By now, most of the baseball world is aware of the A's penchant for walk-offs, as they've authored a mind-boggling 11 such victories in 2012 thus far. Indeed, last homestand saw the A's deliver 3 of their 5 victories in walk-off style. The question then became: how will they do it on the road? Without the last at-bat home advantage, their winning ways surely cannot continue.
Friday night was one of those games where, if you believe in character-building victories, the A's built a ton of character. Let's recap the 5 lead changes (after the jump):
- The A's had a 5-0 lead by the top of the 2nd, courtesy of an RBI triple from Josh Reddick, a ginel by Yoenis Cespedes to drive him in, and a 2-un and solo HR, respectively, by Chris Carter and Brandon Hicks.
- Adam Jones 3-run HR keyed the first Orioles comeback, allowing them to take the lead 6-5 in the bottom of the 5th
- Seth Smith came off the bench for Jonny Gomes, tomahawking a bases-clearing double into the left-center field gap, giving the A's the lead back at 8-6 in the top of the 6th
- After some horrible luck with defensive positioning, J.J. Hardy, Jim Thome, and Chris Davis combined for 3 straight singles to give the Orioles the lead 9-8 going into the 9th. At this point, it is worth nothing that the Orioles were 41-0 when leading after 8 and Jim Johnson is an All-Star closer, having only blown 2 saves all year. Say what you will about Jim Johnson himself or the save statistic (hint: he's not that great of a reliever), but coming back on the road is not easily accomplished.
- The A's stormed back for 6 runs (!!) in the top of the 9th. Derek Norris pushed through an RBI bouncer to tie it, Jemile Weeks and Coco Crisp added singles to make it 12-9, and Seth Smith came through again with a ripped double to dead RF to put the game out of reach at 14-9.
Anyone who had read my work since Spring Training this year knows I have an analytical bent to the way I watch baseball. I like my pitchers to have a high K%, low BB%, and not allow any HRs. I like my hitters to have a high wRC+. But, Friday, I could honestly say that there was no real reason why the A's should have won that game. Despite their relatively high K rates, the A's relievers simply did not come through. Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook, and Grant Balfour -- all relatively reliable guys -- all managed to pitch themselves into trouble. Indeed, it was the offense, and their ability to answer EVERY TIME in the next half-inning that keyed this victory. Again, I don't really believe in teams playing to the score as a whole, but I see no other plausible explanation for the A's winning this game. They saw the score, and were determined not to lose. Even the last out of the game, with Josh Reddick giving up his body to catch Nick Markakis' sure wallball double showed just how badly the A's wanted this one.
Of course, the A's aren't going to win every game from this point on. But, I think we can all agree that the 2012 A's have a little magic in them, one that could make them the latest baseball cinderella story if everything goes right.