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Game #96: Ike walks it off, bails out bullpen

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Tyler Clippard gave up the tying run in the ninth, but an Ike Davis infield single in the tenth sends the A's home victorious. Time for pie!

Bob Melvin wasn't here to enjoy this one.
Bob Melvin wasn't here to enjoy this one.
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

The A's could be 0-96, have 0 prospects, 25 Tommy Johns, and a walkoff would still be freaking awesome. Enjoy.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Ike Davis pinch hit walkoff. Pinch Hit Ranch Pie. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Athletics?src=hash">#Athletics</a> <a href="http://t.co/emkmyWA0F7">http://t.co/emkmyWA0F7</a></p>&mdash; Fairweather Marvin (@MAD_Marvin) <a href="https://twitter.com/MAD_Marvin/status/624099279498416128">July 23, 2015</a></blockquote>

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Sonny on the bump

In a must win game (I'm going to say this until the A's are mathematically eliminated), the A's sent their ace and workhorse to the hill. While I appreciate Sonny's ability to rack up strikeouts, groundballs, and weak contact, I especially like his reluctance to give the ball to those guys with field level seats down the third base line. They're not so good.

Looking to recover from last Friday's start in which he gave up 2 homeruns and 5 total runs, Sonny did solid damage control against the best lineup in baseball. In spite of dancing in and out of trouble in a way that would make Tyler Clippard proud (this is some JK Rowling level foreshadowing), Sonny held the Jays to 2 runs on 9 hits in seven innings. Thanks to a few timely double plays and some lucky bounces, Sonny was able to leave with the lead deep in the game in spite of not having his best stuff.

A sign of an ace is not only the ability to dominate, but also the ability to battle when things are't going your way. Sonny couldn't locate his fastball, hung his slider, and lacked velocity and bite, but still managed to eek out a much need 7 inning performance. It was a gritty and gutty effort that deserved a W.

Jake, from A's farm

Lefty's have been a nemesis of the A's since the dawn of time, or 2014. Fortunately, the A's may have found their savior in an unlikely place.

Just a month ago, Jake Smolinski was sitting at his day job selling auto insurance, dreaming of the glory days when none other than Billy Beane called.

"You got any of that Tommy John insurance?" Beane asked, agitatedly.

"Uh, no sir, I don't believe so?" Smolinski responded.

"Ugh, nevermind" Beane replied.

"I can hit lefties for you and play solid outfield defense at multiple positions?" Smolinski replied, in a hopeful yet defeated voice.

"You would do that for me? Sign me up!"

And the rest is history. Well, future history. Smolinski kept up his torrid streak of smashing lefties and playing solid baseball. In the 4th, Smolinski prevented a leadoff triple (or single, if you're careful) with a stellar diving play.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Smolinski&#39;s diving catch <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OaklandAs?src=hash">#OaklandAs</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OAKAs?src=hash">#OAKAs</a> <a href="http://t.co/AvSaCDnqKt">http://t.co/AvSaCDnqKt</a> <a href="http://t.co/ARDTW1FlVn">pic.twitter.com/ARDTW1FlVn</a></p>&mdash; Athletics Report (@athletics_fanly) <a href="https://twitter.com/athletics_fanly/status/624067995468345345">July 23, 2015</a></blockquote>

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In the bottom of the fourth, the right fielder scored the A's first run after reaching on an error by Donaldson. Thanks to some elaborate spreadsheet work, I have deduced that the A's would have never won the game today if said error never happened, and everything else in the future magically worked out exactly the same as it did after said error. Guys. We won the Donaldson trade.

Not really, but that error was a huge turning point in the game, tying the score at 1 and breathing some life into a dead stadium and team.

Oh, and I realize I've talked up Smolinski's night in a Brandon Allen esque way, and I promise his offensive highlight wasn't reaching on an error. In the second, Smolinski laced a single up the middle. In the fifth, with a runner on third and less than two outs Smolinski hit a ball to the warning track, through the marine layer from an off balance swing, plating Stephen Vogt and extending the lead to 3-1. I realize that doesn't sound that exciting, but I promise if you watch the legend that is Jake Smolinski, you will understand my excitement. Plus, seeing a guy get the job done with a runner on third and less than two outs is a thing of beauty.

Moody Umpires

As you may have heard, Bob Melvin was ejected tonight for no apparent reason. In the fifth, Billy Burns stole second on a butchered pitchout (it's kinda nice to be on the other side of that for a change!). On the pitch to Stephen Vogt, catcher Russell Martin darted out of his stretch like a normal pitchout, but pitcher Felix Doubront didn't get the memo and threw the ball right down the middle.

