San Francisco Giants players take a knee during the national anthem before their exhibition contest against the Oakland A’s on Monday night at the Oakland Coliseum (photo from CNN News)
By Lewis Rubman
July 20, 2019
San Francisco 6 -7 -2 Oakland 2 -4- 0
OAKLAND–Freud defines the uncanny as the unsettling feeling we get from something that is both strange and familiar at the same time. That’s a pretty good word to describe the experience of going to tonight’s exhibition game between the A’s and the Giants at Camp Coliseum.
You go through security, just like last year, only this time the inspectors first take your temperature. You find your assigned seat and sit alone, no one within six feet of you until the twenty-seventh out. You try to figure out a way to keep your glasses from steaming up over your mask.
The last Athletics game to have zero paid attendance took place on April 17, 2018, but there were something like 55,000 people in stands that night in the ball yard on the banks of the River Nimitz. Tonight’s crowd, if that’s the word, was closer to 155. It made a weekday game at Cal’s Evans Diamond feel like rush hour in the Tokyo subway.
There were announcements made on the public address system, but Dick Callahan, recovering from a recent medical emergency, wasn’t there to make them, having wisely chosen not to take unnecessary chances with his health. The ubiquitous Kara and Stomper were nowhere to be found, and vendors were as rare as Lysol spray on the shelves of your local supermarket.
The backs of the cutouts bearing images of absent fans that had been placed in the seats in front of the press section looked like rows of tombstones in a military cemetery. During the seventh inning, the A’s announced the attendance figure of 510 cutouts. Perhaps that was a tribute to the area code.
Some of the returning players, too, were both the same and different from last year. Marcus Semien no longer needs to prove his worth. His double play partner of ’19, Jurickson Profar now with the Padres, could be replaced as the A’s by Tony Kemp, who started the game at second, batting ninth, Chad Pinder, Franklin Barreto, Vimael Machín, or a combination of some or all of the four. A healthy Khris Davis is poised to show the power he exhibited before his injury of last May 5. Not yet the reliable threat he had been before then but not the disappointment he had become by the end of last season, KD is, at the age of 32, a promise. Tonight he performed without pain or glory but managed to drive in a run on a sacrifice fly in the fourth.The team’s regular starting catcher is, as a write this, an open question; Sean Murphy began tonight behind the plate, one spot up from Kemp in the batting order
The scoreboards were bright and legible, but their new, uncluttered look didn’t leave room for a bit of useful information that they used to convey, pitch counts.. It took a while, but eventually the lights took full effect.
Shortly before game time, A.J. Puk,for whom the A’s had placed high hopes, was placed on the injured list with a strained shoulder on his pitching arm. A case, Yogi Berra might have said, of déjà vu all over again. Of course, the Yog wouldn’t have used diacritical marks if he were to write his observation, which he’s told us you can do a lot of if you just look.
In spring training, you expect to have a messy score card. Pinch hitters, pinch runners, and defensive substitutions abound; four or five pitchers a game for each side isn’t at all rare. As the the regular season approaches, the lineups shrink and stabilize. But what would tonight’s score cards look like? It’s mid to late July, and the real season’s yet to start. I made sure to carry plenty of erasers and freshly sharpened pencils. (But I forgot to pack them). Both teams substituted heavily in the last third of the game, but the Giants clearly outscored the A’s, not just in runs, but in pitchers used. Manager Gabe Kapler sent nine hurlers to the mound, each of whom pitched exactly one inning. Kevin Gausman, Tyler Anderson, Drew Smyly, Caleb Baragar, Rico García, Tony Watson, Shaun Anderson,Trevor Gott, and Carlos Navas held the home team to two runs on four hits. Anderson and Baragar gave up the runs. Each Anderson, as well as Baragar and García allowed a hit a piece.
When Sean Manaea, who had experienced his share of medical misery last season, took the mound to face the Giants’ lead-off batter, Austin Slater, it felt as exciting as opening day, but you also had the feeling that any of the baseball action that followed would be a footnote to the big story: the first non intra-squad baseball game played at the Coliseum since the ill-starred wild card game of last October 2. Maneaa was the A’s starter on that occasion as well. The paid attendance that evening was 54,005.
Manaea surrendered three early runs, hitting Pablo Sandoval with a pitch to open the second and then allowing infield isingles to Jaylin Davis and Chadwick Tromp on hard hit ground balls. Austin Slater’s double to left brought all the baserunners home.The Throwin’ Samoan recovered to pitch scoreless baseball in the third, fourth, and fifth frames, but the only other tally his teammates could muster besides the one KD drove in came on Stephen Piscotty’s solo homer in the second. Of the five relievers who followed Manaea four were effective. They were Yusmeiro Petit, Jordan Weems, J.B. Wendelken, and Liam Hendricks. The exception was Jake Diekman, who allowed three runs on two hits and a walk in his 2/3 of an inning pitched.
The two teams will face each other tomorrow evening in a semi-deserted Oracle Park. Mike Fiers will start for Oakland, and submariner Tyler Rogers will take the mound for the Giants.