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Game #123: Lucky Number Thirteen Innings and Perfect Bullpen Magic Lead A’s Over Astros and Verlander

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The One Where Lou Trivino Pitches Three

MLB: Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Game Thread #1
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Game Thread #5

THE A’S WIN!!!!
THE A’S WIN!!!!
THE A’S WIN!!!!

On an epic, iconic summer night in Oakland, in front of a crowd that just wanted to see some different fireworks (but probably enjoyed these just as much, if not more), the Oakland A’s and their four hits through eleven innings, but lights-out, everyone-was-incredible seven innings of bullpen work, capped off by Lou Trivino’s three scoreless innings, pulled off an improbable, incredible victory in mid-August, when it’s never mattered more and stunned the Astros for a second straight night to gain another game in the AL West (7.5) and another game on both Wild Card teams (.5 and 2.5). The A’s are just a half game out of the playoffs, in the middle of the toughest stretch of baseball so far this season, and they have won the first two games of the homestand to ensure a split of this series, at least.

It wasn’t the offense’s night; all told, the A’s did have only four hits through the first eleven innings, to go along with nineteen strikeouts, but two of those hits happened to be solo home runs; Mark Canha’s 18th to give the A’s the 1-0 lead and Marcus Semien’s 20th to turn a 2-1 deficit into the 2-2 tie that would last forever into the summer night.

They would pick up two more hits in the twelfth, but couldn’t walk off, and two more hits in the thirteenth, where they finally did.

Lost in all of the late madness was the incredible start by Tanner Roark, matching the A’s greatest nemesis, Justin Verlander, pitch for pitch, and he would eventually (days later) end up on the winning side.

This was a Friday night legend game for the ages, and I am here for it.

Believe it or not, this game started in very similar fashion to last night’s, way back in the first inning, where the first batter reached and was promptly erased by a double-play. Tanner Roark was walking a thin line from his first pitch, knowing the A’s success in the past against Verlander (read: none), he knew he had to keep the all-powerful Astros off the board at all costs. And he did, thanks to strong defense behind him (read: Matt Chapman), but he also helped himself in the fourth with an inning-ending play, springing off the mound and throwing to first to get Gurriel.

Meanwhile, Verlander started the game with two strikeouts in the first, one in the second, and struck out the side in the third, so at this point, we were really just hoping that the A’s would drive up his pitch count with all of those strikeouts and he would be replaced in the later innings. And it did, indeed, take five innings, but the A’s finally struck their first blow; a solo home run by Mark Canha to put the A’s on the board with the 1-0 lead. The crowd, sensing that unlike last night, runs would be at a premium in this one, cheered loudly as Canha rounded the bases after his well-earned home run off Verlander.

Tanner Roark ran into trouble in the sixth, and while it could have ended better, it very easily could have ended worse with the Astros’ powerful offense. A double, a walk and a single loaded the bases with one out, and a sacrifice fly tied the game. A subsequent single gave the Astros the 2-1 lead, but the A’s cut down the runner trying to take second on the play to end the inning and cut down the Astros’ rally. The name of the game tonight was to shorten the chances for the Astros to hit with runners in scoring position, and it worked.

The A’s weren’t down for long. With one out in the sixth inning, Marcus Semien hit his 20th home run of the 2019 campaign, none bigger than this to immediately erase the deficit, tie the game, and score that much-needed run off Verlander in a game where the rest of the offense was virtually silent.

After six awesome innings by Roark, holding the Astros to just the two runs, Bob Melvin turned to his bullpen, knowing that closer Liam Hendriks was unavailable tonight. He elected to use Blake Treinen in the seventh and Treinen delivered in spades, allowing a single to open the inning, but then bore down. He nearly walked Reddick, but ended up inducing a pop-up instead, and it turned his whole inning around; he then struck out both Springer and Altuve. He was sharp and perfect, just as we needed him—and everyone who followed—to be.

Jake Diekman took over for the eighth, allowing a two-out double, but getting Correa to fly out to end the inning.

