Emil Brown's Game Two homer was a decisive blow.
If the Japanese media were expecting the Tokyo Series to be a Boston massacre, color them surprised. For all intents and purposes, the A's dominated the series, leading in all but four innings of the two games and splitting a series that they were two outs from sweeping.
Emil Brown played the role of goat in Game One, committing a base-running blunder in the bottom of the 10th inning that prevented the A's from tying the game, and possibly winning it. In Game Two, he donned the role of hero, blasting a three-run homer off of Boston starter Jon Lester in the third inning, giving the A's a four-run lead they would never relinquish.
Oakland was given a strong reminder -- if they ever forgot -- how good Rich Harden can be if he is healthy. They were also reminded how important it will be for the young team to play strong, fundamental baseball when playing tight games.
Harden was outstanding in his Game Two start. The right-hander struck-out nine and allowed only three hits and one run in six innings of work. He earned his first win as a starter since last April. He carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning and a shut-out into the sixth, when Manny Ramirez touched him for a solo homerun. Ramirez struck-out three times in the game.
Brown's only hit in Game Two was a big one, as he drove home Mark Ellis and Mike Sweeney with his homer off of Lester. Brown's homer was the A's third of the series, a good sign for a team that wasn't expected to hit for much power in 2008. Kurt Suzuki added two doubles in the game and Bobby Crosby had an RBI double of his own. Jeff Fiorentino and Chris Denorfia also added their first RBIs as members of the A's.
The A's bullpen work in the series was impressive, with the exception of their top reliever, closer Huston Street. Street blew a one-run lead in Game One, allowing a one-out homer in the ninth inning to rookie Brandon Moss that erased the A's 4-3 lead. Street then allowed two runs with two-outs on a Ramirez double in the top of the 10th that proved to be the winning runs.
Street aside, A's relievers sparkled in Japan. Alan Embree tossed 2.1 scoreless innings, Keith Foulke had two scoreless frames, Lenny DiNardo recorded an out and Santiago Casilla added a scoreless inning of his own.
The A's fundamentals, which were stressed heavily by A's manager Bob Geren this spring, failed them in Game One. The A's had two costly misplays in the outfield by Travis Buck and Fiorentino and a base-running gaffe by Brown. Those mistakes prevented the A's from returning home with a two-game sweep over the defending World Champions.
Oakland now returns to the Bay Area to resume their exhibition schedule. The A's take on the San Francisco Giants in their traditional Bay Bridge Series in the Bay Area. That series begins on Friday. The A's resume their regular season schedule next Tuesday versus Boston at the Oakland Coliseum.