The opening weekend was about as exciting and fun as it could get for having the A’s lose twice to the Seattle Mariners. Normally, I’d be pissed to have watched the A’s fail to get a win in their home opening “series” (does two games even count as a series?), but their futility was made a bit more palatable by the fact that nobody on earth expects them to contend, and Yoenis Cespedes continues to give us a reason to look to the near future. But above all else, it’s just good have baseball back.
Like every other season, those of us from the left and right field bleachers kicked of year in grand style with a huge tailgate in the parking lot that started at around 9 a.m. Traveling all the way from Antioch, I usually get to tailgate events about halfway through the festivities. When I woke up Friday morning, I did a much-needed cleaning of my room and a few other chores before getting ready. I actually managed to surprise myself by getting there at around 1:30, earlier than what I had expected. Things were obviously in full swing when I arrived.
Because I had shown up the Fan Fest tailgate in January, it hadn’t been the usual half-year gap since seeing most of the crew, but there were still many people I hadn’t seen since September of last year. And as always, many of the “long distance” crew who can only make it out every once in a great while showed up for the opener.
Completely going against one of my main philosophies for life, I usually try to stay relatively sober for the home opener, and this year was no exception.
I didn’t completely abstain from drinking (I had about three or four beers), but I definitely didn’t party as hardy as I normally do. It actually ended up being beneficial since a KRON 4 news reporter approached me to ask a few questions about my expectations for the upcoming season. I had a slight buzz, but because I wasn’t completely wasted I was able to answer pretty throughly and thoughtfully. I said a .500 finish would be lucky, but Cespedes should excite (he hasn’t failed so far) and win Rookie of the Year. I didn’t get a chance to watch the news to see if they even used the footage, but it’s good to know I wasn’t captured as a slurring mess for some video editors at KRON to laugh about.
Just like last year, the Oaklandish bus showed up to hand out free shirts, stickers, and bandanas. I actually went to their store location for the first time last Monday to get a ‘STAY’ shirt to wear for the opener, but they didn’t have a XXXL on hand (trust me, my arms are really long).
I always try to put together a very festive outfit for the opener, and thanks to a late addition of super fat beads by fellow right fielder Wiggi Branch (the girl with the wig), I think I looked better than ever this year.
At around a quarter to five, a bunch of us made our way over to the Gate B, which is usually never used for entrance and only as an exit after the game. However, with a large crowd expected, the A’s decided to open all the gates, just like the old days. Under normal circumstances, we have to line up at Gate MM on the BART ramp, and then make a mad dash a level below to secure general admission bleacher seats. This time, we just had to make a leisurely stroll a few hundred feet away since Gate B is on the same level right behind the bleachers.
After getting into the stadium I decided to test out the new air horn I bought at Party City. After just one blast, a security guard immediately came down to take it and ruin my fun. I asked if I could just put it in my bag, but to no avail. As I was handing it over she was telling me I could go to the security office after the game to pick it up, but I was too pissed to tell her, without yelling, that there was no damn point since the only reason I bought it was for A’s games. Between this and the new restrictions on the size of signs, I’m seriously surprised they haven’t tried to ban our flags and drums in the past. Let the few of us who actually show up have a little damn fun.
Before the start of the game there was a moment of silence for those who lost their lives in the Oikos University shooting. I couldn’t help but think back to 2009 and the killing of four Oakland police officers, and how the A’s the wore an ‘OPD’ patch on their uniform for the season. It pained me to think of how this city can just never seem to curb the violence. Although the Oikos tragedy was an isolated incident that could happen anywhere and wasn’t related to the normal cycle of Oakland street crime we’re used to seeing, for many people it will further reenforce the belief that Oakland is an extremely dangerous place to be. I just hope that the families affected can find peace.
Once the game was underway, it really felt as though no time had passed since the last time I was in the bleachers. Unfortunately, you could tell that this was a new time for the A’s since the pitching, which has been the main strength of the team over the past decade, was knocked around in both games by a Mariners offense that isn’t known for lighting up scoreboards.
