Well, that was an unexpected treat! The A's walk it off in the bottom of the 13th inning to cap their second consecutive Friday Night thriller, and even though I only signed up for 18 innings with the recaps today and tomorrow, I'll gladly take the extra four innings of bonus baseball for a win tonight. When only one run is scored in the entire game, I think you have to make sure it's yours; otherwise it's a long night for the pitchers, the players and the fans. Despite literally nothing happening until the very last three batters of the game, there is still some pitching to talk about.
I won't bury the lead: The A's finally broke through the 0-0 tie in the bottom of thirteenth inning on a Ryon Healy lead-off double; yes, the only extra-base hit in the game. I'm guessing that doesn't happen a lot in baseball. The A's either elected not to bunt with Marcus Semien (a late defensive replacement) at the plate, or he didn't successfully bunt; an interesting choice, considering the situation is one of the very few times a bunt will help win the game, needing just a run. Semien has 20 home runs on the year, but virtually no batting average, and the A's needed just the one run at second. Luckily, it's now a moot point (unlike the eighth inning shenanigans) because Coco Crisp followed with an awesome single that scored a hustling Healy to give the A's the unlikely 1-0 victory.
Celebrate good times, c'mon!
We can't talk about tonight's game without singing the praises of Sean Manaea, who twirled a gem, flirted with a perfect game for a few innings, and ended his line after eight innings with five hits and seven strikeouts. He hasn't walked anyone in 20 innings, and didn't tonight. However, to his misfortune tonight, his counterpart for the Rays, Jake "Not from State Farm" Odorizzi, was just as good; matching his line nearly exactly with eight innings, five hits and five strikeouts. Both pitchers exited the game with no-decisions following the eighth inning, giving way to the bullpens.
It looked like just another Friday night dealing with the umpiring crew early, as Josh Reddick's first at-bat should have been Catchers' Interference. It was so clearly on the board for everyone to see, but sadly, the home plate umpire missed the call, and the rest of the crew didn't see anything to contradict him. And, of course, to Glen and Ray's chagrin, balls, strikes, and CI calls are not reviewable. But to the credit of the umpiring crew, aside from some assorted Madson balls and strikes, that's the last we would notice the boys in blue. Unlike, say, last Friday night.
The first hit of the game came in the third inning as Arismendy Alcantara poked a single to left field and was promptly thrown out stealing. Khris Davis singled in the fourth with two outs, but was left on base. Manaea's perfect game came to an end with two outs in the fifth; he gave up a single and then an infield single, but got out of the inning. Yonder Alonso grounded into a double-play (spoiler alert, would not be the only time) to end the A's fifth, after a Smolinski single and the game marched on, still tied at zero.
Manaea allowed another two-out single in the sixth, his bread and butter tonight, but no further damage. He allowed a lead-off single to open the seventh, but got out of that too. Meanwhile, the A's couldn't muster a base runner. Until the eighth.
Smolinski singled again in the eighth with one out and for reasons we still don't understand, was caught stealing second base. He definitely looked back at home plate, so it was likely a botched hit and run with Yonder Alonso. Alonso didn't have the best at-bat. He may have missed the hit and run, he popped up the ball, and when it was dropped in center field, he had only sauntered as far as first base. While I don't think he would have made it to second anyway, I do know that that inning was the A's best chance to score to date, as Healy immediately singled. He would have either scored Smolinski from third, or Alonso from second, but the A's would have scored had things played out differently. Danny Valencia, pinch-hitting, popped up to end the inning.
In a shade of irony, after watching Manaea walk no one in eight innings, Madson promptly issued a walk to the lead off hitter in the ninth inning. Before we could get stabby, he was erased on a nifty double-play by Semien, who had the ball pop up off his chest, so he scooped and shoveled to second to start the double-play anyway. I've seen him panic and get no one, so it was nice to see the perfect recovery.
Ryan Dull pitched a gorgeous 10th and 11th inning while Axford pitched a nearly-perfect 12th and 13th. The A's had a shot in the 11th inning as an Alonso single and two-out walks to Crisp and Reddick brought Davis to the plate with the bases full of A's, but he swung at the very first pitch and grounded out harmlessly to the shortstop. The 12th was more of the same as back to back singles by Lowrie and Smolinski (his third hit of the night!) put two more on for the A's. But cue the double-play from Alonso and the A's were turned away yet again.
You know how it ends. Coco Crisp knows how it ends; with a face full of pie, hair full of Gatorade, and a smile on his face that tells us that this is still fun for the A's. The A's even the series at one game apiece, and are just a half game from climbing out of the cellar.
We do it all over tomorrow night at 6:00PM as Graveman faces off against Smyly. I'll be your host as the A's try to win another good game, but more importantly, we may see another Major League Debut!