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Game #94: Coco's Boner Ultimately Leads to Good Feelings

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Fred Merckle, eat your heart out

Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

A stark realization can hit you like a baseball hitting you in the butt when you are minding your own business. Whether it is realizing you've left the oven on as you leave home to go shopping or forgetting to get your partner a gift on an anniversary or thinking you hit a walk off home run when the ball didn't actually clear the fence, that red-hot, heart-sinking, stomach-churning feeling is one that can stick to someone's core for a long time.

There are also few greater reliefs than being completely absolved of whatever it is that causes that red-hot, heart-sinking, stomach-churning feeling.

But before this game became about Coco Crisp and the drama of the late innings, this game was about the newest Athletics, Dillon Overton and Ryon Healy.

In his first call-up, Overton was a bit homer-happy, and so he would need his best control in order to succeed against an Astros lineup that can punish just about any mistake that is made. And in the first inning, Overton managed to show off some of his plus control with a strikeout of the leadoff hitter George Springer. The next four batters, however, all managed to work full counts after the leadoff strikeout and managed two softly hit singles that would eventually put runners on second and third base, but he managed to escape the inning unscathed following thirty pitches and a smothering stop by Danny Valencia at first base.

Overton's second inning was much more efficient than his first, as he got two quick outs on a strikeout and a fly out, but then allowed his first hard contact of the night against Evan Gattis, who continued to dominate the A's this season on a hard line drive double to left field. Gattis would be stranded at second, however, as Overton finished the inning with his third strikeout of the game. The third would start as nicely as the second ended, with yet another Springer strikeout, but Overton would then run into trouble by allowing two very low line drives that resulted in a single and a lollipop-arm aided double. Overton nearly worked out of trouble after making a smart heads-up play on a soft comebacker that he shuffled from his glove to the plate, nailing the runner Marwin Gonzalez by a fraction of a second, but could not retire Luis Valbuena to get the final out of the inning and surrendered an RBI single.

Last night the A's main rally was fueled via the walk, continuing to prove that the offense can succeed when batters up and down the lineup have good approaches and don't just take a hack at the first quasi-hittable pitch they see. While their efforts in the first inning would ultimately be fruitless thanks to a Jed Lowrie ground ball double play, each batter worked the count very well and despite the A's only sending three men to the plate in the inning, forced Keuchel to throw twenty pitches when it ended.

In the second inning the offense threatened with one out after Marcus Semien reached on an error that could have reasonably been called an infield single and Billy Butler worked a walk, but Smolinski failed to advance either runner and then Ryon Healy had another RBI taken away from him as his soft ground ball single to shallow left field wound up resulting in the third out of the inning as Semien was thrown out at home on a very strong throw by Colby Rasmus. Over the next few innings, the A's would continue to put up strong at bats, but weren't getting any tangible results beyond working Keuchel's pitch count.

And then, in the blink of an eye, the game was in the seventh inning. Apart from a bad string of five pitches in which Overton allowed a Springer home run and an Altuve triple to deep center making the score 3-0, not much happened. Overton continued to mostly induce soft contact though left a few too many pitches in the zone, as opposed to early in the game when his mistakes were missing out of the zone, but otherwise performed admirably for a young pitcher making a simultaneous spot start and rotation audition. Overton's final line was 6.1 innings pitched, nine hits, three runs, no walks and six strikeouts.

The offense couldn't make any headway against Keuchel until his pitch count climbed over 100 in the seventh inning and the Astros positioned their outfielders questionably shallow. Butler hit a shift-aided single up the middle with one out in the seventh, and then Smolinski lofted a fly ball to deep right field that was just passed Springer's extended glove to place runners on second and third base and chased Keuchel from the game in favor of fireman relief pitcher Ken Giles. Rookie Healy, looking to pick up rookie Overton, continued to showcase why he deserves a long, legitimate look at third base as he ripped a 98 MPH fastball to right-center field for a two RBI double and bring the A's within one run, 3-2. Unfortunately, the A's would fail to capitalize further and drive Healy in to tie the game. With Gregerson pitching in the eighth, it appeared at first as though the A's lineup would once again be non-threatening, but then Semien worked an easy walk and stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Yonder Alonso followed with a pinch-hit walk to put runners on the corners for pinch hitter Josh Reddick, who would ultimately fly out to moderately deep left field to end the threat in the eighth.

Against Will Harris, Astros' closer, Healy struck out after working the count full, unable to be the hero once again. Stephen Vogt followed with one of the best at bats the A's have had all season, crushing a double after a grueling twelve pitch at bat. The comeback was on yet again with Coco Crisp at the plate, who has played the hero again and again and again for this team. After fouling off three tough curveballs and falling behind 1-2, Coco hit a high line drive to right field, clearly out of reach of any fielder, making a desperate plea to clear the wall.

In 1908, Fred Merckle made an assumption that his team, the Giants, won the game on a walkoff. He made this assumption while on the basepaths and stopped running. After some mild on the field chaos, he would eventually be forced out, and his baserunning blunder would wind up costing the Giants a playoff spot. This is known infamously as Merckle's Boner.

In between second and third, Coco had a boner. He assumed the ball was out of the park for a walkoff win. He wasn't running his hardest. He was likely confused as to why home plate was not getting excitedly mobbed by his teammates and why the Astros were still sprinting after the baseball on the field. The team stalwart had a rare extreme lapse in judgement and it cost the A's a chance to walk off the game right then with a runner on third base and one out. Coco's Boner.

Coulombe had entered the game in the seventh inning and got two quick outs, and got two outs in the eighth inning as well before getting replaced by Liam Hendriks, who needed just one pitch to end the eighth inning and tossed an easy ninth. He likely wasn't anticipating needing to go out and pitch the tenth inning, most likely, first because the A's were down in the ninth and it appeared he wouldn't be needed for another inning, and second because it appeared the A's were going to walkoff in the ninth, and then Coco's Boner intruded on those plans. Hendriks got two quick outs in the top of the tenth, but couldn't finish the inning as Altuve singled and Correa reached on a Semien bobbled-ball error. Marc Rzepczynski was able to finish the inning without allowing any runs to score.

In the bottom of the tenth, fond old friend Pat Neshek entered to replace Harris and got two quick outs before giving up a line drive single to Semien before getting replaced by Tony Sipp. Marcus Semien got his second uncontested stolen base of second base in the game and with his smart baserunning he was able to put himself in scoring position for Josh Reddick, and while his first stolen base would ultimately be for naught, in this case the extra 90 feet was all Reddick would need.

On a biting slider from Sipp, Reddick just managed to hit a slow ground ball with an extremely high spin rate towards a shifted shortstop and nearly into a sprinting Semien. Correa had to range far to his right in order to corral the ground ball, and by the time he could control himself enough to get a throw off towards home, Semien, who had to brake for the hit to pass him by, was sliding across the plate safely for the winning run.

There is no happier man in Oakland right now than Coco Crisp. In a game in which the first seven innings were all about the newest A's and the impact that rookies were going to have on the team, the final two innings became about the team's veteran's delivering the final blows and picking each other up.

A's look to take the sweep tomorrow at 12:30.