This was the game everybody in the Bay Area has been waiting to see since the 2006 season got underway. On a gloomy Friday evening, the orange and black of the San Francisco Giants take on the green and gold of the cross-town rival, Oakland Athletics.
Both teams have been on fire as of late. The hometown A’s had just come off a sweep of divisional woe, Seattle and came in to last night‘s game with a four game winning streak. For the orange and black, they return to the Bay Area after rolling the Houston Astros. In their three games in Houston, the Giants combined for 34 runs, despite the fact that slugger Barry Bonds remained quiet.
After a rain delay of almost 35 minutes, the game was on at McAfee Coliseum. As predicted, Bonds was in the lineup as the designated hitter for the Giants. The game started off relatively slow.
In the top of the first, San Francisco was retired in order to A’s starting pitcher, Dan Haren. Haren’s counterpart was lefthander, Noah Lowry. Friday night’s start was Lowry’s fourth since his stint on the disabled list. Before his injury, Lowry was 1-0 with 3.78 ERA.
In the top of the second, Lowry was rattled after giving up walk to Frank Thomas and then double off the left-center field wall. However with runners on second and third, Lowry induced two straight pop-ups to get out of the jam.
In the third inning, left fielder Mark Sweeney drew a lead off walk. With Sweeney now on first, it was catcher Mike Matheny at the plate. In his last four games played, Matheny was only 4-13 with four RBI’s. Looking to continue Matheny’s hot streak, Manager Felipe Alou called for the hit and run. Unfortunately, Matheny grounded to A’s second baseman Mark Ellis who was covering second for the double play.
The A’s, on the other hand, came out bats-a-blazing in their half of the third. With one out, Jason Kendall slapped a single to center to bring up the always dangerous Mark Kotsay. Kotsay took a Lowry delivery to left for a two base hit. With runners once again on second and third, Lowry faced off with Mark Ellis. After working the count full to Ellis, Lowry threw a pitch out of the strike zone in an attempt to get the A’s second baseman out but failed to do so and Ellis was now on first with the bases loaded.
Lowry was in a predicament that no pitcher wanted to be in, he had the bases loaded with Eric Chavez at the plate. After falling behind in the count, Chavez grounded out to first base but in the process brought in Kendall from third for the first score of the game. With two outs now in the inning, it was Crosby that Lowry was facing down with again. But a tremendous play in the field by shortstop Omar Vizquel got Lowry out of another jam. After three innings of play, it was 1-0 in favor of the A’s.
It was now the top of the fourth and the Giants were looking to cause some damage of their own. After a Randy Winn groundout and a Vizquel lineout, it was, the always young at heart, Steve Finley who got the Giants first hit of the night. That hit brought Barry Bonds to the plate for the second time of the game. In his previous at-bat, Bonds flew out to center but this time around Bonds reached on only Haren’s eighth walk of the year. However, the Giants failed to draw blood and came out of the inning with nothing.
The A’s on the other hand continued to force Lowry’s hand. In the fourth, Nick Swisher drew a single up the middle as the A’s kept playing the waiting with the Giants’ young lefty. Through only four innings, Lowry had already thrown 77 pitches.
The bats were none the better for San Francisco. In their previous series against Houston, the Giants collect 30 hits in just three games but only had in their last five innings played.
It didn’t get any easier for Lowry.
In the A’s half of the fifth, it was once again Mark Kotsay that got things started. Kotsay tagged Lowry for another hit to left field. After Kotsay, a missed catch error by Ray Durham allowed Kotsay to reach second and Chavez to get on first. The runners did not faze Lowry as he battled back and saved himself from another possible meltdown.
It wasn’t until the sixth inning that Lowry finally settled down. He managed to retired Nick Swisher, Bobby Kielty and Jay Payton in order with just 12 pitches. However those 12 pitches put Lowry’s pitch total at 107.
In the seventh the Babe Ruth home run chase rolled on for Bonds. But as the case was for the rest of the Giants the same could be said for Bonds who flied out to left. The Giants couldn’t find an answer for Dan Haren. Through seven innings of work, the former St. Louis minor leaguer had given up only one hit and just two walks. Ironically, Haren shares a history with Lowry. The two were team mates at Pepperdine University a few years ago.
However, Haren’s night would continue on as Lowry was pulled in favor of Jeremy Accardo in the seventh inning.
Mark Kotsay continued to put on a hitting clinic for the fans in attendance at McAfee Coliseum as he collected his third hit of the night. This one was another double to left center. Felipe Alou played it safe as Eric Chavez came to the plate and called for the intentional walk. Accardo then faced off against the “Big Hurt,” Frank Thomas and with ease got Thomas to fly out to right to end the inning.
It wasn’t until the San Francisco part of the eighth when the Giants collected their second hit of the night, a double off the bat of Mark Sweeney. Sweeney’s double brought Mike Matheny up to the plate. Matheny reached base as Haren hit him with an inside pitch, It was now up to pinch-hitter Todd Greene to manufacture some runs for San Francisco. Unfortunately, Haren buckled down and got Greene to strikeout for the second out and Randy Winn to fly out to end the inning.
Moving on, it was now the ninth inning and the Giants’ last chance to get on the board. Bonds was to bat third in the inning but could the Giants relieve the pressure off of him? As usual for the A’s in the ninth and in a tight ball game, it was time for Huston Street. Street’s first opponent was Omar Vizquel, who fouled out to Kendall for out number one. And then there were two, when Steve Finley came to the plate. And all it took was one pitch for Street to retire Finley for the second out of the game.
It was now down to Mr. Bonds. However, the young Street got the best of Bonds and struck him out to end the game and extend the A’s win streak to five games. The Giants will look to shatter that streak tomorrow at 1:05 p.m.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Despite picking up the loss, Noah Lowry played damage control the whole game and allowed only one run which easily could have turned into five. Welcome back Noah.
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