Well, it really doesn't get better than that. Entering the game as a pinch-runner, not even a pinch-hitter, Brandon Hicks took advantage of his only at-bat of the afternoon to untie the game with his very first major league homerun, sending the A's to another walk-off win (their 9th of the season, and you should definitely listen to the radio call of the walk-off), and completing a come-from-behind victory against the division-leading Rangers to earn a split before welcoming in the dreaded New York Yankees tomorrow.
This game had all the feel of another sloppy A's loss early, but whatever July magic is powering the A's kicked in late. It wouldn't be an A's game without multiple homeruns (how weird is that to type); they hit two on the day, and nearly a third.
From today's Drumbeat:
I should add before he comes to the plate that Brandon Inge tells me he’s figured some things out lately, while watching Price Fielder get an intentional walk, of all things. (It’s a long explanation that involves getting his legs more involved; Inge saw that Fielder was working on that even while watching pitches sail by.) He liked his at-bats last night and he thinks he is getting very close to busting out of his lengthy, lengthy slump.
In one of his more prophetic statements, Brandon Inge did indeed break out of his slump, going 2-4 on the day with a homerun and a table-setting double.
Travis Blackley would technically allow all three Rangers runs in his 5 1/3 innings, but Balfour actually gave up the third. The rest of the bullpen--Scribner, Doolittle, Cook--backed by some incredible defense, would shut down the Rangers, and make the comeback possible.
The game held as a pitching duel through four innings, helped by a nifty double-play turned by Blackley, but the Rangers finally broke free in the fifth on a Snyder single and Gentry double. Inge's homerun would tie the game briefly, but a balk, a misplay, and two singles brought two runs home for the Rangers in the sixth.
Inge led off the seventh with a double, and Chris Carter immediately pinch-hit for Cliff Pennington, drawing a walk. (Brandon Hicks would pinch-run for Carter; Spoiler Alert: This will be important later.) Coco Crisp bunted, which I usually hate, but Crisp can bunt for a base hit and he's a fast runner, so I wasn't totally opposed to the call. What I was opposed to was him popping up the bunt; the A's were lucky to only sacrifice one out on the play. Jemile Weeks flew out for the second out, bringing up Josh Reddick. Don't worry about it; all he did was come up with a huge two-out, two-strike, game-tying double.
After Scribner cruised through the seventh, and Doolittle cruised through the eighth, Ryan Cook came in to make things interesting in the ninth; allowing a lead-off double to Nelson Cruz. He managed to strike out Napoli, but intentionally walked David Murphy. I hated this call. Not only did it bring up A's-killer Gentry, but it put another run on base. The A's might have been able to overcome one run in the ninth, but likely not two. Oh well, I'm too happy to complain; let's get to the bottom of the ninth. (Side note: Brandon Hicks made an amazing over-the-shoulder catch to record the second out, and Coco Crisp made another great defensive play to end the ninth inning.)
Here are the pitches of the inning:
And that is how Brandon Hicks hit his first homerun. The A's improve to 47-44; they are 8-2 in their last 10 games, they are tied for a Wild Card spot, and they are red-hot, going in to an all-important series against a team they traditionally suck against. Let's change that tradition; A's/Yankees all weekend, starting tomorrow at 7pm.