If it was his final swing in an A’s uniform, and it might well have been, Yonder Alonso certainly made it count. In the bottom of the twelfth, Yonder took the first pitch he saw, an 84 mile-per-hour change-up, and hit a missile of a line drive over the left field wall to give the A’s the game and the series victory.
Sunday’s tilt couldn’t have begun much worse for Jharel Cotton and company. On the second pitch of the game, Brian Dozier drove a home run into the left field bleachers for his 23rd career leadoff bomb. Cotton proceeded to get two quick outs, but a Joe Mauer double and an Eduardo Escobar homerun put the A’s in a 3-0 hole before they even touched a bat.
The Twins added to their lead in the third and again the following inning. Cotton’s bases loaded walk in the fourth would mark his last batter of the game, and he left after 3 and 2⁄3rds innings, having allowed 5 runs and leaving the bullpen in a bases loaded jam. But Simon Castro worked out of it; he got the powerful Miguel Sano to pop out, and little did we know at the time, but that would be it for the Twins offense.
Cotton struggled today. There’s no way around that. I have been among the most resolute Cotton defenders all season, and while I still think he’s going to be a very good 3rd or 4th starter for this team, he was not good today. He fought his command and he fought Phil Cuzzi’s strikezone. His final line was the tale of fives - five hits, five runs, five walks, five strikeouts. Five innings would have been nice, especially for a weary, beleaguered bullpen, but Cotton was unable to even complete four.
There were many offensive and defensive stars today who will rightfully get a lot of credit for the A’s victory, but not enough can be said about the effort the bullpen turned in. Oakland rode six different relievers who combined to pitch 8 and 1⁄3rd scoreless innings, yielding just three hits and three walks over those innings while striking out ten. Castro and Josh Smith both pitched multiple frames, and Blake Treinen, Ryan Dull, Santiago Casilla, and Liam Hendriks all showed themselves well in their inning of work.
The A’s began chipping away at Minnesota’s lead in the fourth; Yonder Alonso got the first of his big hits, doubling in Khris Davis. Alonso then moved up to third on a Ryon Healy single, and scored himself on a Bruce Maxwell sacrifice fly. Jaycob Brugman made it 5-3 in the 5th with a solo homerun. And the A’s completed the comeback in the 8th.
After the first two batters of the inning made outs, Ryon Healy worked a rare walk and Rajai Davis, last night’s hero, pinch hit for Maxwell and hit a line drive single to right field. To cap the comeback, Matt Chapman, who’s had one heck of a week, doubled both runners in, tying the game at 5.
The A’s had their chances in the ninth. Matt Joyce lead off the inning and had to settle for a double, missing a homerun but mere inches. But the next three batters were unable to bring him around to score. The leadoff hitter got on in both the tenth and eleventh innings to no avail.
But all that is easy to forget after Yonder’s bomb.
The friendly seagulls made their presence known.
Khris Davis and Matt Chapman both made incredible defensive plays.
This season isn’t about winning. Next season probably won’t be either. And I’m okay with that. To quote the late painter Andrew Wyeth, "I prefer Winter and Fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape--the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show. " These are the kinds of things those of us who grew up in the Great White North tell ourselves to survive the dreariness of Winter.
But there’s a certain truth in it. There’s comfort even. I’ve had more fun than I can tell you watching what waits beneath this rebuild develop - to see Brugman, Franklin Barreto, Chapman, Maxwell, and others progress at the major league level. I’ve had fun reading the minor league wrap-ups every night, plotting out what this team is going to look like in 2019. I’ve had fun debating and negotiating mock trade proposals with you all. But damn it, sometimes it’s fun to win too. After a pretty miserable week, these past two days have been invigorating.
The A’s are back at it tomorrow night against the Giants to open the Bay Bridge Series. The first two games are at the Coliseum before the series heads West for two more. Have a wonderful rest of your weekend everyone.