There are still 35 games left in the regular season, but Friday night’s showdown between the top two teams in MLB had the excitement and tension of a playoff game.
After five consecutive wins in the month of July, A’s opening-day starter Sonny Gray rebounded from four-straight August losses to toss one of his most impressive outings, pitching 8.1 innings in an eventual 5-3 A’s victory.
The hard-throwing ace of the A’s staff surrendered a solo-home run to Mike Trout in the first inning, but it did not take long for the A’s to answer back as Coco Crisp launched his 15th career lead-off home run (13 with the A’s, and now just 30 shy of Ricky Henderson’s record-43).
After a substantial contribution from the bottom of the lineup in the sixth-inning, led by a Sam Fuld RBI-triple and an Andy Parrino sacrifice fly that gave the A’s a 2-run lead, the 33,810 fans in the stands came to life.
The atmosphere at O.co of mostly A’s fans began to cheer in harmony the “Let’s go Oakland” chant.
As Sean Doolittle entered the game in the ninth-inning to attempt to close the game, the usual processes played out: Metallica’s “For whom the bell tolls,” riled up the fans in the right-field bleachers, and the A’s outfielders huddled in center-field.
“Wow, I’ve never seen the place like this,” said Sam Fuld about the electric atmosphere and substantial ovation as Gray walked off the mound, and towards the A’s dugout.
“Just wait ’til the playoffs,” was the response from Crisp.
The red-hot Angels made sure to make it a game, loading the bases before Doolittle eventually struck out Chris Iannetta to end the game.
With the win the Athletics move to 1-game back of the Angels in the AL-west. Oakland is now 7-3 against the Angels with 9 head-to-head games left in the regular season.
Jon Lester (13-8, 2.58) will look put the Athletics back in first-place in the AL-west with a win against O.co nemesis C.J. Wilson (10-8, 4.59) Saturday night. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 PST.