By Jason Wojciechowski on September 14, 2004 at 12:01 PM
Oakland won a crazy game last night over the Rangers, maintaining a two-game lead over the Angels, who predictably took down the Seattle Mariners.
Through six innings, the game looked pretty normal, with the A's leading 2-1 on the back of Tim Hudson. Bobby Crosby had homered in the fifth and Marco Scutaro had been plated with a balk in the third, but then things got out of control.
Hudson lost his lead in the seventh on a double by, of all people, Rod Barajas, then gave up a leadoff bomb to Mark Teixeira in the eight to make the game 4-2. Hudson finished the eighth anyway, but had he stayed in the dugout after the seventh, his line would look a lot nicer: seven innings, 107 pitches, eight hits, three runs, one walk, seven strikouts, and one homer allowed. The difference between this line and his actual one is basically the Teixeira homer, which blew a quality start for Hudson. The strikeouts are a quite encouraging sign for the A's that their bulldog is on track for the playoffs, though he didn't get the ground balls he's used to: just seven, to nine fly ball outs.
The A's got the lead back in the bottom of the eighth, however, with a three-run rally that included a bases loaded hit-by-pitch by Nick Swisher, so Tim Hudson still had a chance to be credited with a win for this game. Unfortunately, Jimmy Mecir and Alfie Soriano saw to that, as Soriano hit his second homer of the night to tie the game the very next inning.
Here's where things went nuts: following this homer, with Hank Blalock at the plate, the Rangers came streaming out of their dugout and bullpen and started holding various players back from going into the stands after some fans. Doug Brocail was the only played named the AP as one who had to be restrained, but the capstone to the incident was reliever Frank Francisco chucking a chair into the stands. The chair bounced off of some guy's head, then broke a woman's nose on the carom.
Buck Showalter was quoted in the AP story:
"Tonight, it went over the line. It was a real break from the normal trash you hear from fans. We've had problems about every time we've come here."
What can we take from this? A's fans appear to finally be nearing the rowdiness levels seen from the Raiders fans who have, for years, out-enthused their baseball counterparts. That's putting a positive spin on things. On the negative side is that things were almost certainly said that should never be said, because players hear taunts and curses all game long every time they're on the road (and often at home) without responding; it generally takes something truly awful (like the racial slurs hurled at Terrence Long a few years back) for players to react like this.
Of course, that doesn't give the players the right to interrupt the game and put some woman (who I'd bet wasn't even involved) in the hospital. Joe Brinkman, the crew chief for the umpires, had this to say:
"From what I understand, there was some calls made to security early during the game but I have no idea what started it out there."
What this tells me is that things were going like this all game long and that the players initially did what they were supposed to do: call security and have certain fans escorted out of the stadium for their behavior. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, this didn't stop the behavior. Again, though, that <b>still</b> doesn't excuse going after fans in the stands. If stadium security isn't doing their jobs, then the manager should inform the umpires that they'll refuse to play the game until the offending fans are truly taken care of.
I feel a little bad for Frank Francisco, because he's a rookie and doesn't make a lot of money that he's going to be able to pay this woman in a lawsuit, but he should have thought about that before he hurled the chair. She has every right to sue (unless she was one of the people who incited the incident), and I hope she does.
Like the players, then, back to the game!
In the top of the tenth, Justin Duchscherer coughed up the go-ahead run on a fielder's choice ground ball that was really an attempted double play gone awry. Bobby Crosby made a throwing error on the turn, allowing the batter, Brian Jordan, to go to second on the play. What's unclear from the play-by-play is whether the third out would have been made at first if Crosby didn't make the error. The run was credited as earned to the Duke's record, so the ruling appears to be that Jordan earned his way to first base (and thus Mark Teixeira earned the plate) and the error resulted only in an extra base for Jordan. Errors can be tricky, though, especially on double plays, so without seeing video or something, I can't really say what happened.
In the end, though, it didn't matter, as the A's scored twice in the bottom half, once on a bases-loaded walk by Mark McLemore to tie it and then on an Eric Chavez single to win the game, scoring Nick Swisher with the match-ending tally.
Was Mark Teixeira supposed to be this good already? He outdid the cycle in this game, hitting two doubles, a triple, and his 35th homer of the year. Tex is showing monster power with an almost .300 ISO and he's walking frequently enough to turn a .285 batting average into a nice .365 OBP. Even if T-Rex doesn't turn into a Hall of Fame-caliber player or anything, the Rangers will almost certainly have themselves a strong first baseman on the cheap for the next four years or so.
Meanwhile, Bobby Crosby is still going about his business, locking up the AL Rookie of the Year title. His homer in this game was his 20th of the year, which is a nice round number that voters can grab hold of. Combine that with over thirty doubles and what's regarded as (whether it actually is or not) excellent defense and you've got the makings of an easy vote for sportswriters.