Happy Saturday, and Celebrate Good Times, C'mon! My last three recaps were last Friday, last night and tonight, arguably three of the A's most exciting games all year, and they didn't even need extra innings tonight. The A's walk it off again tonight as "Operation: Let the kids play" seems to be taking full effect. We saw Bruce Maxwell's debut (grounded to first in the seventh after taking a few good swings at the plate), but it was the kid who made his own Major League debut just a week ago Friday night who will be remembered in this one as Ryon Healy walked it off to complete the wild A's comeback in the ninth inning, turning a loss into a win for Kendall Graveman in the blink of an eye.
Graveman, even with the complete game, pitched better than his 9.0 innings, 9 hits, 3 earned runs would suggest. A mistake (but not an error) in the field cost him one run, and he looked for all the world like the hard-luck loser as he finished the game to a round of applause and headed back into the A's dugout to watch the bottom of the ninth, trailing 3-1.
But he didn't count on this new A's team; a very different brand of baseball than we saw pre-All Star Break, the A's who never give up, despite not having great success at the plate. Between last night's game and tonight's the A's only managed two runs in the last 21 innings. Undeterred, they saved it all for the ninth inning and it was worth it. What a reward for the big crowd who came out for a summer night of fireworks and saw more fireworks than were scheduled.
The key to the big ninth-inning comeback was really two factors: The pitching change from Smyly/Andriese to the closer Alex Colome; the A's couldn't muster anything against Smyly in his six, or Andriese in his two, but they managed to get to Colome; and, of course, his four-pitch lead-off walk to Khris Davis. Colome pitched perfectly to pinch-hitter Yonder Alonso, striking him out for the first out, but he threw exactly one pitch to Jake Smolinski and the game was tied. Smolinski smashed a home run down the line for his second hit of the game to go with his three hits from last night, and boy did his last hit count. In front of the big, deliriously happy crowd who we hope are enjoying A's baseball live just as much as we are enjoying it at home, Smolinski rounded the bases, tied the game, and headed back into the dugout to await the next big moment, along with Kendall Graveman, who couldn't hide his huge smile. His record was 6-6 coming into the game, and he was just glad it wasn't going to be 6-7.
But like any perfect night, of course the A's were going to win it for Graveman in regulation and still get everyone on the field in a timely manner for the fireworks. Up stepped Marcus Semien to the plate and he flew out on the first pitch for the second out of the inning. And then Ryon Healy joined the party. After digging himself an 0-2 hole, he laid off a few pitches until he drew the full count. He didn't miss the 3-2 pitch. It was a bomb, ending the game for the A's in dramatic walk-off style, giving the win to Graveman for a career-high 7 wins.
The rest of the game pales in comparison. Once again, both starting pitchers were fairly dominant in this game, and runs were at a premium. The A's best chance to score was really the first inning, where they managed one run, but a weird set of circumstances prevented more. With one out, Lowrie singled and Valencia walked. Davis singled in Lowrie for the first run of the game, bringing up Billy Butler, inexplicably batting fifth. He technically flew out to center field; the ball was caught and lost in the transfer, but because of the nonsensical transfer rules, it was ruled not a catch. The runners at first and third really couldn't advance either way; it was too shallow to tag and the call was too confusing to really do anything other than stay on their respective bases, which is why Davis was forced out at second when the ball came back into the infield. It was really six of one, half a dozen of the other for both teams; the A's basically swapped Davis for Butler at first.
A double and a single tied the game in the second and it remained tied until the fourth. Graveman allowed a one-out single to the Rays and the next batter hit a deep fly ball to center. Which Coco butchered. And missed. For a "double". Which means that when a ground out to second put the Rays up 2-1, the run was earned. His third run was a product of a walk and two singles in the seventh to put the Rays up 3-1, and despite a few hits here and there, the A's just couldn't mount a rally.
Until the ninth. And boy was it worth it. The A's climb out of the cellar with their win tonight and the Angels' earlier loss and look to win their third straight series tomorrow behind old friend, Jesse Hahn, who will make the start. We'll see you back here at 1:05 tomorrow for the final game of the series. Here's to a great rest of the weekend!