Umpire Hunter Wendelstedt called the pitch a strike, to which Bob Melvin asked something along the lines of "was that a pitchout?" A few words were exchanged in between, but Melvin was tossed on the spot for asking a question. You can view the full play here, and the video of Wendelsted's isolated audio is below. Enjoy trying to listen to that once, but accidentally having it loop 9 times on full volume. Freakin' Vine.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Wendelstedt to Bob Melvin, &quot;Boom. You&#39;re gone!&quot; <a href="https://t.co/VTnNAdYsJL">https://t.co/VTnNAdYsJL</a></p>&mdash; DB (@dlbno) <a href="https://twitter.com/dlbno/status/624062653812469760">July 23, 2015</a></blockquote>

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To the pen

Yeah, I skipped some stuff in there (a Stephen Vogt RBI single and a Danny Valencia BOMB), but it's late, and more important stuff happened. In the eighth, RHP Eduardo Mujica entered for the A's to protect the 3-2 lead. In spite of giving up 2 hits and a wild pitch, Mujica escaped unscathed thanks to a well timed 1-4-3 double play. His performance was less than stellar, but any run free inning from this pen is a welcome sight.

Unfortunately, the ninth didn't go so smoothly. Tyler Clippard, the A's closer and only semi-reliable reliever entered to start the frame. Following a Danny Valencia walk, a Devon Travis (who by the way, is really freaking good) double, and a Jose Reyes walk, the bases were loaded with no outs for some guy named Josh Donaldson. In spite of being 4-8 in the series to this point, Donaldson struck out on a 3-2 pitch that was well out of the zone. This was a gift Clip sorely needed. Unfortunately, Jose Bautista followed with a bases loaded walk to tie the game at 3.

Clippard negotiated his way out of his own mess via a strikeout and soft flyball to center, but the damage was done, and the game was extended.

I still like Ike

After a scoreless bottom 9 and uneventful top 10, the A's looked to win it in their half of the inning. Billy Butler struck out on three pitches to start the inning, but Josh Reddick followed with a double down the left field line in his first at bat of the day and the A's were in business. Brett Lawrie followed with a grounder up the middle to a perfectly positioned Jose Reyes for out number two, but Reddick moved the crucial 90 feet towards home.

Ike Davis stepped in to hit for Josh Phegley, and after looking foolish on two early swings, ended the game for the A's. On a 1-2 pitch, Davis hit the ball to where a shortstop would normally be playing. The shifting Jose Reyes was not there however, and had to dive to snag Ike's groundball. In an impressive play, Reyes sprung to his feet and fired an absolute dart to first, but it was too late for the speedy-ish Davis who beat out the throw for a walkoff infield single. Sometimes, you gotta love the shift!

Before the A's could celebrate however, the umpires sent the play for review in New York, because that's the only place they have internet connection. For a few awkward moments, the celebration was halted like the cops arriving at a high school party, but after the sleepy replay officials concluded Davis was safe, the celebration was on.

Unsung heros, and other notes:

-Josh Phegley was nails again, going 2-4 off tonight's lefty starter. He also sandwiched some key blocks between some lucky bounces in Clippard's disastrous ninth. Should one of those balls get by, we're probably having a different conversation right now.

-Marcus Semien made all the plays on defense again tonight, and while it was nothing spectacular and his bat has continued to slump, he's not precluding the A's from winning and he continues to progress in the field.

-Brett Lawrie's defense has to be tops in the league. I know Arrenado is a stud, and I've seen Donaldson develop his incredible range, but Brett's ability to make extremely difficult plays with solid consistency is top notch. In the sixth, Edwin Encarnacion blasted a line drive off of Sonny, trickling towards third. Without missing a beat, Lawrie picked the deflection and threw a laser to first, to get the slow runner. It was an unbelievable play, and who knows what happens if Brehhhhhttt doesn't make that.

-Lawrie also hit a screaming liner that would have scored a run, if Devon Travis isn't positioned perfectly and doesn't make an outstanding play. He did, however. Your 2015 AL Rookie of the Year, folks.

-Marcus Semien went 1-4 tonight, and in all 4 at bats he took a first pitch fastball for a strike. If you listened closely, you could hear Billy Burns sobbing quietly in jealousy over Marcus's reluctance to jump on the first pitch. For the year, the shortstop is seeing 60% first pitch strikes, which is actually a tick below league average, but I imagine is a number that has skyrocketed recently as the league has adjusted to his patience. In order to regain his power stroke and overall hitting ability, the guy needs to jump on these predictable first offerings.

Well, there you have it folks, just another night of oh let's blow this win and make it more fun later! See you in like 12 hours for the next rendition of A's baseball!