We've voted on three SB Nation awards so far -- funniest moment, most regrettable moment, and best defensive play. All polls will remain open until midnight at the end of tonight (Sunday), so keep on voting if you haven't yet!
Our next award is for the most important A's hit of 2014. "Most important" can mean whatever you want it to mean -- just vote for your favorite. Here are our nine contenders, with the poll at the bottom.
Donaldson's walk-off vs. Tigers
Spoiler alert: The first three items on this list are Donaldson walk-offs. On one hand, it seems silly to have the same guy on the list three times, but on the other hand each homer had a totally different meaning to the A's season.
First, we have his May 28 blast against the Tigers. Scott Kazmir and Anibal Sanchez were locked in an epic pitcher's duel, and after eight inning it was 1-0 Detroit and the A's had only two hits. Kazmir tossed a perfect ninth, but Sanchez ran into trouble in the bottom of the frame. Coco doubled with one out, and Sanchez was lifted for Joe Nathan. Remember that this time last year, Nathan was an All-Star closer who was about to sign for an eight-figure annual salary. Basically, he was Detroit's version of Jim Johnson, but we didn't fully know that yet; heck, he'd saved the game against Oakland the previous day. However, he gave up a single to John Jaso, and then Donaldson came up:
At this point in the season, we were firmly expecting an A's vs. Tigers ALCS. These two teams were supposed to be the cream of the AL crop. So beating them, and in dramatic fashion to boot, was a big deal. It also ended up avoiding a sweep in the series, for what that's worth.
Donaldson's walk-off vs. Orioles
When the A's played the Orioles in June, Donaldson had his spat with Manny Machado and then stopped hitting for a month. The team survived his slump because everyone else was hitting around him, but it tainted his image as the superstar on the lineup, it ruined his season stats, and it probably cost him the Silver Slugger and a better finish in the MVP race.
Then Baltimore came to town on July 18 to open the second half of the season. The A's trailed 4-2 entering the ninth, and closer Zach Britton came in for the save. However, Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon Moss singled to lead off the frame, and then up stepped Donaldson:
And like that, his curse was lifted. He went 3-for-9 in the next two games and hit .280/.379/.465 in the second half. In one swing, Donaldson started the second half of the season on an emphatic winning note and broke out of his own personal slump.
Donaldson's walk-off vs. Phillies
The date was Sept. 21, and the A's were desperately trying to hang on to a playoff spot. The division was lost, the competition for the Wild Card was thick, and Oakland had just lost four out of five and seven out of 10. The Phillies were in town, and despite being bad they had split the first two games of the series and forced extra innings in the finale. With the score knotted at 6-6 in the 10th, Donaldson came up with one on and one out:
Someone needed to step up and end this game. The A's couldn't afford to lose games to a bad team at home, but this was the point in the season in which nothing could go right and no one came through when needed. On this day, Donaldson put the team on his back again and carried it to victory. As you might remember, the A's won the second Wild Card by just one game, so each of these walk-off wins (especially the come-from-behind ones) feels just a little bit more important than usual.
Jaso's pinch hit blast vs. Angels
Stop me if you've heard this one: Ernesto Frieri walks into a baseball stadium, and ... oh, you have heard this one? Yeah, he loses the game. He walks in and loses the game. That's the joke, because Frieri is a bad closer. Was a bad closer.
It's April 14, and it's the A's first game of the season against the division-rival Angels. Oakland trailed 2-1 entering the ninth, and Frieri came in to close it. Donaldson led off with a single, and John Jaso came in to pinch hit for Derek Norris. It was awesome.
Oh man. Winning is fun, but beating the Angels in the ninth in Anaheim is divine.
Moss' two homers in the Wild Card game
Brandon Moss entered the year with a career playoff batting line of 4-for-33 with one homer and 20 strikeouts. (And five walks!) He was the epitome of the Oakland playoff choker, the Billy Beane spreadsheet special who couldn't come through when it mattered in October. He was also playing with a serious hip injury and had hit two homers (with a .549 OPS) through his previous 52 games. So naturally:
This one is kind of cheating since it's really two hits, but I'll allow it. Turns out the playoffs are a crapshoot after all. Moss' five RBI helped stake the A's to a 7-3 lead. That leads us to ...
Callaspo's RBI single in the 12th inning of the Wild Card game
Obviously the 2014 A's blew that lead in the eighth and ninth innings. However, they nearly won anyway thanks to the unlikeliest of heroes, Alberto Callaspo. He had come in to pinch hit against Jason Frasor, and he found himself with a runner on third and one out. All he had to do was make some contact:
That'll do, pig. Callaspo's hit gave the A's the lead and put them three outs away from the ALDS. And that was the last happy thought any of us has had since.
Dunn's homer vs. Mariners
The A's finished August by getting swept in embarrassing fashion by the Angels and scoring only four runs in the four games combined. They returned home for Labor Day, Sept. 1, to face the Mariners. And on the bright side, they had a new toy: slugger Adam Dunn, here to re-inject some power into the struggling lineup. Here's what the Big Donkey did in his first at-bat in the green and gold:
That bomb was all the help that starter Jason Hammel needed, as he breezed through eight innings and allowed just one run on three hits. It helped get the A's a win against the team that was chasing them in the Wild Card standings, and considering that they lost the next three contests, that win avoided a sweep by the Mariners as well as what would have been an eight-game losing streak. Two days later, Dunn went deep off of Felix for his only other home run as an Athletic.
Reddick's game-tying double in the 9th vs. Astros
The A's next win came on Sept. 6, but it wasn't easy. Oakland trailed Houston 3-1 entering the ninth, and Astros starter Scott Feldman was still in the game. After one out and a pair of singles, Feldman gave way to closer Chad Qualls, which was good news for the A's considering that Qualls had already blown three saves in five chances against Oakland in 2014. Josh Reddick didn't waste any time getting to him, as this came on Qualls' second pitch:
Jed Lowrie followed with the walk-off single to score Reddick. Why is Reddick here and not Lowrie? For one, because Reddick is the one who was nominated in the initial nominations post. But also, sometimes there's something to be said for the guy who at least tied the game; after all, he's the one who technically blew Qualls' save, so that must mean something, and there's a difference between the thrill of winning and the sigh-of-relief of simply not losing. It's not always about the walk-off. Plus, Reddick's hit was just more impressive than Lowrie's grounder-with-eyes, and arguably more clutch since it came while staring down the face of defeat.
Coco's walk-off vs. Mariners
Let's go back to happier times to finish up. It's April 3, and the A's had just dropped the season-opening series to the Indians at home. (OK, that's not as happy as I'd intended.) Seattle came to visit next, and the A's hoped to get on the winning track against their division rival. With the specter of Felix looming the next day, Oakland got dragged into extra innings in the series opener, which was a huge surprise for an A's/Mariners game (not). It went all the way to the 12th, until Coco led off the bottom of the frame against Hector Noesi:
That win put the A's at 2-2 instead of 1-3, and before we knew it Oakland was 10-4. Sometimes you just need to get those first few wins out of the way however you can get them in order to get into the groove of the season. This was also the first game I attended this season, so that was neat for me.
Which one is your favorite? Vote in the poll!