The second game of this series against Texas was a wild, see-sawing game that ended in the most exciting of fashions. Jesse Hahn was solid and the A's came through with hits when it mattered the most.
Hahndling the Rangers
Hahn had a good, if not exceptional outing today. Certainly, I'm glad he was on the mound rather than Eric Surkamp. Hahn got only 2 strikeouts, but he also gave up only 1 walk and was able to keep the ball on the ground for the most part, except in the 4th inning. His fastball was frequently hitting 96 and he largely was in control of the game, showing solid command and giving up weak contact.
The 1st inning featured some good defense to help Hahn. Ian Desmond reached base on a bloop single with one out, but Butler and Semien made great back-to-back plays to get the second and third outs. Butler caught an extremely sharply hit ground ball, stepped on first base, and nearly turned a double play at second. Then Semien made a fantastic play to save a run, ranging far to his right onto the outfield grass before throwing out Beltre at first base with his momentum carrying him the other way. Semien looks more and more solid by the day, and there is a 0% chance he makes that play last year.
After a relatively quiet 2nd and 3rd innings, things got nasty quickly in the 4th. The A's had their back-to-back home runs in the 2nd and the Rangers responded in kind in the 4th. Nomar Mazara showed his credentials by blasting a mistake by Jesse Hahn to center field to make the score 2-1 A’s. Beltre followed up by hitting a curveball FROM ONE KNEE to center field to tie the score at 2. This inning was feeling eerily familiar after Hahn gave up a single to the Rangers’ big guy, Prince Fielder. Mitch Moreland hit a single on the first pitch which Burns then bobbled, allowing Fielder to get to 3rd and giving the A’s yet another error. Hahn induced a groundball for a double play, but Prince Fielder was able to get home safely due to the Burns mistake to make the score 3-2 Rangers. Ultimately the error wouldn't have mattered, as Bobby Wilson singled on a high fastball out of the zone before the inning ended. The Rangers jumped on Hahn ridiculously quickly, going after the first or second pitch each time. They had 5 hits, 3 runs, 14 pitches in the 4th (including all 3 outs).
The fifth started threatening but ended more cleanly. Odor hit the second pitch of the inning DEEP to center field for a double, meaning Jesse Hahn had faced 8 batters on only 16 pitches. Desmond grounded out to move Odor to 3rd. Valencia made a fantastic sliding play to catch a pop foul by Mazara for the 2nd out. That out proved critical, as Beltre grounded out for the 3rd out and Hahn escaped the inning unscathed.
In the 7th, Hanser Alberto led off with the most BABIP hit of all time, a broken bat shallow pop up that went just over Valencia’s head onto the edge of the infield for a single. Hahn induced a flyout from Odor and struck out Desmond (with Alberto stealing 2nd) before Melvin went to the bullpen, putting in lefty Sean Doolittle to face Mazara. The decision proved wise, as Doolittle continues to look like his old self. He struck Mazara out on the high fastball in on the hands and needed only 4 pitches.
After shutting the door in the 7th, Doolittle struck out Beltre on a pitch that was literally at eye level. Fielder grounded out, but Mitch Moreland managed to sneak a groundball into right field to get the tying run on base. But then he went right back to pounding high fastballs and struck out Ryan Rua. Doolittle looked absolutely vintage today, and it was a sight to see.
Madson looked shaky starting the 9th, his third consecutive day of work. I guess now we know 3 consecutive days may be too much for him. After falling behind to Bobby Wilson 3-1, he was able to notch a strikeout on a nasty changeup. He popped up Alberto for the second out and despite missing some locations, the win was tantalizingly close. Odor stubbornly kept the game alive with a soft single to center field. And then Ian Desmond came to the plate and blasted a soul-crushing home run to left center field to put the Rangers ahead 5-4. It was an absolutely deflating moment, and it looked like things were going to fall apart completely from there. Mazara hit an infield single and Danny Valencia threw wide of 1st, racking up yet another error and allowing Mazara to go to 2nd. In a weird way, this error almost proved advantageous. Beltre followed up with a single to center field and Mazara was waved home, but Burns made a great relay throw to Alonso to Vogt and they caught Mazara at the plate to end the inning down by only 1 run, versus runners at the corners with the Rangers having another shot.
