March 31, 2007

A's and Giants Fit to be Tied

After an extended weekend earlier this month to enjoy the A's at Spring Training, last night offered the first chance to see our team playing something resembling a real game, in the final exhibition warmup series, against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park.

Though my father-in-law laughed at me on my ride up to San Francisco, saying "I would freeze my butt off", we had come prepared, with A's jacket and cap, not just to show our colors, but to protect us from The City's elements. Not as bad as Candlestick Park, AT&T Park also presents the option to sit in cool temperatures for three or so hours with the occasional wind gust whipping through. It was clear that the food vendors weren't going to move many chocolate malts or ice cream sandwiches on the night, but they certainly tried.

The A's presented a solid lineup with Eric Chavez, Jason Kendall, Mark Ellis, Bobby Crosby, Mike Piazza, and Nick Swisher making the start, and Rich Harden throwing heat from the mound. Only injuries to Milton Bradley, Dan Johnson and others kept the team from looking fully intact. We were pleased to see A's newcomer Shannon Stewart, and hot rookie prospect Travis Buck (see ANtics below) also playing. The Giants countered with their veteran-filled lineup, including Barry Bonds, Omar Visquel, Ray Durham, Pedro Feliz, and Matt Cain pitching. The game promised to be a solid pitching matchup and didn't disappoint.

The Giants posted a quick run on the board in the first, as Harden gave up a leadoff triple to Dave Roberts, and a double to the next hitter, putting the Giants up 1-0. The A's fought back in the next inning, in their own "special" way, driving in a run with a double play. I told my seatmates next to me that was exactly what they had planned. It stayed 1-1 for 4 full innings, until the sixth, when both teams scored again, making it 2-2. But no team seemed to really have the edge, and offense was scarce. The A's only managed five hits on the night, and the Giants scattered nine. The night's cool temperatures denied any balls leaving the yard, though the Giants tried to win the game in the 9th, hitting three fly balls hard off Brad Halsey, who pitched the final three innings.

Tied in the 9th, the game went to an extra frame, where both teams didn't score, and it was called. A 2-2 tie. In baseball. Those fans, including us, who had stayed the more than three hours at AT&T Park to watch the game in its entirety, stood up and walked out without a loss and without a victory. Empty. But in Spring Training, these things are not unexpected. Both teams want to be in good shape before the season, and don't see the value of hitting each other for 17 full, like the A's did against the Dodgers last season.

Still, it was great to be back at a major league ballpark to see major league teams play. We're only a little over a week away from starting to use our A's season tickets, and I'm ready for the season to start. Now.