In the first game, the Mariners simply took advantage of A’s starter Brandon McCarthy leaving everything way up in the strike zone. He made it through the first two frames unscathed, but the Mariners broke it open in the top of the third.
After Brendan Ryan doubled to lead off the inning, Chone Figgins bunted up the third-base line. Josh Donaldson’s throw to first was wide of the bag and pulled Jemile Weeks into the baseline, causing a collision with Figgins that sent the ball, and Jemile’s glove, into foul territory and allowed Ryan to score. A’s killer Dustin Ackley then hit a single and Ichiro Suzuki walked to load the bases.
After getting Justin Smoak to fly out and allowing a sacrifice fly to Jesus Montero for a 2-0 Mariners lead, Suzuki swiped second and McCarthy surrendered a two-run single to Kyle Seager, making it 4-0 Seattle.
For about the past five seasons, A’s pitchers giving up four or more runs has been a death sentence for games, and Friday night would prove to be no different. The A’s never made a serious threat at a comeback, allowing Seattle to coast to a 7-3 victory.
Cespedes gave us our only reason to cheer in the bottom of fourth when he launched a cut fastball from Jason Vargas an estimated 462 feet to left-center field to make it 5-2. Unfortunately for me, I was walking back from buying a new hat and was caught up in a mass of people on the concourse when it happened, so I missed it completely. Having seen the replays, it’s insane to think that the ball could’ve gone even further had it not hit the second-deck facade. Despite the A’s losing, the internet was, and still is going crazy, over Cespedes’ epic display of power. If you haven’t seen it yet, you really need to take a look.
You can see a slight moment there were Yoenis himself is looking at the ball, almost in disbelief as if he were thinking, “Holy shit, did I really just do that?” After the game he said he has hit longer ones before, but he was surprised and thrilled about rocking that one so hard. However, we would experience the agony and ecstasy of sluggers of who hit a ton, as Cespedes would go down on strikes his next two at-bats. He’s still learning to make adjustments here, so we have to expect to see a lot of strikeouts.
The next night, Cespedes gave us reason to go crazy again despite another loss.
In the bottom of seventh with one out, Cespedes stepped to the plate against Mariners reliever Steve Delabar and smacked a three-run homer to right-center to make it a 8-7 Seattle lead. However, the A’s would fail to get another runner on base for the rest of the game.
Just like McCarthy the previous night, A’s starter Bartolo Colon had trouble locating his pitches and kept leaving everything up in the strike zone, right where a batter wants it. He managed to only pitch 4.1 innings, giving up 10 hits and 7 earned runs while striking out three and walking none.
Despite the losses, I had a great time in the bleachers, and a series of moments at the end of the game is an illustration of why and how we have fun, regardless of the outcome. In the eighth inning, a bunch of balloons that had floated out of the stadium somehow magically returned, floating back in over left field. The wind carried them all the way over to loss, and for a moment it looked as though they would land in the bleachers, before being swept back into center field. The balloons began to fall a bit, and at one point they looked to be less than 10 feet above the ground as they hovered over center. The A’s sent a ball boy to retrieve them, but when he sprinted towards the balloons the wind picked them up again. The kid jumped and missed them, and the stadium erupted in laughter. The wind then carried them over to the foul pole in left, where a fan was able to snag them as they floated down again.
So with those losses the Mariners leave town and the Royals arrive today for a 7:05 p.m. showdown with the Kansas City Royals. On the hill for KC is Luis Mendoza, who made two starts for the Royals last year and threw a no-hitter for the Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers on July 18. Tommy Milone has the pearl for the good guys, making his first regular season start in an Athletics uniform.
I need to start getting ready for the game tonight, but I just found that Brandon Allen was designated for assignment. Because he is out of options, the A’s will have to hope he clears waivers if they want to hang onto him. Puzzling move seeing as how Allen had a nice spring, and has only had two games to prove himself, against Felix Hernandez no less. Also just found out that Daric Barton was activated, so it looks like he’ll be in the lineup tonight.
From now on, with time and technology permitting, I plan on doing a separate post for each game recap as opposed to combining them as I have done so far. I’d also like to try live blogging from the bleachers at some point, but that won’t be for a while.