Before the regular season began, the Bay Bridge rivalry was leaning to the East.
The new-look A’s took six of seven pre-season matchups against the freshly-championed Giants.
But half of a season passed, slumps, streaks and injuries happened, and each team found itself facing a different path through the second half.
The Athletics sit at the bottom of the AL West, 11 games behind first-place Angels, while the Giants are pushing for the top rung on the NL side, three games behind the Dodgers and one-half game ahead of the Chicago Cubs for the second Wild Card spot.
Friday night’s AT&T crowd was electric, With green and gold peppered amid orange and black, cheers sprung out at every turn. But Friday night was all about the home team, as the Giants sought their Spring revenge, crushing 17 hits to topple the A’s 9-3.
The bats were clicking from the get-go against Jesse Chavez (L, 5-10, 3.45 ERA), who lasted three innings and gave up four runs on eight hits in the second shortest start of his career.
Chavez left before it got too ugly, but the Giants kept hammering. Hunter Pence went 4-for-4 with two RBI. Buster Posey extended his hitting streak to nine games, going 3-for-4 with an RBI of his own.
No one in the Giants’ starting lineup, except Joe Panik, went without a hit: Pagan got three. Duffy and Brandon Belt tallied two. Even Jake Peavy got one on a funky ground ball that fooled second baseman Ben Zobrist and shortstop Eric Sogard. The Giants added three in the fifth and topped it off with two in the eighth.
Bochy said he was pleased:
“It was good. It’s always good to get early runs. Angel did a nice job just jump starting us and getting us some early runs. We haven’t had a lot of luck against Chavez, but we swung it well. We came off the road trip swinging well. You hope to keep that momentum going into the home stand.”
“That’s who we are. Have a good at bat and give it to the next guy.”
Peavy (W, 2-4, 4.86 ERA) notched his second win of the season, but most notably, a fourth-consecutive quality start since his return.
He was was hitting his spots right up to his final pitches in the seventh, when Ben Zobrist launched a mistake deep to Levi’s Landing, putting the A’s second run on the board. Billy Butler cracked Peavy’s 100th pitch for a single, said Peavy of the pitch:
“The pitch to Butler, I just wanted to walk him there. But he got a hit and that was all she wrote.”
Reporters, mystified by Peavy’s sudden consistency, continue to ask why. He couldn’t get past the fourth in any of his April starts, but now he’s finding his way into the seventh and, sometimes, beyond. Bochy has the answer:
“He’s really pitched well since he’s come up from rehab. He got healthy. When he’s healthy that’s how he can throw the ball and he’s really been consistent since he’s been back.”
The same can be said for the Giants’ offense, which has been on overdrive since Pence’s return; the team is 22-7 when he’s in the lineup and 30-37 without him. They’ve scored 73 runs since his return on July 7.
“I think anytime you lose a core player it makes it a little bit tougher. He just has so much energy and talent too. He plays a great right field. He can get a base it and long ball. He certainly makes us a different club.”
But, also, a little sadness came of Friday’s game. George Kontos, who was the only reliever in the Majors to strand all 26 of his inherited runners, finally let one through.
It was Billy Butler, Peavy’s last batter, who found his way around the bases after a wild pitch, Brett Lawrie single and an Eric Sogard hit, the gut puncher, gave the A’s their third run.
It got a little weird
In the third inning, Sam Fuld cracked a double, slid into second, and landed in the splits. Ouch?
Billy Burns followed with a chopper foul ball that bounced straight into the land down under. Double ouch, I’m assuming.
He departed the next inning with what the team called a “testicular contusion.” Yikes.