The A's won a seesaw affair against the Tigers on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Oakland. The A's led early and then traded punches with Detroit through the middle innings, but were on the wrong end of the scoreline headed into the final frame. The A's appeared set to lose and drop a fourth consecutive series, but then...RYON HEALY!
Many good novels end at the beginning (or at least that's what I'm telling myself). I'm not a good novelist but I'm going to start at the end of this game. Francisco Rodriguez came in for the second consecutive night, trying to complete the save for the second consecutive night. And it ended in an Athletics win for the second consecutive night.
Rajai Davis led off the ninth with a walk and scored on Jed Lowrie double to tie the game at 6. Khris Davis lined out, and it started to feel like the Athletics were destined for extra innings. But Ryon Healy, who had a day chalk full of great at-bats, had other ideas. Protected from being intentionally walked by the threat of Yonder Alonso, Healy hit a towering fly ball that just carried out of the Coliseum, sending the Athletics to their second consecutive walk-off victory.
Healy was 2-3 on the day with two walks. Ryon has now collected two hits in each of his last three games, and hit a homerun in each of those games to boot. The 25-year-old has hit six homeruns on the season and has raised his wRC+ to 117.
Tracking backwards, Sonny Gray was much better than his line would indicate. The right-hander threw 4 and 2/3rds, conceding seven hits and four runs (only one earned). He began the fifth inning at 62 pitches and seemed to be sailing, but threw 36 pitches in the top half of the fifth which culminated in an 11 pitch at-bat to Victor Martinez, ending with VMart beating the shift and singling softly through the left side. Overall, Sonny showed good command and looked altogether sharper than he did in Minneapolis.
His defense didn't do him any favors, and that began with Bruce Maxwell behind the plate. Although Maxwell threw out a would-be base stealer, he allowed a couple of wild pitches you would expect a good catcher to block and a past ball you'd expect any catcher to catch. The A's also continued their dubious defensive record, committing two errors.
I suppose I'll hit on the last negative before getting to the good stuff. In the bottom half of the fifth, the A's retook the lead from the Tigers. But in the top of the sixth, Ryan Dull walked the leadoff hitter and then gave up an 0-2 bomb to James McCann. Dull did a great job of putting out Gray's fire in the fifth inning, but after the A's grabbed the lead for him, he just can't walk the leadoff hitter. But that's enough time spent on the negatives. The A's won after all!
Onto the good things. Yonder Alonso hit another bomb, his third of the series. It was really impressive because Daniel Norris threw a decent breaking ball which seemed to fool Yonder a bit, and definitely got him out on his front foot. But Yonder showed off his raw strength and with his new swing plane, was able to muscle the ball out of the park. Last year? He probably rolls that over to second base.
Finally, I'm going to give today's unsung hero award to Bobby Wahl. The newly called up Wahl came in for the seventh and pitched two scoreless innings, yielding just one baserunner and striking out two. His contribution can't be understated, particularly on a day when Oakland's starting pitcher didn't make it out of the fifth. And Santiago Casilla pitched a clean ninth to hawk the win.
In the late innings, the circling seagulls over the Coliseum began to look like vultures - waiting to prey on the remnants of another Athletics loss. But now? Those seagulls seem like doves! In all seriousness, these last two victories seem like they could be turning points in a still-young season. Perhaps I'm overly optimistic, but with a healthy Sonny Gray, Yonder and Ryon mashing, and a host of young pitchers in the rotation and bullpen? All without Marcus Semien? I'm hopeful and happy to leave it there.