Tonight’s game was a game of “unbelievables.” There’s no other way to say it. There was stunning baseball all around. It wasn’t one of those nail biter games. It was that nice, steady pace that had you hanging on each inning wondering what other micro-story would emerge in this game. It’s that type of game that has you feeling confident all the way into the 10th inning.
So, let’s eat dessert first. Here are some of the “unbelievables”:
Unbelievable #1: Trevor Plouffe made a stunning defensive play that saved Kendall Graveman’s bacon. With bases loaded and Graveman sporting 92 pitches, the bullpen was up and getting warm. Graveman had just thrown 8 pitches, all out of the strike zone, which led to Boegarts and Benintendi earning free 90 foot passes that moved Pedroia over to third. 1 out. Hanley Ramirez hit a ground ball that Plouffe had to range into foul territory to get to, and while moving in the direction of the tarp, he turned and wielded a one-hopper to Healy at first for the final out to end what could have been a deadly inning for both Graveman and the Athletics.
Unbelievable #2: “On the road to Pedro” —Tonight was Chris Sale’s 8th consecutive start with 10 or more strikeouts per game. He tied his own record of 8 straight games with double-digit strikeouts, a record he shares with Pedro Martinez. There’s something pretty special that Sale is now with the same Red Sox and climbing Pedro’s old mound as part of this strikeout streak. And his pitches were nasty and he could very well follow in Pedro’s footsteps with a Cy Young! While his first strikeout came in inning 1, #’s 2 ,3, and 4 came in the third inning that ended with a pitch count of 58. Sale followed with a 1-2-3 4th inning and strikeout #5. Sale fought back after Athletic hits and a tied game in the 6th to strikeout #6 and 7. And then, in the 7th, on pitch #108 he struck out Pinder with a 95 mph heater. Phegley was his double-digit victim, out three of the 7th, and final batter that Sale faced. Wow. 8 straight games with 10 or more strikeouts. He’s on the road to Pedro and may very well achieve it in his next start.
Unbelievable #3: Mark Canha is playing like his life depends on it, which quite possibly it does. Optioned to the minors April 15th, Canha rejoined the club May 9th. One definitely cannot overlook him since he’s been back. His bat has been on fire. He played center field for the first time on Thursday night and, last night, demonstrated how quickly he can learn from his mistakes (e.g. last night he did NOT call off Khris Davis as he did Thursday night that led to his fumbled catch). Along with growing defensive strength, Canha was a single short of the cycle tonight. Canha’s first at-bat was a double, and his second at-bat an RBI triple that scored Ryon Healy to get the A’s on the board. Maybe that is why in the 7th, Chris Sale fed him three balls (well really 4 but Mike Winters was struggling to call balls and strikes all night see below). Unfortunately his third at-bat flew out to center. Alas, he was not done. His first walk-off homer of his career is what led to tonight’s win. Canha on fire. Unbelievable.
Unbelievable #4: Jackie Bradley Junior will be on Web Gems tonight as well as all highlight reels this week. Ryon Healy took the ball deep to center field over the fence and Bradley the Bandit made an unbelievable leap and snag that had Healy shaking his head through the top of the 10th warm up throws when he headed back to first.
Even though it was hard to watch in real time, we have to give props to Jackie Bradley for this catch pic.twitter.com/oLBpVm9dFU— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) May 20, 2017
Bradley’s catch at its apex. Make that into a bobblehead. pic.twitter.com/xXIeBJUNEp— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) May 20, 2017
Unbelievable #5: “Speed Versus Speed”—In the top of the 7th, Deven Marrero walked, the first batter reliever Ryan Madson faced which took us to the top of the order. Mookie Betts was in the box and reached base on a Fielder’s Choice, as Marrero was thrown out at second base from a throw to Adam Rosales from Jed Lowrie. Mookie, speed and skill, had an amazing jump and challenged Josh Phegley’s arm. Someone needs to break out the stop watch and look from different camera angles. The speed with which Phegley shot down to second was amazing. Rosales placed the tag well, though a failed replay review ensued. Speed versus speed: Phegley won.
Who scored and when:
In the 4th inning, Boston struck first blood with a two-run homer by Mitch Moreland that scored Xander Bogaerts who led off the inning with a double. Top of the 4th: Boston 2, Oakland 0.
In the 5th inning the Athletics began their quick creep back as Ryon Healy led off with a single. Mark Canha tripled to score Healy. Bottom of the 5th: Boston 2, Oakland 1.
In the 6th, Rajai Davis, who struck out his first two at-bats and was lucky not to get ejected for arguing balls and strikes, singled up the middle. After Rosales popped out to second base, Jed Lowrie singled followed by Khris Davis’ RBI double — an absolute bullet that caromed off the wall so hard that Lowrie had to stop at third base (where he was stranded). Bottom of the 6th: Boston 2, Oakland 2.
Between the 6th and the 10th, the A’s struck out 7 more times, a total of 13 on the night. Boston had a hit in the 8th and 2 in the 9th and one in the 10th but could not manufacture a run.
And then Mark Cahna belted a deep shot over the left field wall into the stairwell to finish the game and earn his pie.
Andrew Benintendi, the #1 prospect and Red Sox rookie broke his 0-20 hitting streak by lining a shot down third for a double in the second. While he struck out in the 4th, going down looking, it was an impressive 2-seamer from Graveman that moved left to right to catch him off guard as he watched the would-be ball cross into the strike zone. He also struck out in the 8th (after walking in the 5th) but that strikeout was on a stunning slider that dropped straight down to make him Liam Hendriks second out of the inning.
Home plate umpire Mike Winters had both teams angry and commentators scratching their heads at many of the calls. Frustrating for both Sale and Graveman, both men ended up turning their backs and walking off of the mound toward center field to breathe. More than one player was warned by Winters to pipe down or risk being thrown out. Hanley Ramirez was told to pick up his bat after he dropped it in disbelief at a third call strike. He was consistent, that Mike Winters ... consistently bad and probably one of the worst games called behind the plate in awhile.
Former Athletic Drew Pomeranz takes the mound against Sean Manaea in a 1:05 start at the Coliseum.