As I watched A.J. Griffin pitch a complete game shutout against the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday in just 2 hours, 20 minutes, I thought, this is like a blast from the past.
Others in the press box asked me, “Is this the way it was when the A's started here?” It was similar. I covered the first two weeks of the A's in Oakland in 1968, and among those games, were two complete game wins by Catfish Hunter, in 1:54 and 1:56.
This is not the only way the A's are reminiscent of their past. All the championship A's teams have had a foundation of outstanding pitching and power hitting.
The need for pitching is obvious, but playing home games in the Coliseum demands a special type of offensive play. The huge foul areas mean that a foul ball that would go into the stands elsewhere can be caught, so teams can seldom mount a big rally with a succession of singles and even doubles. So, the successful A's teams have always believed in working pitchers for walks and then hitting home runs. For Giants fans who don't have much experience with this, home runs are hits that go over the fence.
Once again, in Wednesday's game, the A's broke open a close game when Josh Donaldson hit a three-run homer on the first pitch he saw from Homer Bailey. A's hitters like Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick strike out a lot, but they also hit home runs, just as Reggie Jackson and Sal Bando did for the '70s A's teams.
Watching a game at the Coliseum is 180 degrees different from watching a game at AT&T Park.
The Giants have done a superb job with their park, creating something for everybody, with activities for children behind the seats in left field and food stations everywhere. Fans are often on the move around the park and, if they are in their seats, they are on their cellphones, texting or tweeting to friends in the park, even if they're just a couple of sections away.
At the Coliseum, there's relatively little movement for food because the options are much more limited. Nor are there many fans on their cellphones. They are watching the game, booing umpires' calls, concentrating on the action.
Their cheers are consistent: “Let's go Oakland.” Lew Wolff would cringe, but he was probably in a box at Dodgers Stadium, watching the Giants lose again to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Giants are clearly going nowhere this season but the A's seem poised for another run at the postseason. Their pitching is sound and they have the power hitting to back it up. They've had some problems lately because with few off days and some exhausting extra-inning games (one for 18 innings, and one for 19), their bullpen was exhausted.
Manager Bob Melvin noted in his postgame media meeting that Griffin's game was huge because of that. “I didn't even have to have a guy warming up in the bullpen,” he said. “They never had to take off their jackets. And now, we have an off day coming up.”
So, the A's are poised for another postseason run, as they have been in every decade in Oakland. History repeats itself.