Winning a baseball game: July 18, 2015 edition
- Scott Kazmir pitches 8⅓ innings of superb baseball.
- Marcus Semien and Ben Zobrist turn three double plays.
- Billy Butler hits a solo home run.
- Brett Lawrie beats out a two-out ninth-inning infield single to keep the game alive. He goes to second on a wild pitch.
- Jake Smolinski bloops a pinch hit single to score Lawrie, handing All-Star closer Glen Perkins his first blown save of the year.
- Drew Pomeranz throws a 1-2-3 10th.
- Billy Burns hits a leadoff 10th inning double.
- Billy Burns does not get thrown out trying to steal third with nobody out and Stephen Vogt batting.
- Stephen Vogt hits a base hit to left to score the walk off run.
Nine things went the A's way tonight to give the A's their walkoff win.
Kazmir brilliant but gets no decision
Scott Kazmir faced just three batters over the minimum 8⅓ innings tonight, but he almost failed to escape the first. He led off the game by allowing Brian Dozier a lead off double after Mark Canha broke badly on a pop up to shallow left and waived off Marcus Semien. Torii Hunter singled, but Dozier could only advance to third as he had to wait for Hunter's ground ball to pass in front of him. Kazmir then loaded the bases by walking Joe Mauer.
Ducks on the pond and nobody out, Kazmir dug deep, struck out Miguel Sano and got last night's grand slammer Trevor Plouffe to instead ground into a double play started by shortstop Marcus Semien. He made 25 pitches in the first, but after that Kazmir played baseball on Easy Mode.
Between the second and eighth innings Scott Kazmir faced 21 batters and retired 21 batters. Two hits were erased on double plays, and he struck out four more batters to bring him to five on the night.
He finished the eighth inning on 102 pitches with a 1-0 lead, and manager Bob Melvin let Kazmir go out for the ninth to try for his second career shutout, his first in just over nine years. Tyler Clippard was ready to go if needed, however.
Interlude: Billy Butler dong
Twins starter Phil Hughes was himself enjoying a strong night, though he had quite a bit more traffic on the basepaths than Kazmir. The A's had runners on second and third with two out in the second inning but could not score either of them. They even enjoyed a rare walk from Phil Hughes, and eventually had two on with one out in the fifth before that rally was erased by a 5-3 double play.
Coming into the 7th, Phil Hughes had thrown just 77 pitches and the A's had not scored in 20 innings. Billy Butler stepped up with one out and launched a 1-1 pitch to deep right center to break the scoreless tie and give the A's a 1-0 lead.
Butler changed his walk-up song to Lynard Skynard's "Simple Man." And simply proceeds to hit a solo shot to CF to give the A's a 1-0 lead— Marshall Paul (@MPaul_BSN) July 19, 2015
Back to reality
Scott Kazmir started the ninth inning by getting Eduardo Escobar to hit a dribbler that Brett Lawrie picked up to make an outstanding no-hesitation play from halfway between the mound and third base to throw out Escobar by the width of Dennis Eckersley's mustache.
Against Brian Dozier, however, Lawrie erred badly. His contribution was to go far to his left, cut off Marcus Semien, spin, and throw the ball 15 feet to the outfield side of first base. Brian Dozier was ruled to have reached on a single with the throwing error advancing Dozier to second base. Kazmir was up to 112 pitches, and Tyler Clippard came in.
Clippard had successfully converted his last eight save opportunities, but tonight he didn't have anything special to beat the best hitters in the Minnesota lineup. He hit Torii Hunter with two strikes on him to put the birthday boy aboard as the go-ahead run. Joe Mauer then doubled off the wall in right, scoring Dozier to tie the game and advance Hunter to third. Shane Robinson came in to pinch run, and Miguel Sano hit a sacrifice fly to Reddick to make the game 2-1.
Clippard struck out Trevor Plouffe to keep the game to one run and strand Mauer in scoring position.
Mandatory eight count
Far too often these blown bullpen games have finished up without much noise from Oakland's bats. With perfect All-Star closer Glen Perkins entering the game, it looked like it would be more of the same. And at first, it was, with Billy Butler flying out to right and pinch hitter Josh Phegley popping out to first base.
Down to their final out, however, Brett Lawrie kept the game alive by beating out an infield single that was only stopped thanks to an outstanding play by Eduardo Escobar. A slower runner would have been out, but not Lawrie.
Pinch hitter Jake Smolinski entered the game in place of Sam Fuld, who had entered for defense in the eighth inning. First, Brett Lawrie advanced to second on a wild pitch, and that enabled him to score on Smolinski's flare to left field to tie the game.
Drew Pomeranz entered in relief of Tyler Clippard and retired Eddie Rosario, Aaron Hicks, and Kurt Suzuki in order. For the Twins, Casey Fein relieved Perkins.
Billy Burns worked a full count against Fein and drove a leadoff double into the gap to put himself in scoring position with Stephen Vogt coming to the plate. Burns then did a curiously risky thing. He tried to steal third. He barely succeeded:
(Photo credit: Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
The winning run was at third now for Stephen Vogt. The crowd was back to life with 30,778 believing Stephen "Everything Bagel" Vogt could deliver the walkoff hit. And he did, his first regular season walk off, and his first since his iconic winner in Game 2 of the 2013 American League Division Series.
Who won it?
I'm looking at that list up top and I see nine A's up there. This was a team win, one that showed this squad that they could come back together after one of their brothers doesn't have his best night. It took contributions from just about everyone to win it.
1-1 in the second half, 42-51 for the season, 69 to go.
Tonight it's the A's 3, the Twins 2 in 10 innings.