The A's have reached the point where they've done the "getting no-hit/perfecto'd through 5, 6, 7+ innings" bit so many times that it is no longer pathetically amusing. It will likely take the team actually getting no-hit for the joke to loop all the way back around and become funny again. Tonight, it took the A's sixteen outs before Ryon Healy, one of the few hot bats in the lineup, ripped a solid single into center field for the team's first hit and baserunner while going up against Ricky Nolasco, who on one hand, pitched a shutout in his last start has been performing better of late, but is also, on the other hand, is Ricky Nolasco. Once again, the A's offense was putting up criminally short at bats with no discernable plan or approach to go off of, squandering what was a surprisingly decent start from someone who the A's picked up off of the scrap heap.
And then in the blink of an eye the A's were ahead.
Zach Neal was wonderful on the mound tonight for the A's. While Neal hasn't shown off the consistency that would put him in any conversations for being in the rotation next season, he has proven to be a reliable enough arm for the A's, capable of keeping the team in the game even if people aren't ever exactly salivating to see him pitch on any given night. For six innings, Neal nearly matched the near-perfect Nolasco pitch for pitch as he was incredibly efficient while also finding the strikeout pitch, a devastating slider away, that had been eluding him throughout his starts beforehand. The only trouble that Zach Neal would get in all night would be in the fourth inning after starting the inning off with a very uncharacteristic walk to Mike Trout, only Neal's fifth walk of the entire season in more than sixty innings pitched. An Albert Pujols single and a Trout stolen base would set the stage for a well-placed Andrelton Simmons run scoring double to give the Angels a 1-0 nothing lead. A sacrifice fly later in the inning would plate Pujols for the Angels' second run.
But that would be it, as the Angels would be unable to score for the remainder of the evening. Zach Neal's final line for the evening (it should be noted he was pitching on just three days' rest) would be six innings, four hits, two runs, one walk, and five strikeouts.
After Ryon Healy's single broke up Nolasco's perfect game attempt, five more A's batters would be retired in a row, meaning through seven innings Nolasco retired 21 of 22 batters he had faced. He hadn't walked anyone, he had five strikeouts to his name, and his pitch count was low enough to where a Maddux wasn't yet out of the question. Leading off the inning, Nolasco walked Alonso on four straight pitches. Billy Butler followed with a single to left to set the stage for Marcus Semien to bring the A's back into the game. Semien wouldn't get the chance, however, as Nolasco walked him on four pitches as well before getting pulled from the game in favor of Mike Morin.
Going up against Ryon Healy, already mini-savior of the A's offense for having broken up the perfect game an inning-plus earlier, Mike Morin tried to get Healy off-balance with a slow changeup, but Healy was able to fight the pitch off softly the other way for a bloop single that drove in Alonso and kept the bases loaded. Joey Wendle, fresh off of his first RBI single in yesterday's game, would not be fooled by the changeup either, and grounded a ball passed Cron at first base and into right field to drive in Arismendy Alcantara (in for Butler) and Semien to give the A's the lead in the eighth inning that so suddenly shifted things into the A's favor. With no outs, the A's would have a chance to capitalize further, but the A's veterans would not be able to follow the young players' lead and stranded the bases loaded to end the inning with no further damage, but at the very least a 3-2 A"s lead.
There was no drama in the ninth inning and the A's snatched victory straight from the jaws of defeat.
The A's have reached the point where they've done the "getting no-hit/perfecto'd through 5, 6, 7+ innings" bit so many times that it is no longer pathetically amusing, but if they can shift the trope to include the phrase "-but stage a dramatic late-inning comeback to win anyways," it is doubtful many would complain. It makes the games feel all the sweeter.