The Oakland A's split a two-game series with the Seattle Mariners in Tokyo this week.
Maybe the A's just play better on live television than they do on tape delay. Or maybe Jason Vargas isn't as good as Felix Hernandez. Whatever it is, the A's used Yoenis Cespedes' first MLB home run and a Felix-like outing from Bartolo Colon to beat the M's 4-1.
The much-mocked (by me) Bartolo Colon-Jason Vargas pitching "duel" turned out to be just that for most of the game; both pitchers managed to keep things scoreless until a Justin Smoak solo shot in the top of the seventh off Colon gave Seattle the first run of the game.
But the A's answered in the bottom half of the frame -- after walking Coco Crisp and getting Jonny Gomes to pop out, Vargas was relieved by Shawn Kelley who got Kurt Suzuki to ground into a fielder's choice before promptly hanging a meatball over the plate that Cespedes absolutely lashed to deep left center.
Josh Reddick hopped in the batter's box next and promptly went yard off of George Sherrill as well, giving the A's a 3-1 lead. A solo shot from Gomes would extend the A's final lead.
Colon ended up pitching eight innings, allowing only three hits and one earned run, while walking one and striking out six. (Seriously: my apologies, Bart. You are truly a pro.)
It's hard for the M's to be less than thrilled with Vargas either; the biggest issue is their bullpen. For the A's, Grant Balfour needed just 13 pitches to close out the game in the ninth, which is excellent news, since he appears to be locked into the closer's role.
The bigger news for the A's is the surprising outburst of taters late in the game. It's highly unlikely that Oakland averages three homers a game, but it's nice to see the lineup actually generate some power, particularly against an opponent's bullpen.
Wednesday's A's team isn't going to even bother competing in the AL West. But the A's won't face Felix every time; Thursday showed that if things break the right way for Oakland this year, it could be a lot more interesting than we initially thought.