With a slew of injuries and a lot of bad luck, it looked as though the Oakland Athletics could have lost 20 games in a row.
But thanks to a four-run rally in the ninth inning tonight in Chicago against the White Sox, the A’s are winners for the first time in 11 games — the 7-5 win snapped a ten-game losing streak that buried Oakland in the American League West division standings.
New manager Bob Melvin also got his first win with the team after losing his debut on Thursday.
And it was the new blood that delivered the victory: new third baseman Scott Sizemore’s bases-loaded, three-run double in the top of the ninth gave the A’s the lead, and All-Star closer Andrew Bailey got his first save of the year after spending two months on the disabled list.
Now that the monkey is off everyone’s back, Oakland can focus on trying to salvage its season in the next seven weeks or so before the trade deadline: will they be buyers in the weak AL West or will they be sellers?
The A’s currently stand eight games out in the division, and if they can cut that to four games by the All-Star break (July 11-13), the team might consider itself contenders.
Of course, a lot has to go right between now and then for that to happen — and little has gone right for the A’s this year.
Having lost four starting pitchers off the majors’ best staff in the last three weeks means Oakland is starting a lot of green kids in the rotation right now: tonight, it was Graham Godfrey making his major-league debut.
The kid was rocked for nine hits and five runs in only 4 1/3 innings, with two walks and two strikeouts. Thanks to Sizemore’s heroics, Godfrey didn’t lose his debut — but he has a long way to go to be an effective MLB starter for the A’s.
In the end, though, Oakland will only go as far as its offense takes it — as was the case last year. The pitching is sound enough to overcome some injuries, assuming some of the starters get back to the majors eventually in good health.
Sizemore’s three-hit effort tonight is a nice bonus for the A’s third-base hole in 2011 — and Jemile Weeks is hitting .400 early in his MLB career after his call-up earlier this week to replace the injured Mark Ellis at second base.
If some of the other veterans can start hitting normally, maybe Oakland has a chance to get back in this.
And what a story that would be.
One win doesn’t fix the problems, but it sure is nice to consider the what-ifs now.