Visiting all 30 MLB stadiums isn’t an easy task, so trying to visit multiple venues in a single trip makes it easier to accomplish. As someone who eventually wants to complete the accomplishment, I try to visit more than one stadium whenever possible. I went to Nationals Park and Camden Yards on back-to-back days a few years ago, and I got the chance to do it again this year.
Of the stadiums I had not yet visited, AT&T Park was at the top of my list at which to see a game. With the Astros set to play a series there this season, I decided that was going to be the stadium I wanted to travel to this year. With the A’s in close proximity to the Giants, it offers me a chance to double-dip with AT&T Park and the Oakland Coliseum. The teams’ schedules were such that they were both playing at home while the Astros were in San Francisco for a short Monday-Tuesday series with the Giants. There was an early start for Tuesday’s game — 12:45pm PT first pitch — with the A’s starting a two-game series against the Dodgers at 7:05pm PT that night, it gave me plenty of time to get to the Coliseum following the Astros-Giants game to complete the Bay Area doubleheader and see games at both stadiums on the same day.
The three-games-in-24-hours began with the first of two between the Astros and Giants on Monday night, allowing me to get my first in-person experience at AT&T Park, which is always ranked near the top of Best MLB Stadiums lists — and for good reason. It is located in downtown San Francisco but, more importantly, is next to the San Francisco Bay, with a section that is now unofficially known as McCovey Cove, which has become the ballpark’s signature feature. Its location also provides for great views of the landscape surrounding the stadium, including the Bay Bridge beyond left field. In McCovey Cove, there are several people in kayaks who wait for home runs that are hit into the water. That doesn’t happen often, as the the “splash hits” counter that tracks such balls — hit by Giants players — shows that the home team has gotten 78 balls into the Cove since the stadium, originally named Pacific Bell Park, opened in April 2000. And of those 78, 35 were hit by now-retired OF Barry Bonds.
Another notable feature of AT&T Park is the giant Coca-Cola bottle and baseball glove in left field. Those are part of a kids’ section of the park, and on the back of the soda bottle are two slides for kids to play on. Outside the ballpark, the Giants pay homage to the team’s history, dating back to the franchise’s time as the New York Giants. As part of that history is a Wall of Fame, showcasing plaques dedicated to some of the best players in the team’s history, including notables like Willie Mays, Gaylord Perry and Vida Blue, but also less-famous players like Shawn Estes, Marvin Benard and Kirk Rueter, whose contributions to the Giants are more distinct than their overall places in MLB history.
While AT&T Park is known for its beauty, the main attraction is still the games that are played there. On Monday, that meant a pitching matchup of veteran Astros SP Charlie Morton, who is having a career year in his 11th major league season, facing rookie Giants SP Dereck Rodriguez, the son of Hall of Fame C Ivan Rodriguez, who is pitching well as he gets his first taste of the majors. The Astros’ offense was shorthanded for this series with SS Carlos Correa, 2B Jose Altuve and OF George Springer all on the disabled list at the time. And with it being an interleague game in a National League park, DH Evan Gattis — who entered the series with 21 home runs — was limited to pinch-hitting duties. The injuries and lack of a DH meant guys like 1B Tyler White and OF Jake Marisnick, who is a good defender but not much of a hitter, started Monday’s game. For the Giants, after their top four hitters in the lineup — OF Andrew McCutchen, C Buster Posey, 3B Evan Longoria and SS Brandon Crawford — their bottom half of the order also left something to be desired.
The less-than-ideal lineups for both teams and strong pitching by Morton and Rodriguez led to an as-expected low-scoring affair, with the game remaining scoreless through the middle of the sixth inning. The Giants finally broke through on the scoreboard in the bottom of that inning, when Crawford hit a solo home run with two outs to make it 1-0 in favor of the home team. That would remain the score through eight innings, as the starters — who each went seven innings, with Morton striking out eight and Rodriguez getting seven outs via the K — and the first relievers out of the bullpen pitched well. For the Astros, that first player out of the ‘pen in the game was controversial RP Roberto Osuna, who was making his first appearance for the team and first overall after completing his 75-game suspension. He pitched great, needing just five pitches to complete the 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth, to ensure the Astros were down just one run entering the ninth.
