I was assured tonight when I took over this game thread (on the heels of last night’s debacle) that the A’s have only lost one Tuesday since the All Star Break and they’d be just fine tonight. It turned out it wasn’t a lie; the A’s managed just four hits over the entire night, and still came away with the win, thanks to one of the most monstrous home runs at the Coliseum by (who else?) Matt Olson, a hit by pitch by (who else?) Mark Canha, a clutch RBI-double by (who else?) Seth Brown, and a save that gave (who else?) Liam Hendriks the most strikeouts by an A’s reliever in a single season, 116, in a dominant, lights-out, much-needed, no-drama ninth inning that sealed the tough victory tonight behind Brett Anderson’s terrific start and Puk and Soria’s amazing bullpen work.
The A’s have had their share of heartbreakers over this season, but as they secure their 91st win, you really have to admire their resilience and sheer moxie. They bounced back from a stunning loss last night and on a night where they could conjure up virtually no offense, made two extra base hits stand up.
Brett Anderson started tonight’s game and perfectly on brand, he simply threw ground balls. He rolled a double-play to end the first inning, he had a perfect second, and allowed one hit each in the third and fourth innings. His only trouble in his five innings was in the fifth, and it could have been a whole lot worse, as the inning started out with a double and a single to put runners on the corners with no one out. Anderson earned a strikeout for the first out, and allowed a sacrifice fly for the second; the first run in the game.
The 1-0 Royals lead would hold for two more innings, as the A’s, who up until this game had been throwing runs around nightly by the dozens (or at least the half-dozens), simply couldn’t record a hit. Mark Canha managed a leadoff single in the second, but the A’s couldn’t move him, and the one time Matt Chapman hit the ball hard in the fourth, but a nice play by Dozier recorded the out. Down 1-0, Seth Brown singled to open the sixth inning, and after two outs, he was picked off first base to end the inning as frustrations mounted for the green and gold.
A.J. Puk took the mound for Anderson to start off the sixth and sandwiched a single around two strikeouts in his first inning. Marcus Semien worked a two-out walk in the A’s half of the sixth, but once again, they were turned away scoreless. Puk had a clean, fast, all-fly-out seventh inning, setting the table for another try for the A’s offense.
Matt Olson, the hero everybody needs, came up to bat and absolutely CRUSHED a ball, deep into the gorgeous September night, well over the boxes high into the deck above. You’ll read reports of 450 feet, but there’s absolutely no way that that ball just cleared the fence; it was a stunning, jaw-dropping, reminiscent of the A’s of the 80’s, shot, just gone. And it, of course, tied the game.
And then things got really interesting as the Royals hit Mark Canha. You’d like to think that a team wouldn’t put the winning run on base on purpose, but the rumor of an intentional HBP was certainly out there after the game. But whether on purpose, or on accident, the result is the same; the Royals, in a game in which the A’s had recorded just three hits to date, gave the A’s an extra baserunner. And Seth Brown, who always seems to come through, smacked a double to score Canha from first and give the A’s the 2-1 lead; the only runs they could manage, but also the only runs they would need. The A’s had more chances; Davis couldn’t move the baserunner from second to third, and later in the inning, pinch-hitter Laureano couldn’t score the run from third with one out and the bases loaded, and a sharp outfield hit by Marcus Semien was caught instead of dropping for insurance. So on the game went to the eighth.
Joakim Soria, who also was perfect in last night’s game, with two strikeouts, was perfect again, with two strikeouts again in tonight’s; his contribution to the team since he’s been back cannot be overstated.
Mark Canha was hit again in the eighth (so tomorrow should be interesting), but the A’s couldn’t add on any more. And so we go to the ninth inning, a one-run lead, in a bounce-back game with Liam Hendriks on the mound.
And he did not [mess] around.
Pitching like a man on fire, he recorded a fly out from Jorge Soler and struck out Dozier and Gordon on wicked pitches, going intentionally at them to end the game, secure the win for Puk, and lower the A’s magic number. And we just got some news in from Los Angeles; hot off the presses, the Dodgers roared back against the Rays, built a 7-2 lead, and held on to beat the Rays 7-5. The Indians had already won, but with the Rays’ loss, the A’s now have a two-game lead for the first Wild Card.
The A’s now have 10 games to go and are right back at it tomorrow for a lunch special; 12:37 to try to win the series against the Rays. Homer Bailey against Danny Duffy. We’ll see you back here with all the action!
MAGIC NUMBER: 9