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Game #28: Clippard's 5 Outs Saves Chavez' Gem, A's Make 2 Runs Stand

Well, there is one bullpen member who fought as hard as Jesse Chavez did in today's game, and that is Tyler Clippard. Chavez was cruising to a shutout through 7 innings, right up until a horrific error cut the A's lead to but a single run in the eighth. With runners at first and third and one out, Clippard ended the eighth and pitched the ninth for a one-run, five-out save, preserving Chavez' and the A's 2-1 win.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

If one were so inclined, you could find a lot of individual heroes in tonight's dramatic one-run win. We could highlight the nearly-identical two-out singles to right field by Billy Butler and Brett Lawrie, scoring the only two runs of the night for the A's or we could rave about Jesse Chavez' phenomenal seven-and-a-third innings outing, allowing just four hits, while striking out seven and allowing no earned runs en route to his first win of the season. And we will. But not to bury the lead, the hero of tonight's game is Tyler Clippard and his gutsy, gorgeous, five-out, one-run save, entering the game in the eighth inning after all hell had broken loose; when it looked for all the world like the 2015 Oakland Athletics had found yet another way to lose a one-run game, and he simply shut down the Twins in a tough-as-nails performance; the likes of which we haven't seen yet this year. Keep in mind, this team was 0-7 in one-run games entering tonight. They are not good down the home stretch, and the much-maligned bullpen has been a big part of the reason why. But just like that, with one can-do performance, the A's snatched a victory from the jaws of defeat and secured the 2-1 win.

For all its late drama, this game really was a textbook blueprint for a win. Jesse Chavez systemically mowed down the Twins one by one, while the A's scratched out two scrappy runs in his support. The A's wasted no time getting on the board; Billy Burns started the game with yet another hit. Many think he will be sent down tomorrow as Coco Crisp returns, but assuming Craig Gentry has an option, I would keep Burns, unproven and all. I've always wanted him to play, and he's actually performing; it was his fourth straight start, racking up two hits today, two yesterday, one on Sunday, and two on Saturday. Small sample  size, indeed, but you can't argue with his production.

The A's would add their insurance run in the sixth inning as Stephen Vogt was issued a seemingly-harmless two-out walk; the last batter of the game for starter Trevor May. Ike Davis singled a hustling Vogt to third base, and a single by Lawrie would plate the second run of the game.

Jesse Chavez was averaging about 11 pitches an inning through the seventh inning, and despite the heavy rain at times, he looked on pace to throw a complete game, a welcome respite from the bullpen blowups of the season so far. And then, the eighth inning happened. With one-out, Chavez allowed a single. And then he induced a double-play, fielded by Ike Davis. Davis was in reach of the force out at first base; he also had plenty of time to make a good, strong throw to second base to get the out there first. Instead of picking either option, he threw the ball into left field. With runners at first and third, and Chavez' pitch count at 87, Bob Melvin went to one of the two reliable members of the bullpen, Evan Scribner. Some will comment on the unlucky, broken-bat single that scored the Twins' run and put runners on the corners with one out, and the tying run on third. All I'll remember is his first pitch to Brian Dozier; the one that was earmarked for the seats and a three-run home run, and Dozier just turned on it too quickly, leaving Chavez a panicked mess in the dugout, and all A's fans reaching for more alcohol.

Clinging--and I do mean clinging--to a one-run lead, Bob Melvin, in a complete act of desperation because literally nothing else is working out of the bullpen, elected to pitch Tyler Clippard in the game-saving, high-leverage eighth inning, trusting no one else. Not that I blame him. There was no one else. Clippard struck out Torii Hunter, got Joe Mauer to fly out, induced a ground-out to start the ninth inning, got Kurt Suzuki to fly out, and struck out Kennys Vergas to end the game, and collect the save that should have been worth five.

It's always dramatic, with these ones. The A's raise their record to 12-16 and look to guarantee a least a series split with a win tomorrow night. We'll see you back here with all the action; same time, same place, Scott Kazmir will be on the mound for the A's.