It felt like the A’s and Giants played two games on Saturday. Oakland had it wrapped up in the 9th but a bad hop sent it to extras, where they had to beat San Francisco all over again to earn the victory. Fortunately, when the dust settled, Jonathan Lucroy had delivered a walk-off single in the 11th to seal the 4-3 win.
The first eight innings of this game were fairly mundane. The A’s only managed two hits in that time, but they still put up three runs thanks to a bout of wildness from Madison Bumgarner. The 5th inning was not what you normally expect from the Giants ace:
- Olson walk
- Chapman single
- Pinder walk
- Phegley walk, RBI
- Semien walk, RBI
- Pitching change
- Canha GIDP, run scores
They plated three runs in the inning while barely even putting the ball into play. Entering the day Bumgarner had only issued two bases-loaded walks in his career, and he doubled that total in the span of two batters (via Andrew Baggarly, The Athletic). Thanks to the Lawyerball A’s, Bumgarner snapped his MLB-best streak of 89 starts of five frames or longer (via Henry Schulman, S.F. Chronicle).
On the other side of the ball, starter Trevor Cahill only allowed one hit through the first five innings, but it was a solo homer by Brandon Belt. He got into some trouble in the 6th but Ryan Buchter bailed him out, and then Buchter got into trouble in the 7th but Lou Trivino bailed him out for the most part. By the end of eight innings, the A’s led 3-2, with an All-Star closer coming in to save it.
And then things got weird. Blake Treinen took the mound, and he needed just four pitches to retire Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval for the first two outs. He then quickly got ahead of Alen Hanson 1-2, and just like that the Giants were down to their final strike. On his ninth pitch of the inning, Treinen buried a slider and Hanson swung over it for Strike 3, and the game should have been over. However, it was such a nasty pitch that catcher Josh Phegley couldn’t handle it, and it bounced far enough away for Hanson to reach base.
That was enough of an opening for the Giants, who are the masters of accidentally not losing a game. On the very next pitch, Hunter Pence lined a ball past Matt Olson down the line toward the Giants bullpen. Right fielder Stephen Piscotty raced over to field it as the Giants relievers scattered, but by the time he got a hold of it and fired a hasty throw home Hanson had scored easily. It didn’t help that he got whacked with a chair by Mark Melancon.
Giants tie it up 3-3 in the 9th with some shady business pic.twitter.com/i4BNUPMEgb— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) July 22, 2018
The A’s challenged the play, citing obstruction in a chair-related incident that seemed more suited for pro wrestling, but the run was upheld. If we’re being honest it was most likely a complete accident, as he was clearly moving the chair out of the way of the ball. But at the same time, should intent really matter there? And anyway, if you’re going to pick up the chair then have more presence of mind than to then wave it around when of course an outfielder will be coming up from behind to field the very ball you are yourself trying to avoid. In the end it didn’t make much difference because Hanson was probably going to score easily no matter what, but it was annoying nonetheless.
This is the biggest Coliseum dugout chair controversy since Frank Francisco.— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) July 22, 2018
Just like that, in the span of two pitches, Oakland had gone from a hard-fought victory to an inexplicably tied game. It was Treinen’s fourth blown save, but three of them have been completely the fault of the defense behind him.
Things continued to get even weirder. The A’s opened the bottom of the 9th with a pair of singles, which brought Giants reliever Reyes Moronta into the game. Chad Pinder executed a great sacrifice bunt, but three players were hobbled — Moronta stumbled trying to field it, and then Hanson positioned his foot poorly while covering first base and accidentally induced a tripping/collision with Pinder. All three players were slow to get up, but they all stayed in.
Nick Martini came in to pinch-hit but was intentionally walked in the 19th plate appearance of his career, and then Marcus Semien had his chance to play hero with the bases loaded and one out. All he had to do was make contact in the air, but instead he bounced a routine grounder to short for a rally-killing, inning-ending, game-extending, TV-punching double play. Somehow, some way, this one was going to extras.
The 10th went by quietly, and the 11th was almost the same. Yusmeiro Petit retired the Giants in order, and Will Smith got the A’s first two batters as well. But then Matt Chapman rolled a single up the middle, and on the next pitch Chad Pinder squeezed a grounder through the hole into left field for another hit. Suddenly Oakland had something brewing with two outs, and up strode ... their worst hitter, catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Given how bizarre the game had already been up to that point, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by what happened next.
It was Lucroy’s second walk-off hit of the season, with the other coming against the Angels. He hasn’t done much at the plate this year, but those two highlights alone are a pretty good basis for some Oakland street cred.
Even in this zany season, this was one the wildest affairs we’ve seen yet. There was a bit of good luck involved in Oakland taking the initial lead and a bit of bad luck involved in blowing it. In the end they had to win this game twice, once in regulation and then again in the extra innings they booted their way into, but they came through.
The A’s retain their streak of winning every game when leading after the 7th and/or 8th. They also take control of the Giants season series 3-2, but either way whoever wins Sunday’s finale will secure the Bridge trophy — whether by an A’s outright victory or the Giants on a (dumb) tiebreaker for winning the last game of the year.
More importantly, the Mariners also lost, so Oakland climbs back to within three games of the second Wild Card. The A’s bullpen got worked hard again, with Treinen in particular throwing 40 pitches, but in the morning they’ll get to add new acquisition Jeurys Familia to the mix. It took a little longer than expected, but the green and gold notched their first victory of the second half and are ready to resume their pursuit of a surprise October.
Oh, and one other thing. This exciting evening was not lost on an empty house, as the A’s opened up Mount Davis for the first time in 13 years to accommodate a record-setting crowd of 56,310.
#Athletics announce attendance at 56,310. Coliseum record for a baseball crowd. Also the largest crowd in the majors this year.— Matt Kawahara (@matthewkawahara) July 22, 2018
You read that right: The largest crowd in the majors this year now came at the Coliseum. It was a weird night indeed.