The Giants called upon closer Will Smith to get the final three outs and secure the victory, but he did not have his best stuff that night. After getting C Max Stassi to pop out, Smith walked SS Alex Bregman, then OF Josh Reddick made the second out of the inning when he flied out to center. That final out proved elusive for Smith to get, though. After Reddick’s at-bat, Smith walked 3B Yuli Gurriel, then gave up the big hit — a three-run homer off the bat of OF Marwin Gonzalez, giving the Astros a 3-1 lead. It was the first home run Smith had allowed in just shy of 55 innings. After the longball, Smith did get the third out when White grounded out to short.
With the Astros having taken the lead in the top of the ninth, manager A.J. Hinch turned to his closer, Hector Rondon, to try to do what Smith could not and earn the save for his team. He got Longoria to strike out leading off the inning, then Crawford singled to bring the tying run to the plate in the form of 1B Austin Slater. He struck out, leaving it up to 2B Joe Panik to extend the game, but he lined out to end the game and give the Astros the come-from-behind victory.
All told, the teams combined for just eight hits — four for his team — with the four combined runs all being scored via home runs. Osuna earned the win in his Astros debut, with Smith suffering the loss and Rondon recording his 12th save of the season.
Tuesday afternoon saw a pitching matchup of Dallas Keuchel going for the Astros and Madison Bumgarner taking the mound for the Giants. It was another low-scoring affair with the Giants scoring first, this time with a RBI single by 2B Chase d’Arnaud to score Crawford in the bottom of the second inning. That 1-0 lead would hold up until the top of the eighth inning, when RP Ray Black relieved Bumgarner, who struck out seven in seven scoreless innings. When Black entered the game, Gonzalez doubled to lead off the inning. Black then got Gurriel to strike out, but in the next at-bat White hit a two-run home run to left-center field, giving the Astros a 2-1 lead heading into the bottom half of the inning, when RP Collin McHugh came into the game and retired both batters he faced before being relieved by RP Ryan Pressly, who got Crawford to line out to end the inning. After an uneventful top of the ninth, Rondon came in to try for his second save in as many nights. He got the job done again, allowing just a walk and closing out the 2-1 victory for the AL West leaders.
After a BART ride to Oakland, I went to the Coliseum to complete the second half of the two-stadium doubleheader. Unlike AT&T Park, the Coliseum is routinely ranked among the worst stadiums in MLB and will need to be replaced soon if Oakland wants to avoid the A’s moving out of the city. That said, it wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be, given what I have heard of it. There’s nothing special or notable about it and is a cavernous structure with many empty sections in the seating bowl because it is — for now — shared with the Raiders, the last stadium that is shared by MLB and NFL teams. There was a bigger-than-expected crowd for a weeknight A’s game, given that the Dodgers were in town and there were a lot of the team’s fans at the game; the attendance of 33,654 was more than 15,000 better than the team’s season average of 18,552.
As for the game, it was a slow-moving game that saw both starters pulled pretty quickly, with A’s SP Sean Manaea lasting only 2.2 innings in which he gave up three earned runs and Dodgers SP Rich Hill going 5.1 innings of two-run ballf, in a game that the Dodgers won 4-2 after the bullpen 3.2 scoreless innings, with closer Kenley Jansen striking out two batters in the ninth inning to close out the game. DH Khris Davis accounted for the home team’s only runs, with a two-run home run in the sixth inning that led to Hill coming out of the game. The Dodgers had a more balanced offense, with OF Kike Hernandez, DH Matt Kemp, 1B Cody Bellinger and C Austin Barnes each driving in a run in the winning effort. Before the game, Oakland native and former A’s batboy M.C. Hammer threw out the first pitch.
With AT&T Park and the Coliseum now crossed off the list, I have visited 14 of the 30 current major-league stadiums. That means I should reach, and possibly pass, the halfway point of my journey to visit all 30 stadiums during the 2019 season.