Mark Ellis rapped a two-out single into the right-center field gap to score pinch-runner Eric Patterson from second and the A's took their first win of the year, 2-1.
The tenth-inning single came after consecutive singles by Kouzmanoff and Kurt Suzuki put runners on first and second. Kanekoa Texeira gave up the game-winning hit and was credited for the loss, while Edwar Ramirez pitched a perfect top of the tenth for his first win of the season.
Without further adieu, let's get to the analysis.
Offense: A day following the dismal Opening Day performance against King Felix Hernandez, Oakland hitters showed more poise at the plate. Last night, Daric Barton had 3 walks, while tonight, Cliff Pennington filled the role of walk king, with 3 of his own. The A's also rapped nine hits, most of which were hit hard. Kurt Suzuki hit the first home run of the year for the A's with a solo shot to tie the game in the 4th. For the most part, the A's had trouble stringing the hits together to push across more runs.
Defense: There's not much to be said. A night after making four errors, the A's quickly righted the ship and played error-free baseball. Rajai Davis made a highlight reel catch late in the game, racing towards left field before making a headfirst diving catch. Cliff Pennington also got the chance to show off his rocket of an arm. Dallas Braden contributed, picking off Ichiro in the first to thwart any ideas of an early M's rally.
Pitching: This is what's causing the rippling of excitement throughout A's nation. Dallas Braden showed himself worthy of being the ace of the pitching staff that he was last year. With the arrival of Ben Sheets, Braden has been moved down a spot in the rotation, but his stuff did not move down with him. Even though he rarely hit 90 mph on the radar, Braden used a mixture of his changeup and curveball, along with his fastball, to keep hitters on their toes and guessing all night long. He struck out a career-high 10, while only giving up four hits, a run and a walk. Braden was truly impressive. At one point in the broadcast, Mariner announcers seemed so baffled at his stuff they were rendered speechless.
Impressions: As I predicted, the A's came out and played a much better game than Opening Day. It was not a surprise to see the defense play a much better game, although Kevin Kouzmanoff looked tense making throws across the diamond from third after his gaffe last night.
The A's also showed why their offense is seen as weak and generally ineffective. Although Suzuki homered and Travis Buck doubled, no other ball threatened to be extra bases. And, Buck's double was a lightly hit doinker over the third base bag that left only the bat handle in his hands.
The A's will get wins if their pitching staff and defense plays at the level it played at tonight. Braden went seven strong innings, allowing Bob Geren not to have to rely on the bullpen for many innings. But, the pitchers and defense won't always team up for great games. That's where most good teams hitting steps up and carries them to wins. We will see if the A's hitters will be able to step up. After tonight, it seems doubtful, but we can cross our fingers and hope.