SAN FRANCISCO -- Throughout each and every tortuous inning here Wednesday night, the home faithful rode A's third baseman Josh Donaldson.
Especially after he booted Brett Pill's smoked grounder in the fourth inning.
"Oh, I suck?" Donaldson said he mouthed back to the Giants fans. "Why do I suck? What's up? Want to come and play?
"Man, they were in my ear."
Imagine, then, the sense of satisfaction he felt when he went completely horizontal to his left snag Buster Posey's laser.
"Gotcha," he said. "What's up?"
Yes, Donaldson had the last laugh in the A's eventual 9-6 defeat of the Giants to take the first three games of the Bay Bridge interleague series. But he was not about to rub any one's nose in it. Not when he had so much fun in the game. Yes, fun.
"That's probably the most fun I've had in a long time," he said. "Besides the playoffs."
But with the rivalry and the fans and the nature of the game, which lasted three hours and 43 minutes and featured 15 runs scored, 23 hits, 10 pitchers, four errors, 18 runners left on base and A's bench coach Chip Hale getting sent to the showers, this game had a certain postseason feel.
The kind of vibe that can help even a defending division champ mature to another level.
"It's easy to get caught up in the emotion of the game," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "You have to find another gear."
That's exactly what the A's did…while having what Donaldson deemed "good clean fun" against the defending World Series champs.
Even the emotionally stable Nate Freiman got into the act with a demonstrative fist pump at first base after his ninth-inning single drove in Donaldson to give the A's a three-run advantage. It was also his first base hit off a right-handed pitcher this season.
"I'm thinking, I'm playing in front of 10 to 20 times the crowd I played in front of last year," said Freiman, who was with the San Diego Padres' Double-A affiliate in San Antonio in 2012. "We'd get 3,000 (fans) on dollar beer night.
"Yeah, this is fun. I'm jumping around like a little kid after hitting singles. This is fun."
But it was also controversial in the sixth inning, when Andres Torres hit a ball down the third-base line that third-base umpire Gerry Davis, who is also the crew chief, deemed fair. But when a fan leaned over the wall in the Giants bullpen and touched the ball, necessitating interference and stopping play, Brandon Crawford was allowed to score from first base.
"The ball went over the bag, I called it fair, there was spectator interference, whenever there is spectator interference you award the runners the bases you feel they would have had had there not been interference," Davis told a pool reporter.
Was it based on input from other umpires?
"Brian (Knight) basically made the decision because he’s the home plate ump and he has the whole field in his perspective, so he made the decision as to whether the runners would score," Davis said. "And if any of the other umpires have anything different on the field then we would get together if we need to. But we were all pretty sure that was the case."
Melvin argued two points -- 1) that the ball was foul and 2) where the runners were placed after the interference that resulted in a fan ejection. Melvin was denied his case on both counts.
In the wake of the argument, Hale was tossed.
"I warned him a couple times to stop yelling at me," Knight said, "and he did not heed my warning and he was ejected."
Consider the whole affair a baptism, of sorts, for the A's, who have won 11 of 12, but none in such an environment.
"Until you're put in the fire…put in that situation, you don't know where you are as a team," Donaldson said.
"This is a kid's game; we're in adult bodies."
And yes, having fun along the way.