The Bay Bridge Series – Oakland Looks to Stop a Surging San Francisco

Billy Burns has been a bright spot for the A's this season. Filling in for the injured Coco Crisp, Burns is hitting a team best .310 on the year. (photo by Jason O. Watson)

By Connor Buestad |

As Josh Donaldson trotted demonstratively around the Coliseum bases on Thursday afternoon, you could almost feel the last bit of air seeping out of the 2015 Oakland Athletics’ worn tires. His moonshot in the fifth inning easily cleared the extended wall in right-center, and Donaldson seemed to enjoy every second of his journey around the bases. Head bobbing, arms up to the sky, visible grin, etc. He wasn’t shy about it.

This week was Donaldson’s first trip to Oakland after being traded to Canada by Billy Beane, following what most believe was a contentious relationship between the star third baseman and the decorated GM. By the time Donaldson arrived at his post-homer dugout and went into his series of secret handshakes and forearm “bashes” with Jose Reyes, Billy Beane most assuredly shut off the TV from his in-game workout room and turned up the speed on his exercise bike.   

A’s fans know the deal all too well. Real estate magnet and team owner Lew Wolff has billions of dollars in his bank account (literally), but is not a fan of spending it on baseball players. His GM Billy Beane does his best with a limited cash flow and is not afraid to pull the trigger on any decision, no matter how unpopular. Every year, by the time July rolls around and the trade deadline looms, Billy takes stock and decides if the A’s are buyers or sellers. Last year the A’s were buyers, and unfortunately, they flamed out in the playoffs. This year, they are sellers and as always, it’s tough to watch.

Scott Kazmir was scheduled to be on the mound on Thursday against Donaldson and the Blue Jays, but Beane had other ideas, sending Kazmir to the contending Houston Astros for two minor league prospects. With Kazmir’s departure, that leaves only Sean Doolittle on the roster from last year’s list of A’s All-Stars. Norris, Moss, Samardzija, Cespedes, Donaldson, they’re all gone too.   

After Beane put down his white flag, he emerged for a brief press conference on Thursday and reminded A’s fans what we already knew but still didn’t like. Billy did his annual A’s accounting calculation and decided that at 44-53 the A’s were behind the 8-ball and needed to sell. The market is only hot for so long he explained. Now was the time.  

Fortunately, among the many things A’s fans are good at; looking at the glass half full is one of them. The Athletics are still in Oakland, the weather is still Sonny, the tickets are still cheap, the parking lot still has plenty of tailgating real estate, and the Dubs won the whole goddamn thing.

Oakland also has a pretty good squad still in tact with more than a few players worth rooting for. They do find themselves 11 back of the first place Angels, but stranger things have happened. If nothing else, it is time for the A’s to play spoiler across the bay.

Hector Sanchez stops to admire his grand slam on Tuesday night in San Diego. The pose caused benches to clear at Petco Park. (photo by Denis Poroy)

The San Francisco Giants, with three World Series titles in the last five years, have lots to feel good about coming into the 2015 version of the Battle of the Bay. SF is winners of eight of their last nine games including two of three in San Diego this week.

The Giants will feature a healthy and rested Hunter Pence in right field, along with a middle infield who played together in the All-Star Game. Seeing the Giants double-play combo in the Midsummer Classic was more than just Bruce Bochy looking out for the Orange and Black, it appears. Brandon Crawford already has 14 homers to compliment his steady defense, while fresh-faced Joe Panik’s .316 average is good for 10th place in all of the Majors. All of this is a nice compliment to Buster Posey’s typical stellar offensive output and Matt Duffy’s out-of-nowhere performance at third base to make the masses rid themselves of Panda Hats.

Even with Timmy Lincecum on the DL, the pitching matchups in this series surely favor the Giants, especially when you consider that Sonny Gray will be watching from the dugout all three games. Meanwhile, the A’s lineup will be tasked with World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner on Saturday.