Meanwhile, the A’s finally knocked Verlander out of the game in the eighth, but they fared no better against Pressly, who struck out Corban Joseph and Chris Hermann to open the inning and despite a walk to Semien, got Robbie Grossman to ground out to end the inning.

It was Joakim Soria’s turn in the ninth and he immediately induced three groundouts; two to Matt Chapman, who turned two nifty plays into outs and took the game into the bottom of the ninth inning. The A’s faced Roberto Osuna this time, who again, shut down the A’s; striking out both Matts and getting Davis to ground out. Soria came back out for the tenth, and should have had another perfect inning, but a two-out error by Corban Joseph extended the inning. A subsequent walk put two men on, but Soria struck out Diaz to end the inning and give the A’s another chance in the tenth to win it.

The A’s had no better luck against Will Harris than they did against Verlander, Pressly and Osuna; Harris mowed them down one, two, three. And the game marched on, to the eleventh. The A’s were down to a single pitcher and the game was his; Lou Trivino took center stage for the eleventh, and he was perfect.

Meanwhile, the A’s couldn’t hit Joe Smith either, adding him to the futile efforts of their night. And off to the twelfth, we went, the crowd getting restless, and still, no fireworks to be seen. Trivino allowed a one-out single, but closed the twelfth while holding the Astros to now their sixth straight scoreless inning, and set the table for what could have been a twelfth-inning A’s win.

And it nearly was. Finally, an Astros’ bullpen member cracked and Matt Chapman hit what could have been the game-winning home run to open the twelfth; had it not been a frozen rope that hit the wall three feet short of the top. That still might have been okay until Matt Olson moved him to third base. With one out. And Khris Davis up. There’s a lot I can say about this at-bat and it’s frustrating to look around for a pinch-hitter for a player whom I usually wonder if he’ll be walked in a crucial situation. I want to be positive and support him (and I DO! He WILL break out!), but at this time, it was a nearly 5-hour game, with only five hits, it was approaching midnight, and I was fantasizing about pinch-hitting Brett Anderson as a “bold, but interesting choice.”

No one was particularly good on offense tonight except maybe Canha, and Davis did have some good swings early. I also have to give some credit; this 0-2 hole, the one that increased his line to 0-5, didn’t end in a strikeout. He hit it to shortstop, which left Matt Chapman no real choice except to keep the rundown going long enough to put Davis at second base for one last shot at winning the game for the one player with three of the final eight A’s hits, Mark Canha. Canha managed to squib an infield single to put pinch-runner Profer on third, but Piscotty grounded out to end the inning, as frustrations mounted.

And then, something amazing happened. Lou Trivino went back out for his third inning, as he pitched the thirteenth. Maybe it was his heart, giving everything he had as he struck out the first two batters, gave up a smoked ball that was called an error on Chapman, but I don’t know about that. Our scorekeepers likely expect a high bar from Chapman’s usual plays. Trivino intentionally walked Gurriel to faced Chirinos, and got him to ground out to short, Semien made the throw to second, in a play that was closer than I liked.

The Astros final card in the bullpen was Cy Sneed, and the A’s likely knew they were done if they didn’t win now, and they finally got serious. Corban Joseph, for his first hit of the night, singled to open the inning, and Chris Hermann laid out an absolutely PERFECT bunt, so good, in fact, that he came a cleat-width of beating out the throw, but it had the desired effect of moving the runner to second base, bringing up Marcus Semien. He struck out, the A’s nineteenth, for the second out of the inning, and just when all hope was lost, Robbie Grossman singled to center field to score Joseph, and oh! the mayhem! oh the feelings! oh this win was just everything! his first walk off hit! What a way to end a Friday night as the sweet, sweet strains of Celebration wafted throughout the lovely summer night. I don’t know if the planned fireworks happened, but I can’t imagine they were better than the ones on the field as the A’s win.

It’s a short turnaround, as tomorrow’s game is at 1:05PM. Chris Bassitt takes on Rogelio Armenteros as the A’s try to win the series.

I hope you enjoyed some August baseball magic in the thick of a pennant race. See you back here for all the action.

LET’S GO OAK-LAND!