The walk-off win is one of the most exciting plays in baseball, and earning one via a grand slam is just about the most spectacular path to get there.
Walk-offs themselves aren’t that rare, as each team can expect to pull off at least a few in any given year, but raise the criteria to a walk-off slam and it’s not something you see every day. In MLB history, only 17 teams have done it twice in the same season, most recently the Cubs in 2018. The 2020 Oakland A’s just did it twice in the span of 11 games.
It probably goes without saying, but that sets an all-time record for the fastest that any team has ever collected two walk-off grand slams in a single summer, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It’s the first time the A’s made the list at all, though they do have nine walk-off slams scattered throughout many seasons since moving to Oakland. No club has ever hit three in one year, so there’s the chance to make further history as well.
As for the homers themselves, they were amazing and dramatic by their very definition as walk-offs. The first one, by Matt Olson, came on Opening Day against the Angels, which itself was a rare sub-record — the majors hadn’t seen an Opening Day walk-off slam since 1986.
There was yet another bit of history attached to this play. It came in the 10th inning, and it was the first MLB game ever to use the temporary new rule of an automatic runner being placed on second base to begin every extra frame. That means the lead runner was the freebie, and thus Olson became the first big leaguer ever to drive home the automatic extra-inning runner.
Olson’s blast came against a lefty reliever, just like the two previous walk-off dingers he’d hit in his career. This time it was Hoby Milner, who had just entered the game, and Olson went 427 feet on Milner’s very first pitch.
OLY WALK-OFF GRAND SLAM pic.twitter.com/XYka0C3ebz— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) July 25, 2020
Just 13 days later, in their 11th game of the season, the A’s did it again. This time it was against the Rangers, and it was Stephen Piscotty playing the role of hero. It was the second walk-off homer of his career, after hitting one in May 2019.
Once again, the winning slam came on the first offering by a new pitcher. Jesse Chavez had entered in an attempt to stifle a 9th-inning rally by his old team, but Piscotty went after his first pitch and sent it 414 feet over the wall in straightaway center.
SECOND WALK-OFF GRAND SLAM OF 2020— Oakland A's (@Athletics) August 5, 2020
FINAL: #Athletics 5, Rangers 1#RootedInOakland pic.twitter.com/HPh8Y2Oq19
It took a long time for the 2020 season to start amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the A’s have made it worth the wait. Not only are they 7-4 and first place in the AL West, but they’ve gotten there in historically exciting fashion. At this rate, they should be able to figure out how to hit a five-run homer by September.
Oakland A’s walk-off slam history
Here’s the full list of nine walk-off slams since moving to Oakland! There are three each against the Angels and Rangers. Click the year to see the box score.
- 1973: Gene Tenace, vs. TEX (off Lloyd Allen)
- 1980: Tony Armas, vs. BAL (off Sammy Stewart)
- 1990: Mark McGwire, vs. BOS (off Rob Murphy)
- 1995: Mark McGwire, vs. CAL (off Lee Smith)
- 2008: Mark Ellis, vs. LAA (off Chris Bootcheck)
- 2012: Brandon Inge, vs. TOR (off Francisco Cordero)
- 2016: Khris Davis, vs. TEX (off Shawn Tolleson)
- 2020: Matt Olson, vs. LAA (off Hoby Milner)
- 2020: Stephen Piscotty, vs. TEX (off Jesse Chavez)