Pitching matchups aside, it is probably best to just “throw out the record books” when these crosstown clubs come together for a three game set. But do me a favor, pick a side, and don’t get caught dead wearing one of these hats. My bold prediction: A’s win 2 out of 3…

Giants' Series at Miami Proves Bitter... With Just a Smidgen of Sweet.

Dee Goran slides in safely on an inside-the-park home run vs. the Giants. (photo by Mike Ehrmann)

By Andrey Burin

Equipped with a depleted pitching staff and down an All-Star outfielder (Hunter Pence) among others, the San Francisco Giants came into this series at Miami optimistic about their chances of defeating a mediocre Marlins team. Additionally, Matt Cain's first start after a year of battling back from a smörgasbord of elbow and forearm injuries was a cause for celebration (and a coup for the pitching staff). Though the final scores of both the series and Cain's outing were less than perfect, having Matty back with Pence and Jake Peavy soon to follow should leave fans feeling bullish about the rest of the season. Here are three quick and dirty takes on the three losses we suffered to the Marlins.

Game 1

June 30

SF Giants 3 – Miami Marlins 5

Just like the Giants, the Marlins were also singing the injury blues coming in without their daunting slugger Giancarlo Stanton (if you haven't seen him hit, he smashed two of the five longest homers in June) and their fans were anxiously searching their batting order up and down to see who might give them some run support in his absence. It would turn out to be Justin Bour, who started off the series with a homer in Game 1. 

Miami's much needed jolt in this one came from speed burner Dee Gordon, who plated three runs with an inside-the-park home run and gave the Marlins a lead they would not again relinquish thanks to a solid bullpen performance paired with a good outing from MIA closer A.J. Ramos. Buster had a solid performance at the plate (HR + legged out a hustling double) but it wasn't enough to beat the Marlins.

Game 2

July 1

SF Giants 5 – Miami Marlins 6

The beginning of the 9th inning saw the Giants prepped and ready to take advantage of a botched defensive effort by the Marlins only to have Santiago Casilla blow a rare save and give up a walk-off homer to, guess who, Justin Bour on a sinker that caught just a little too much of the plate.

Bruce Bochy would say after game that Casilla's arm was tired and he would get a few days off—considering the amount of injuries the staff has already suffered a healthy and on-point Casilla is a must-have for us. This game saw Gregor Blanco continue his hot hitting as of late, going 3-4 at the plate. San Francisco also received a very solid performance from the Giants bullpen, as they pumped out two solid innings.

Game 3

July 2

SF Giants 4 – Miami Marlins 5

The overarching storyline of this game concerned two talented pitchers making their respective comebacks from injury, and after Buster Posey and Brandon Belt each plated a run in the top of the 1st and Matt Cain pitched a scoreless half-inning (his first appearance in 12 months!) it looked like this game could make up for the two preceding losses.

Unfortunately for the Giants, Jose Fernandez' tough night did not last, and this game turned out to be a mini highlight reel for him. The Cuban phenom pitched six solid innings and sparked an offensive run by knocking one out in his first game back from Tommy John Surgery. Fernandez did not hand out a single walk in his six innings, threw with consistently high velocity, and ended the game on a very solid note with six straight outs.

As for Matty, simply pitching a game in an SF uniform is an excellent sign for the team and the pitching staff, and save for some issues with control and a home run given up to Justin Bour (a habit this series for our pitchers), he looked pretty solid for being a year removed from his last outing. Gregor continued on a tear at the plate and hit a powerful home run in the fifth against Fernandez.

Tonight sees the Giants pitted against a solid Nationals squad and led by Jake Peavy (currently sporting an ugly 9+ ERA) finally coming off the DL. To capture some Ws as pitchers make their way back into the rotation and become comfortable the offense will have no choice but to be productive. Look for Gregor Blanco to continue his hot-hitting and lead the G-men to a victory tonight in the nation's capital and get things back on track for SF.