Believe it or not the A's won two games in a row. With the exceptional Sonny Gray starting today against the rather unexceptional Erasmo Ramirez, the game felt like one of those "gotta have it" situations. Sonny took the Loss in his last two starts and hadn't earned a victory since May 3 against the Rangers. Coming off of yesterday's performance where the A's scored on singles, walks, and Tampa Bay errors, perhaps today the team could lift Sonny with some of their power. But before we get to those Oakland home run hitters, the diminutive Billy Burns needs to lead off the game . . .
The first of no doubt many Billy Burns home run Vines: https://t.co/z6dVRoTsfK— Ryan Thibs (@NotMrTibbs) May 24, 2015
First pitch, first Major League home run for Billy Burns. Only his third home run in his professional career to boot. Shock-waves of disbelief emanated across the Athletics Nation comment section as the A's took the early 1-0 lead. Luckily, the Tampa fan in right field who ended up with the ball threw it back onto the field. We are told that the A's organization does have possession of the ball, but as of the time of this writing, Burns has yet to receive it. Burns' lead off home run was also the first lead off home run for the A's this season. The A's would threaten with two men on later in the first, but Max Muncy would pop out into the shift to end the top of the first.
After the excitement of the Burns home run, unfortunately the A's were not treated to an easy bottom half of the first. Kevin Kiermaier singled to lead off the game for the Rays. Steven Souza then hit a come-backer to Sonny, one of many come-backers today, and this one should have started a double-play. But the normally slick-fielding Sonny made a poor throw to second that hindered the relay throw, so instead of a double-play, Souza was safe at first. After an Even Longoria fly out for the second out, James Loney hit a liner up the third-base line past the diving Muncy. Souza was running on the two-out contact and attempted home after Sam Fuld threw the ball into second base. Marcus Semien took Fuld's throw and fired a bullet to home before Souza arrived. Apparently Souza was well aware that he was toast at the plate because he made no attempt to slide. Instead, he decided to get a little old school and plowed into Stephen Vogt:
Vogt would hang on to the ball for the final out of the inning, but Melvin was upset with Souza's charge and spent the commercial break speaking to home plate umpire Joe West about the play. No harm no foul, however, as the game progressed into the second inning without further action. Comments on Athletics Nation suggested that the A's should retaliate against Souza in his next at-bat. Souza's actions on the field after the collision demonstrated that repayment was unlikely, however, as Souza was a good sport. He sought forgiveness immediately after the play and padded Vogt's behind before his next at bat.
Before we get to Souza's next at bat, though, Burns had another plate appearance, too. This time Burns did what he normally does; an easy single. Reddick then singled him over to third. With one out Vogt hit a long fly to sacrifice Burns home, giving the A's a 2-0 lead in the third inning. Souza's next at bat came in the bottom of the third, but karma stepped in to answer all calls for revenge. Souza strangely injured his wrist trying to check his swing on a curveball from Sonny. Any questions about retaliation were thrown out the window as Souza had to leave the game, replaced by Joey Butler.
Meanwhile, Sonny was cruising along in the fourth inning when Loney hit a come-backer that deflected off of Sonny's shin. Strong as ever, Sonny stayed in the game and struck out Logan Forsythe before fielding another come-backer off the bat of David DeJesus. Any further doubts about Sonny's health were placated by a 1-2-3 bottom of the fifth, but Bob Melvin decided to replace Sonny after this inning as a precautionary measure. Sonny's x-rays are negative as his official diagnosis is right ankle contusion, but Melvin says he should still make his next start. After 67 pitches Sonny's day was done.
After the top of the sixth Melvin was allowed the luxury of caution to pull Sonny because Canha decided that today he wasn't going to be one-upped by Burns. After a Vogt walk and Billy Butler HBP, Canha stepped to the plate with two men on. Numerous times this series the A's have left men stranded in these situations. This time, however, Canha fired a laser from Erasmo over the left field wall to give the A's a 5-0 cushion. Canha has been struggling of late with his batting average falling to .212 over the weekend. Today he would finish 2 for 3, including this three-run home run, his sixth of the season. Hopefully today is a positive sign that Canha can continue to be a Major League contributor to this team.
With Sonny's shin swelling in the dugout, Dan Otero came on in relief, and he would do so splendidly. Otero gave the A's a scoreless sixth before Reddick hit a solo shot in the seventh to make it 6-0 A's. Otero would start the home half of the seventh with two ground outs, the second of which was fielded barrel roll style by Eric Sogard:
Otero would work into a little trouble giving up back-to-back singles to Asdrubal Cabrera and Brandon Guyer, but would get Bobby Wilson to line out for the third out.
After two scoreless innings of relief, Otero would give way to Fernando Rodriguez for the eighth. Unfortunately, with one out Joey Butler hit a pop up to right-center that caused confusion between Burns and Reddick, which caused the ball to drop for a double. A Longoria walk and Loney single loaded the bases for Forsythe, who would face Evan Scribner coming in to replace Fernando. Alas, Forsythe would single in two runs ending the hopes of a shut-out. Evan would get the next two outs to end the inning with the score now 6-2 A's.
The A's would respond, however, by manufacturing a run in the top of the ninth. Burns made another fine display legging out a single for his third hit of the day. Burns then stole second before advancing to third on a fly out by Reddick. With one out Vogt would yet again sacrifice Burns home, giving Billy 3 runs on the day and Vogt 2 RBI's. Arnold Leon then came in to finish the game with a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth. Final score: A's 7, Rays 2.
Absent Sonny's injury, which Melvin says shouldn't inhibit Sonny's next start, the game is a step in the right direction to say the least. Muncy showed good range at third and Semien played a fine short. Indications that the addition of Ron Washington may already be paying dividends.
Next up is a Memorial Day match-up with the Tigers and the return of my favorite current MLB player: La Potencia himself Yoenis Cespedes. I don't care what the stats or numbers say; I like watching him play baseball and I wish he was still wearing an A's uniform, even though I know he was probably gone this past off-season anyway. I need to ask someone how to say "I miss you" in Spanish when I'm in the left field bleachers tomorrow.
- Forget home runs, Burns has 5 stolen bases in his last 7 games.