Facing a 4-0 deficit with six outs remaining, the Oakland A’s put up five runs in the 8th inning to shock the Blue Jays en route to a 5-4 comeback victory. The rally was capped by a grand slam from Chad Pinder off of former A’s reliever Tyler Clippard.
The A’s didn’t do much for the first seven innings. Sean Manaea wasn’t at his best, but he pitched around a few hits and some shaky infield defense to keep Toronto off the board for four innings. However, the Jays finally got to him in the 5th. A leadoff HBP set up a quick two-run homer by Gio Urshela, and then the middle of the lineup rallied for another two runs. That was it for Manaea, who finished with a mediocre line of 5 ip, 4 ER, 2 Ks, 3 BB, using 97 pitches.
On the other side of the ball, Oakland put a runner on base in five of those first seven innings but couldn’t string enough together to score. Toronto hurler Sam Gaviglio, making the 14th start of his MLB career and first of the season, stifled them into the 6th inning.
Fortunately, the A’s bullpen put in another sterling performance, which kept the team in the game long enough to mount their comeback. Emilio Pagan was the first reliever up, and he tossed two scoreless frames to stop the Blue Jays from running away with it. This was Pagan’s first game back in the bigs after a rocky April earned him a brief demotion to Triple-A, and he made a much better impression this time around.
Finally, in the 8th, Oakland made their move. With old friend John Axford pitching for Toronto, a walk by Matt Chapman and a single by Khris Davis set the scene. Stephen Piscotty followed by knocking an RBI single to put the A’s on the board. With two on and two out, and Clippard on in relief, Jed Lowrie entered as a pinch-hitter and drew a walk to load the bases. That brought Pinder to the plate, and he swiped right.
It was Pinder’s first career slam, and the A’s 18th homer in nine games on this road trip. You want unfair? Your opponent’s best hitter (Lowrie) takes the day off, and his replacement notches the dramatic game-winning hit, and batting ninth in the order no less. That’s how good the lineup is right now — the guy at the end hit 15 dingers in half a season last summer, just a couple years after winning a league MVP award in Double-A.
With the lead suddenly in hand, Lou Trivino and Blake Treinen breezed through the final two innings with their upper-90s heat — they lowered their combined ERA to 0.92 in 39 frames. And just like that, the A’s stole another victory in Toronto. They’ve now played three games in this series, two in which their starting pitchers left injured and one in which they trailed 4-0 in the 8th, and they’ve won all three. Holy Toledo.
Furthermore, in a pleasant twist, the Curse of the Former A’s reversed in on itself as two former Oakland relievers combined to blow a four-run lead against their old club. As an extra bonus, this weekend they’ve held Josh Donaldson to 0-for-10 with four walks and four strikeouts.
The green and gold improves to 24-22 on the season, and there is a whole new feeling around this team. When Toronto went up by four, that would have been a decisive blow to the 2015-17 A’s. But this new group is showing a lot of fight, and on top of that they simply have the offensive talent to hit their way back into just about any game at a moment’s notice. It’s been even better to see the young players doing the heavy lifting the last two days, between Dustin Fowler on Friday and then Pinder in this one. Every game is more fun to watch when you know you’ve always got a chance.
The A’s have already won the series and the road trip (6-3 so far), but they’ll go for the sweep of Toronto on Sunday behind Daniel Mengden. Yes We Canada!