A's Dig the Long Ball
Ok, the really fun stuff. We'll start at the bottom of the 2nd. Valencia was the first batter of the inning and Hamels started the at-bat with 3 straight balls. Oof. I had a feeling Valencia was going to crush it and sure enough he did, blasting a home run to left field, his SIXTH in less than a week. What I didn’t expect, though, was for Khris Davis to do the exact same thing on the first pitch of his at-bat, a curveball that he stuck with perfectly to make the score 2-0 A's. And then Billy Butler hit a line drive single to center field! All this with nobody out! McBride continued to look good at the plate with a groundball single to left, but the A’s made three outs before they could bring Butler home. Still, what a fun inning!
As a general note before moving on, though they weren't involved in scoring plays, I wanted to mention Matt McBride and Chris Coghlan. McBride has looked very confident at the plate and has showed a good ability to spray the ball all over the field. He had two hits today including a double down the left field line. On the other hand, Chris Coghlan continues to look lost at the plate. He struck out twice today and generally was totally ineffective despite good career numbers against Hamels.
Anyway, back to the RUNZ. In the 6th inning we get KHRUSH HOMER #10 / MULTI-HOMER GAME!! Davis already has 7 home runs in May and we're only halfway through the month. Tied 3-3.
MLB Home Run Leaders since Aug. 6, 2015— Mike Selleck (@MikeSelleck) May 18, 2016
30 Khris Davis
29 Nolan Arenado
29 Yoenis Cespedes
28 Chris Davis
*note: this tweet does not include the game-winning dinger
In the 7th, McBride reached on a strikeout in the dirt, but Coco laid down a bad bunt that put him out at 2nd. Burns struck out for the 2nd time today, which I feel like just never happens. Reddick rolled a ball into right field to put runners at first and second and the red-hot Danny Valencia came to the plate. Valencia put up a great at-bat and, with two strikes, slashed a high fastball into center field to bring Coco around and make the score 4-3. It was the first hit for either team with runners in scoring position. Matt Bush came in and struck out Khris Davis to end the inning, but the A’s were back in control (for a moment).
The soul-crushing two-run homer came in the top of the 9th, and then we come to the bottom of the 9th where the magic happened against Rangers closer Shawn Tolleson. Vogt pinch hit for McBride and hit what looked like a sure-fire pop-out with the Coliseum's massive foul territory, but somehow the ball pulled itself out of play. A couple pitches later Vogt hit a chopper that stopped just a few feet up the first base line, but Tolleson wasn't able to throw the ball past him to 1st base, hitting Vogt on the rump and allowing him to reach safely. Coco Crisp opted not to bunt this time, slapping a base hit into right field and smartly stretching it into a double to put runners at 2nd and 3rd with nobody out. But then Burns put up a miserable at-bat ending in a pop-up for the first out. Tolleson walked Reddick to put the double play in order and face Valencia, a right-handed batter. Valencia looked to come through in the clutch for the third time of the day, but ultimately hit a shallow fly ball that couldn't get Vogt home from 3rd.
After being one out away from winning in the top of the 9th, the A's were now one out away from losing in the bottom of the 9th. And then Khris Davis came up, put together a beautiful at-bat, and Khrushed a no-doubt grand slam to left center field, his third home run of the day, to win the game in walk-off fashion 8-5. It was his first career grand slam and boy was it a good one.
Here it is:
This was just a fantastic game. Even before the amazing ending, I was thinking that it was exciting, competitive baseball unlike a lot of what we've seen in the last couple of weeks. If the A's can keep this up, they have the potential to be contenders in a shaky AL West, and no matter what they'll be interesting to watch.