
The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
Prisoners of Azkaban
Thursday, September 05, 2002
Root, Root, Root for the Home Team
The Nuisance Global Headquarters happens to be located only about 10 miles away from what was, last night, the center of the baseball world. I had the good fortune to be at the scene, along with 55,527 others, when the Oakland Athletics looked to stretch their incredible win streak to 20, an American League record and the 2nd best in major league history. (I consider the official record of 26 to be invalid, because one game was called for darkness and ended in a tie. 25 wins and one tie is an impressive achievement, but it isn't 26 consecutive wins.)
I came early and was lucky to buy a ticket at under face value from a man who had extras. The crowd was easily the largest and the loudest for any game I've been to in the Coliseum, and turned out to be the largest ever for a regular season game in Oakland. I made my own contributions to the noise and am still quite hoarse today. Of the many posters I saw, I particularly liked two apparently connected ones that said, "20 straight money can't buy", and, "For everything else there's Yankees".
The As were hot when the game started. After Tim Hudson retired the Royals in order in the top of the first, Durham opened the bottom of the first with a triple to the right field corner. After two more singles, a hit batter, an error by Ibanez, and another triple from Dye, the score was 4 - 0 before the first Oakland out. KC starter Paul Byrd is a quality pitcher as shown by his 15 - 11 record, far better than his team's 55 - 84. But after he gave up two more doubles for a total of 6 hits, 4 extra base hits, and 6 earned runs in the first inning, he wasn't invited back for the second, the earliest he has been chased this year.
After Hudson sent the Royal down quietly in the 2nd, Mabry greeted long reliever Darrell May with a leadoff homer in the home side. The As batted around again in the third, running the score up to 11 - 0.
With what looked like an unbeatable lead, the stands were already a celebrating a new record. Unfortunately, the same attitude spread to the dugout, and the A's proceeded to give a clinic on bungling baseball fundamentals. After 14 of the first 22 hitters reached base, the Oakland bats went silent. Dye struck out to end the 3rd, and over the next 5 innings, Oakland never had a serious offensive threat, with only 2 runners getting on base, both after 2 outs.
The lack of further offensive production was paired with sloppy defense. Miguel Tejada is having a superb season, and is an MVP contender who made game-winning hits in the bottom of the ninth to clinch the 18th and 19th victories of the drive. But last night he was the worst offender. When KC had 2 on and none out in the fourth, Mayne hit a grounder to Ellis that should have killed the rally. Ellis took the ball cleanly and flipped to Tejada for what should have been an easy double play. Instead, Tejada dropped the ball and failed to even get the force at second, opening the gates for 5 KC runs that made a comeback possible.
In the following innings, KC was generating scoring opportunities while Oakland wasn't. Although the margin stayed at 6 runs, the game felt closer than that, with the frequent KC runners keeping open the possibility of an incredible 11 run comeback.
In the 8th, Bradford, a pitcher with an unusual sidearm delivery and generally excellent control, walked the first two batters. A ground ball by Perez to first should have been the first out, but Bradford stayed on the mound instead of covering first. Perez beat Mabry in a race to the base, and the bases were loaded with no outs. Ordaz grounded to Tejada, who should have conceded the run and gotten the easy force and possible double play at 3rd. Instead, Tejada threw home and threw poorly. Mayne beat the throw and everyone was safe with a run across, the bases still loaded, and no outs. The As got two outs, giving up one more run in the process. But Sweeney hit a two out home run to tighten the score to 11 - 10.
In the top of the ninth, Koch came in for the save opportunity. Randa singled and Mayne sacrificed him to second. With two outs, Alicea singled and the pinch runner scored to tie the game. Oakland had become the first team since the 1976 Chicago Cubs to squander an 11 run lead. Alicea reached second on a wild pitch, but it was KC's turn to make a stupid mistake, and he got picked off to end the inning.
For the third conseutive game, the As needed heroics in the bottom of the ninth. After Dye flew out, Scott Hatteberg, playing his first season as an Athletic after a fairly indistinguished career with the Red Sox, came through with a blast to left center that landed well into the stands and clinched the record.