A tale of two baseball cities | TheUnion.com

A tale of two baseball cities

Oakland Athletics' Grant Balfour points to a pop fly ball hit by Los Angeles Angels' Hank Conger in the ninth inning of a baseball game Saturday, July 27, 2013, in Oakland, Calif. The ball was caught for the final out of the game, which the A's won 3-1. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

The San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics seem to be two Bay Area teams headed in totally opposite directions.

While Oakland has fashioned its team as “The Revenge of the Nerds,” the Giants have found themselves in a similar position to 2011 when they followed their 2010 World Series Championship with a lackluster season.

This year, they have few excuses. As Buster Posey’s home-plate collision resulting in a broken leg destined 2011 for failure, there simply are not as many scenarios for an offense that cannot score and a bullpen that has emerged with as many holes as Swiss cheese.

As they went 1-6 in series against the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago Cubs, they lost by bloated, uncompetitive margins against the Reds and narrow scores versus the Cubs. However, in the three-game set with the Cubs, they only managed three runs. While Chicago only plated six runs, the Giants suffered through a drought of dangerous proportions.

In Game 2 alone, they had eighth- and ninth-inning opportunities with the bases loaded and less than two out only to make the Cubs bullpen look like a collection of Cy Young Award winners. In the eighth, they had the three, four and five spots at the plate with the bags full. Posey grounded to third for a force at the plate as did Sandoval with a weak, first-pitch roller to first. Hunter Pence was retired to complete the frame.

In came closer Sergio Romo in the ninth only to surrender the game-winning homer to ex-Giant Nate Shierholtz in his two-batter appearance. The Giants went on to lose 1-0.

In the final game, Brandon Belt, who has shown glimmers of potential during his term with San Francisco, struck out four times, the last of which with one out in the ninth. They sunk lower in the National League West standings after a post-All-Star game debacle that has reached ugly proportions.

Across the Bay, the A’s find ways to win games. Taking two out of three from the Houston Astros (the only loss in which they carried a two-run lead into the ninth), they found ways to win the other two tilts with late-inning home run heroics. They returned home to take three of four from the upstart Los Angeles Angels. Sunday was a good example of how they get it done.

Down 5-0 after the early innings, Oakland enjoyed three runs in the third, two in the fifth and five in the sixth en route to a 10-6 series-ending win.

By contrast, at the exact same time as the Cubs and Giants batted in the ninth of Game 3, the A’s were enjoying a five-run inning that lasted 31 minutes. As the ninth frame began in San Francisco, the A’s commenced an attack of clutch hitting that would transcend the entire ninth at AT&T.

Their no-name offense, perhaps with the exception of Yeonis Cespedes, strung together a series of key hits to put the game — seemingly destined for the Angels after they surged ahead 5-0 — out of reach.

A two game lead at the All-Star break has been increased to six after Texas has suffered through a 4-12 stretch.

The A’s do it quietly but effectively. They can never be counted out. Deficits in Houston were but rallying cries for Oakland to come back and win the series.

Two teams that seem to have totally different mindsets. Two teams headed in totally different directions. The World Series champions seem destined to suffer the same fate as 2011. The Oakland A’s begin to strategize ever-so-slightly for the playoffs.

Indeed, a tale of two neighboring baseball cities.

Yes, there is plenty of time left in the 2013 campaign. However, as Oakland looks to offer more of the same, the Giants are left wondering what it takes to score a run and win a game, let alone a series.

Jim Adams lives in Nevada City and is a regular contributor to The Union and a broadcaster for TouchDown Productions. Contact him at adamses@inreach.com.

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