For one month, the Oakland Athletics got pushed around like kids getting sand thrown in their face at the beach. They have decided to get tough. They decided to get tough now. They decided to begin their vengeful quest against the Toronto Blue Jays Tuesday night at Network Associates Coliseum.
Well, maybe Wednesday.
The As were two outs from victory. So close, and yet so far. Toronto won, 5-4 in 10 innings.
"I'd rather get hot at the end of the season than at the beginning," was Manager Art Howes assessment.
How about the middle of the season? In the As case, this is not a preference, it is virtually a requirement. Last year at this time they trailed Seattle by two games. The As have to play .600 ball and hope Seattle plays .500 ball. They need runs like their 18-4 stretch last June, and their 22-7 of the last 30 days of 2000.
The As did get some needed shots in the arm. Slugger and leader Jason Giambi? Ace righthander Tim Hudson?
Those guys will be there when it counts. Giambi already is. A baseball team sometimes is as good as its weakest link, and on Tuesday those so-called "weak links" were anything but.
Facing a hot (17-9) Toronto club that features some of the best sluggers in the American League, Corey Lidle stopped the bleeding. In his best Catfish Hunter imitation, Lidle gave up three homers - all solo shots - while striking out seven in six workmanlike innings.
Frank Menechino homered in the fourth.
Menechino is quite the story. He was drafted behind a woman once, when White Sox General Manager Ron Shueler chose his daughter, presumably as a joke, ahead of Menechino. Lidle rebounded from a terrible showing vs. Texas in his last start at Oakland, and in the fifth inning pitched his way out of a jam after Shannon Stewart had tripled with one out.
Some other good news came when Olmedo Saenz, hitting .200 coming in, doubled in the fifth.
Raul Mondesis home run on a hanging, 0-2 curveball in the sixth cut Oaklands lead to 4-3. Giambi, who is showing signs of becoming a Gold Glove quality first baseman, speared a searing liner off the bat of Brad Fuller one hitter later. This was a crucial play in holding Torontos rally to minimum damage.
In another encouraging sign, middle reliever Jim Mecir, who had an 0-4 record coming in, suddenly was hitting the corners with wicked fastballs and sliders a la Dennis Eckersley. He disposed of Toronto three-up, three-down in the seventh and eighth, catching Mondesi looking with heat on the outside to make it a one-inning game.
Brad Isringhausen came on in the ninth and was immediately met with negative feedback in the form of Brad Fullmers double down the first base line. Isringhausen bore down to get Tony Bautista swinging, but Darrin Fletchers single tied it up.
Terrence Long, who started things off with a two-run double in the first, looped a single with one out in the ninth off Dan Plesac. Paul Quantrill came on to get Miguel Tejada and send the game into overtime.
Alex Gonzales homer in the tenth put Toronto up, 5-4.
Saenz single opened the Oakland tenth. Jeremy Giambi, he of the .182 batting average, sacrificed him into scoring position. Ramon Hernandez lined to center. Johnny Damon (.211) came up looking for redemption. He will have to find it another day, as he grounded weakly to second to end the game.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism