Tonight, a colleague and I saw the A's challenge the Chicago White Sox at the Oakland Coliseum, and come away winners, 4-2, reducing their "magic number" to 11 - effectively representing the combined number of wins from the A's and the number of losses from the Angels required for the team to clinch the AL Western division. On a somewhat brisk evening that saw a steady breeze, more than 26,000 filed in to see Esteban Loaiza shut down the Sox bats - allowing only three hits and two runs, one which came on a home run and the second on a sacrifice fly.
But beyond Loaiza's pitching gem, the A's won largely in part due to the team's perky shortstop fill-in, Marco Scutaro, who chipped in with his first career 4-hit game. Though he came into the game with a .571 lifetime batting average against the White Sox starter, Jon Garland, manager Ken Macha chose to hit him ninth in the batting order. This didn't phase Scutaro, who had singles in his first three at-bats, and finished up his unprecedented evening with a late-inning triple as fans chanted, "Marco!" and others answered back, "Scutaro!"
Though the A's did not humiliate their opponents through an offensive onslaught, they managed to do just enough to win - even though things were made dicey in the 9th inning, when closer Huston Street allowed a walk to big basher Jim Thome, bringing the potential tying run to the plate in the form of Paul Konerko, who himself was a 30 home run, 100-plus RBI guy, and could, with one swing of the bat, force Oakland's standing, cheering fans to shush and spend more quality time on their kiesters. Instead, Street struck him out, winning the game and bring cheers throughout the ballpark, helping the A's maintain their five game lead in the division.
Marco Scutaro is not a notable name for SportsCenter viewers or the mainstream media, but he has played admirably in the absence of 2004 rookie of the year Bobby Crosby, who has missed a significant portion of the 2006 campaign - and virtually every season he's been a part of. Scutaro's 4-4 day this evening makes the missing Crosby even less necessary in Oakland's pennant race plans, and while that can't be good for him, it's a great thing for A's fans, who are eager to get the team back into the playoffs after a two-year hiatus.
Listening to ''Te Quiero [Darren Emerson Mix]'', by 108 Grand (Play Count: 5)