White Sox at Athletics (Buehrle vs. Harden)

What was supposed to be a pitchers duel in a pitcher’s park turned into quite a circus, on and off the field. The bleachers were sold out, so Odie graciously picked up a pair of field level tickets since the computer wouldn’t let him buy view level.

There are pros and cons to sitting field level. Obviously you’re closer to the action. There’s an increased chance of catching a foul ball. You can heckle infielders, coaches, runners, and pitchers warming up in the pen. These are good things. However, the fans down there are pretty poor. There are really two situations for the people that sit field level: A) wealthy people that sit there regularly, or B) people that don’t go to many games, so they want to be as close as possible for the games that they actually attend. Neither one of these category requires ignorance about the game of baseball. However, it seems to me that the average Athletics fan is not the most affluent. The wealthy prefer to cross the bay and use the WiFi access of posh SBC Park to track their stocks in real time during the game. Thus, class A, which should be knowledgeable A’s fans, is small. That leaves B, which is a mixture of tourists, A’s fans from out of town, casual fans, uninterested yuppies, and fans of the opposing team. Except for visiting A’s fans, this is a group that I don’t mix well with.

Going into this game Rich Harden had allowed one run in 20+ IP, easily the best in the league. Chisox starting pitcher has been good this season also (3-1, 3.89 ERA). The A’s had been shut out in the previous two games, so an early deficit could be impossible to overcome. However, with the way Harden has pitched this year, if the A’s could get on the board, he might carry them to victory. With the stage set, here’s how things unfolded.

  • Top 1. Harden allows a run on three singles. It was more than a fleeting thought that this game was over right there.
  • The A’s get runners on in the first three innings, but all three feature double-plays to quash any threat.
  • Top 4. Jermaine Dye drives a double over Kotsay’s head. I yell, “Where was that last year, Dye?” Laughter from crowd. Jovial aura extinguished by RBI singles by Uribe and Widger. A’s down 3-0. This game is over.
  • Bottom 4. The White Sox commit the first of their three errors as Kendall reaches on an overthrow by Uribe. Chavez, 3 unassisted, Kielty walks, Hatteberg, 3 unassisted. A’s scoreless inning streak reaches 26 innings. In between innings, the diamond-vision features “Smile-Cam.” Anyone smiling after watching this offense should be escorted to the exit.
  • Top 5. Harden escapes potential meltdown unscathed. After two quick outs, Rich beans Everett. Now it should be said that Carl Everett is a crazy man. He’s an immensely talented player, but there’s a reason he’s played for seven different teams, never for longer than 3 years per stint. Everett stares Harden down as he proceeds to first base. I yell, “We landed on the moon, Everett. Believe it!” Nobody gets it. Even if you don’t know he’s a scientologist, that’s still a quality heckle. Harden proceeds to throw two wild pitches and walk the next batter before Dye lines out to right.
  • Bottom 5. Breakthrough. Ginter, single. Swisher, single. Scutaro grounds to short and Swisher breaks up potential double-play. Kotsay, RBI single. Byrnes, K. Kendall, walk. Chavez, 2 RBI single. Kielty, RBI single. Hatteberg, ground out 4-3. A’s ahead 4-3. Where’s “Smile-Cam” now? We have a lead!
  • Top 6. That lead was short lived. Thanks in part to an error in left by Byrnes and a walk, Harden was lifted for Rincon with two runners on and the game tied. Bringing in Rincon is almost a signal that Manager Ken Macha is conceding the game. The lefty gave up a hit to Podsednik, putting Chicago back on top, and was promptly removed in favor of Yabu. Yabu finished the task of allowing all of Harden’s runners to score as well as Rincon’s.
  • The inning’s dramatic conclusion illustrates beautifully the problem with people sitting field level. With Iguchi on third, Konerko lifted a high, shallow fly ball to right center. As Kotsay called off Swisher and positioned himself for a throw to the plate, Iguchi prepared to tag up. The ball was shallow enough that I figured Iguchi would fake a dash to the plate and draw a throw from Kotsay. Meanwhile, ignorant White Sox fan is proclaiming, “That’ll score him! That’ll get him in!” The outstanding A’s outfielder made the catch, and to my surprise the runner challenged him. Kotsay’s throw to Kendall was perfect, and as the catcher applied the tag, I turned to the fool behind me and lost all restraint. I focused all of the frustration of listening to his inane conversation with the equally ignorant A’s fan sitting in front of him. “Did he score? I didn’t see! That’ll score him! Yep, that’ll get him home! Wait, was he out? That’ll score him!” I yelled. According to Odie, the rest of our neighbors looked at me with a mixture of awe and fear. I suppose that makes sense since I had said almost nothing up until this point. In any case, this particular idiot kept his mouth shut the rest of the game.
  • Top 7. Yabu worked in and out of trouble, with Ginter bailing him out with a diving stop and toss to Scutaro to end the inning. In the midst of this suspenseful inning, we witness one of the weirdest things imaginable. Uribe took three balls in a row to start his at bat, then was removed due to injury. Yes, he got hurt watching a pitch and not swinging. The report today is that he hurt his groin backing away from the pitch.
  • Bottom 7. A’s still down 7-4, Buehrle out, Marte in. They can’t come back again, can they? Byrnes, single. Kendall, single. Chavez, double. One run in. Kielty ground out. Another run in, Chavy on third. A’s need to get this runner home from third and one out. Marte balks. Chavez scores. Game tied at 7.
  • Bottom 8. With one out, Scutaro lifts a soft, routine fly to right. Dye settles under it, watches it come down, reaches up, and has the ball bounce out of his glove. Kotsay walks. First and second, one out, Durazo pinch hitting for Byrnes. He hits a dribbler to short. Harris, taking over for the injured Uribe, charges and runs right past it. Scutaro scores. Kendall singles, scoring Kotsay. A’s 9, White Sox 7.
  • Top 9. Dotel in. K, pop to second, K. El Pato!

Odie’s analysis was that the A’s didn’t win; the White Sox lost. That’s true. It was not a well played game on either side, but it sure was entertaining.

UPDATE: In today’s game, due to two injuries and an ejection, Jermaine Dye is playing short and Chris Widger, the backup catcher, it at third. I love it.

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