This is the game that had two pitchers, Sonny Gray and Matt Moore, facing off in the rubber match. It is also the game where both pitchers haven't seen a victory in almost a month. Hungry baseball. Hungry pitchers. Hungry bats, however, won the day, and neither pitcher will be satiated. The A's take the win and series with 12 hits and 7 runs in 9 innings.
Lefty Matt Moore has been struggling with bad location and falling behind in the count. His fastball is picking up speed and he says he feels good. Kevin Cash said he wanted to see improvement on his fastball: "As soon as that kind of resets back to his first couple starts, Matty Moe is going to be just fine. When he's got that command, I think we all understand and see from the side and on TV how electric his stuff is. ... Every starting pitcher needs to show fastball command early. If he's capable and able to do that, he'll have a good start" (Astleford, 5/15/16).
Moore hasn't faced Oakland much and when he has, it amounts to and 0-1 record in two career starts against the A's; both appearances were in 2012 and both at Tropicana Field. Among current Oakland players, he had only faced Danny Valencia (3-for-8), Billy Butler (2-for-7), Coco Crisp (0-for-3) and Josh Reddick (0-for-2). Moore hit the field hungry.
How'd Moore do?
Danny Valencia tore him up! Danny Valencia struck first blood in the first with a one-run homer to put the A's on the board. He took it over the left field wall in Tropicana on a 3-2 pitch with two outs. His third homerun in this series, Valencia extended his hitting streak to 10 straight games. Striking out in his second at bat, Valencia then drilled a two-run home run in the fifth, his second two-homer game in this SERIES! V for Valencia! Now down only by 1 in the 5th, 4-5.
Billy Butler: Butler picked up a hit in the second. The funniest part of this at-bat was Moore throwing him back to the bag on the next batter. Moore hasn't been watching his game tapes or MLB Tonight obviously. Butler grounded out to Longoria at third on his second at-bat. In his third at-bat, Butler faced Moore's replacement Erasmo Ramirez in the 6th and hits a line out to first base.
Coco Crisp: In the first, Coco went down on strikes, swinging and foul tipping for the K. In the third, Coco snaps his 0-11 on a hit through the Ray's shift. In the fifth, Coco went opposite way to single in Yonder Alonso and put the A's closer at 2-5. In the 7th, Coco picked up his third hit of the day off of Ramirez with a double.
Josh Reddick: Josh had a scheduled day off and did not face Moore but did come into the game in the 8th.
Gray is trying to get out of his worst three-start career stretch where he has allowed 18 runs in just 12 and 2/3rds innings. Prior to that, he gave up only eight runs in a total of four starts.
It was a tough first inning for Sonny. He had a 1-0 lead going into his first batter of the game, Brandon Guyer. That lead didn't last long as Guyer took it over the wall in left-center to tie it up. The only other challenger in the first was Longoria who got on with a double, but that was it; Gray exited the first with a tie score.
After getting Morrison out on a ground out in second, Sonny walked Steve Pierce but came back to throw a perfect pitch to take Kevin Kiermaier down on strikes. A shift on Hank Conger made for an E-4 bobble (team's 28th) by Ladendorfâhis second error for this series. Brandon Guyer shows Sonny how it's done for a SECOND time with a three-run homer, Guyer's first multi-home run game of his career. Rays 4, A's 1 after two.
In the fourth, Kiermaier doubled on a ground ball under Alonso's glove and into right field. This sent Pearce to 3rd with no outs and Conger who popped out to Semien. Guyer then picked up his 5th RBI of the day with a sacrifice fly to right to score Pearce, 5-1 Rays.
In the fifth, after Valencia's second home run and bringing the A's within one run (4-5), Evan Longoria hit a towering home run to left center to move the Rays up by two. This latest home run derby participant led to Melvin's call to the bullpen that put Dull on the rubber warming up. Gray doesn't get frazzled, however, and gets Corey Dickerson to ground out 4-3, Souza lines to third, and Logan Morrison 4-3. Dull sits down during the A's at-bat in the 6th and the hope was that Sonny might be on a roll and coming back in; at some point he's going to get over this pitching struggle (or what Grant Balfour called a "current funk"). Gray strikes out Kiermaier but allows Conger to get on base. Before pitching to Guyer again, Melvin replaces him with Ryan Dull to close out the 6th.
How this Bat-Fest Finished:
So let's cut to the chase and discuss how this exciting bat-fest finished. Bottom 6th, A's four runs on six hits and Rays 6 runs on 5 hits. Chris Coghlan comes off the bench in the 7th and takes Ramirez deep to left: A's 5, Rays 6. Coco Crisp hits a line drive to center field for a one-out double. But coco is left stranded.
Alex Colome replaced Erasmo Ramirez in the 8th. Josh Reddick enters after Khris Davis flew out to Center. Replacing Billy Butler, Reddick singles on a ground ball to right. Vogt, having an 0-4 game, struck out on a foul tip to leave Reddick on, two outs, and Semien to bat. Semien walks and the table is set for Yonder Alonso but he goes down swinging. Reddick remains in the game, and John Axford replaces Ryan Dull and heads to the hill for the bottom of the 8th. Axford proceeds to handle the Rays easily, striking out Steven Sousa Jr., getting Logan Morrison to fly out to left, and gets Steve Pearce to line out to center.
And then the top of the 9th with Xavier Cedeno in to pitch. Coghlan grounded out to Pearce for a 4-3 putout. Coco follows with a ground-out to shortstop Brad Miller for the second out, and Billy Burns is left as the last hope to tie it up. Hungry bat: Burns doesn't disappoint. He shoots one into the gap for a standup double and forcing the Rays to go to the bullpen and bring in Steve Geltz.
And who is up for us? Danny Valencia, Mr. Weekend-of-Home-Runs. Hottest bat and hottest hope. Two home runs Friday night, two home runs today. Well, give him an AN cape because he is our superhero with a thirdâyes, THIRDâhomerun of the game, taking the 2 RBI shot over the center field wall. Are you kidding me? This guy is something else!
Valencia single handedly brings the A's back from the grave with home runs in the 1st, 5th and the 9th to put the A's ahead 7-6! [Note: This is the first three-homer game for an Athletic since Reddick did it in 2013 against Toronto.]
After a Khris Davis strikeout, the A's enter the bottom of the 9th giving the ball to the now-officially-labeled closer Ryan Madson. On two pitches he gets two outs (Kiermaier and Casali) and faces the Rays bat of the day, Brandon Guyer (2 runs, 2 homeruns, 5 RBI's on the day). Madson gets him to pops up to Yonder Alonso for the third out. This is Madson's 10th Save by retiring three batters on 4 pitches! Oh me, oh my...Can we do this everyday, boys! WOWZA!
So the A's defeat the Rays 7-6 in 9 innings with a comeback win. John Axford gets the win and Steve Geltz takes the loss for the Rays.
As a side note, there was an interview with Grant Balfour in the 4th on KGMZ. He spoke of retirement being an adjustment, not having to wake up and go to the park. But as he said, "Baseball is a game of adjustments" and now he's "doing the same at home." He described his continued visceral reaction when they play his 9th inning entry song: "It makes me emotional and gives me chills listening to it." He also spoke of the A's fans "taking me in" and how much he appreciated that.
This series ends a long road stint where they have played 19 of their 25 games away from home over the last month. No doubt a little home cooking, family time and no suitcase will be a boost in morale, though this Hungry-Bat-Fest has to be the biggest boost of all. Go A's!