OAKLAND -- I have half a mind to simply print out the play-by-play sheet from A’s-Angels today and call it a full shift.
After all, when asked if he could recreate Oakland’s 51 plate appearances Thursday, manager Bob Melvin, who ought to be able to given his memory, said swiftly, “No, I can’t.”
He shouldn’t need to. In a 21-3 game that was so 21-3 that Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia decided either out of pique or whimsy to skip over 10 available relievers to pitch a catcher, the details are necessarily going to blur a bit.
Every Oakland starter scored at least twice except shortstop Marcus Semien. Every starter but first baseman Matt Olson had multiple hits. Starting pitcher Edwin Jackson struggled for two entire batters before settling himself and breezing through the inert Los Angeles lineup. Right fielder Stephen Piscotty looked terrible on a slider in the dirt from Angels starter Matt Shoemaker for the express purpose (or so it seemed) of getting another, which he drove well into the left field chairs.
That was the springboard for one of the A’s highest and longest dives in Oakland franchise history. Piscotty made a 2-1 lead go to 5-1, singled and scored in the seven-run bat-around fourth that made it 12-1, walked and scored in the bat-around six-run sixth.
The A’s may well have changed a bit of the perception of their dank pitchers’ park with their September, given that they have scored 97 runs in their last 13 games, a cool average of 7.46 per, but this was especially cartoonish.
And there was more, so much more than we have mentioned so far. The bullpen got another day of rest, and five of the eight position players came out by the end of the sixth, with only exceptions made for left fielder Nick Martini, backup catcher Josh Phegley and the indefatigable Semien.
“He’s the only one who plays every inning of every game,” Melvin said afterward. “He wants no part of coming out of games.”
In fact, if there is one lingering takeaway from this three-hour Rick And Morty episode, it is that Melvin, who has been reluctant to disturb his regular lineup, got to pull Piscotty, third baseman Matt Chapman, second baseman Jed Lowrie and designated hitter Khris Davis on successive days. This matters because at a time when the A’s cannot rest because the Tampa Bay Rays never seem to, the position players have been operating at full throttle without respite.
Chapman has started every game since coming off the disabled list July 3. Lowrie has missed only two games since July 13. Semien’s last day off was June 27. Piscotty has missed one game since June 7. Olson has played every game. You don’t hear this much grinding if you put your ear to floor of a machine shop.
But that’s how the A’s got from sub-optimal to where they are today – with a steady core of players who don’t miss work (a function of luck as well as endurance, to be fair) and a bullpen of such depth that catchers don’t have to pitch.
Not that Scioscia committed a crime against the game in using Francisco Arcia to pitch the seventh and eighth innings. It’s just that in September, the hot new stratagem of position players pitching isn’t terribly useful when rosters expand to “every reliever in the whole damned system.”
Indeed, Arcia, who also pitched in a game in August, is the only Angel who can fly back home with any jump in his step. Not only did he become the first player in major league history to pitch, catch and homer in the same game, he also gave the all-encompassing summary of the day when asked what pitches he was throwing when he gave up back-to-back homers to Martini and Chad Pinder the seventh.
“Nothing but BP fastballs,” he said with a shrug. Which is pretty much how the whole day looked – BP fastballs all around, with the predictably hilarious result.
It was just another day in Oakland’s beguiling sprint to October, which still remains tantalizingly out of reach with nine games left. Only today it came with two extra touchdowns for added amusement.
Hey, they’re trying to give you a show here. Now, where's that play-by-play?