Baseball's a funny game. After the A's and their struggling closer staggered into the All Star break after two horrific losses, tonight held the promise of more of the same 2016 fun, as the starting pitcher Daniel Mengden spotted the Blue Jays 7 runs in his 3.1 innings, 6 of them earned, erasing the A's early lead and putting them in a 7-3 hole. For all the world, it looked like another forgettable night at the ballpark, where despite the gorgeous night, the game was all but over in the fourth inning, the same tired story playing out yet again in 2016.
But not tonight.
The A's bullpen was really the hero of tonight's game; after Mengden's 7 runs, Hendriks, Axford, Rzepczynski, Dull and Madson pitched a shutout over the next nearly-six innings to keep the A's in the game long enough to come back. And comeback they did, in spite of many obstacles, not the least of which was the home plate umpire calling the game like his paycheck was signed by the Blue Jays. But seriously, Mark Wegner. Have a bad night. He was simply terrible with balls and strikes, every call going against the A's, leading to Yonder Alonso's ejection and subsequent ejection of Bob Melvin for good measure; hard to blame either of them when they were merely mirroring the raucous crowd, except within earshot of the umpire. Of course the game couldn't have ended any other way than with the MLB replay headquarters in New York finally overturning the vendetta and giving the A's the safe call to score the go-ahead run, the safe call evident to all in attendance with the lone exception of Wegner, who to no one's surprise, called the A's eighth and winning run out at home.
I'll just quote Alex Hall, who explains far better than I:
That was a great game! As long as your name wasn’t Mark Wegner. Holy smokes, that was one of the worst umpiring performances I’ve ever seen. He blew a trio of Strike 3 calls, all against us, and he also blew a call at the plate against us (overturned on replay). It’s almost unbelievable that the A’s won this, playing against both a contending team and the HP ump. The Strike 3 calls were: Donaldson took 3-2 pitch right down the pipe, called Ball 4 (he later scored) … Semien called out for going around on a checked swing that wasn’t even close … Alonso rung up (very next batter after Semien) on a pitch far worse than the one to Donaldson. These weren’t borderline calls, these were egregious misses by Wegner. The craziest part is the ones to Semien and Alonso came during an inning in which the A’s still managed to score. Vogt singled, then two incorrect Ks, then a passed ball and a single scored him. Wonder what that rally could have been if our guys were allowed to hit? The nice thing is that none of it ended up mattering because somehow Oakland won anyway. My problem with the play at the plate is that Wegner was totally out of position. He set up at a horrible angle, and then decided to move to the proper spot as the play was happening. Makes it way tougher to see the play when you aren’t standing still staring at it. It’s okay to get a call wrong, but it’s not okay to get it wrong because you were out of position.
What he said. I'm still mad about the call at home and it was overturned!
The game started out innocently enough, adding Ryon Healy for Danny Valencia in the starting lineup. I get trying Healy at third and I'm all about letting the kids play, but come on, Oakand. Valencia is batting .306. He's earned a spot in the lineup, and unless there is something behind the scenes that hasn't yet been revealed, I can't imagine what they are thinking. I'll save you the suspense; solid defense, weaker arm than I pictured and 0-4 at the plate. He did make a very solid play in the ninth with an accurate throw to first to start the inning off for Madson on a high note, and turned a nifty double play in the eighth on Donaldson to end the inning.
But this game belonged to the bullpen, and the bats of Reddick, Davis and Vogt, all of whom had multiple hits, including the game winning home runs.
The A's got on the board in the very first inning behind a Jed Lowrie single, a Reddick walk, an RBI single by Davis and a RBI ground out by Vogt to take the early 2-0 lead. Toronto got one back in the second helped by an error from Vogt, and took the lead in the third helped by a couple of walks and a wild pitch. The A's tied the game in the bottom of the third on Reddick's sixth home run of the year, but bad things happened in the fourth. Specifically, a single, a walk, a wild pitch, a single (4-3), a single (5-3), a ground out (6-3) and a single from a batter that should have already been out (7-3).
Morale was low.
Vogt singled to open the A's half of the fourth, Semien was horribly rung up, and Alonso struck out on a clear ball. He finally had it and said what we were all thinking, straight to the home plate umpire and was summarily ejected. Melvin, who had also had it with the calls, followed him. A passed ball and a Smolinski single cut the lead to 7-4 and I remarked at how much better 7-4 looks than 7-3. You know what looks even better? A two out single by Reddick and a big home run by Davis to cut the score to 7-6. The crowd had barely settled down when Vogt hit the game-tying home run, and the crowd lost its collective minds.
And then the A's went to the seventh inning and won the game. With two outs, Reddick walked, and was moved to second on a smashed single by Davis. Before we could even lament the lack of air under the ball; it was hit hard enough to go out, Vogt stepped up. And singled in Reddick. Who was called out. Usually, replay takes some of the punch out of the corrected call, but not this time. If anything, the delayed safe call was such a sweet victory over not only the Blue Jays but Mark Wegner as well, and the building suspense during the replay delay was perfectly dramatic, with calls of "safe!" echoing through the Coliseum, building to a crescendo when the arms were finally outstretched. This time, hanging on to an 8-7 lead for two innings, the A's were rewarded with a Dull inning and a Madson save.
And it was glorious. We do it again tomorrow at 1:05. We'll see you back here with all the action.