The Oakland A’s found themselves competing against both their opponent and the umpiring crew on Sunday, but they overcame both in a game that had no shortage of odd moments.
The A’s fell behind early but came back, then blew a save but retook the lead, for a 7-6 victory over the Minnesota Twins in their series finale at Target Field. In an appropriate piece of symbolism, the winning run scored on a wild pitch.
We’ve already complained about umpires a lot this year, and it always feels weak to do so. But my goodness, it has become too glaring of a problem to ignore.
The A’s scored the first run of the day, in the 2nd inning. Matt Chapman bounced an RBI single to right field and tried to advance to second base on the throw home, but the relay was cut off and redirected toward 2B and Chapman was nabbed out.
But wait! The throw beat Chapman in plenty of time, but the tumbling Andrelton Simmons never got a tag on him. The call went to replay, and was ... inexplicably upheld, of course.
Matt Chapman was ruled out after replay -- do you see the tag? pic.twitter.com/WAvlokm4NH— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) May 16, 2021
I just don’t understand what anybody could possibly have seen in that replay that came even close to a tag. What. Is. Even. The. Point. Of. Replay?
It got worse in the bottom of the frame. The Twins had a runner on first with one out, and a pitch ran inside on Miguel Sano. The ball hit the knob of Sano’s bat and bounced into fair territory, for what should have been an inning-ending double play. But HP umpire John Libka called that the ball had hit Sano’s hand, which shows such a complete misunderstanding of the laws of physics that I’m surprised Libka can even tie his own shoes.
The inning continued when it shouldn’t have, and the next batter hit a three-run homer.
Here’s where the ball was fielded, and it was still moving quickly. I don’t know how anybody could ever think that a ball hit off somebody’s hand that hard, while making a distinctly wooden sound, much less that the batter didn’t end up on the ground passed out from pain. But the A’s had already used their replay, so they couldn’t challenge this, not that the clear and convincing video would have mattered anyway.
And then, in the 3rd inning, we got the trifecta. With the bases loaded and one out, Ramon Laureano caught a potential sac fly in center field and delivered a throw home to nail the runner at the plate.
But wait! The call went to replay, and it was ... overturned this time.
Laureano almost made an epic double play but the runner was ruled safe pic.twitter.com/VO9YlNuuke— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) May 16, 2021
At least the umps got this replay review right. The runner was clearly safe. Just like Chapman had been earlier at second base, on a nearly identical play, where the fielder’s glove was blocked off by his own body. It’s uncanny how similar these plays were, and yet only one was overturned, for reasons that will never be divulged by the league. Just shut up and give them your money.
This. Called a ball. pic.twitter.com/jEAAo4IhUx— Dog Lover ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ (@K9lovinglawyer) May 16, 2021
Minnesota now led 4-1, and you could make an argument that they shouldn’t even have scored yet. Or that they should have one run, but that the A’s might have enjoyed a longer rally in the 1st inning. Either way, starter Chris Bassitt gutted through all of it to finish off five frames.
- Bassitt: 5 ip, 4 runs, 4 Ks, 2 BB, 1 HR, 6 hits, 89 pitches, 92.5 mph EV
That line is far worse than the right-hander deserved. He did allow a few absolute blasts, including the homer, but the important thing here was seeing him bear down after some hard luck. For a brief moment it appeared he might have been shaken up by the bad calls and the bonus dinger, but he pushed past it and didn’t let it snowball into a bigger crisis. That is an ace mentality.
He added later: "Any baseball fan, anyone watching a game that actually has an opinion, knows how bad the first couple innings were. I’ll leave it at that."— Shayna Rubin (@ShaynaRubin) May 16, 2021
The A’s didn’t lie down and mope about the tough breaks. They got right back into business in the 5th, and tossed in some chicanery of their own.
The rally began normally enough. Chad Pinder led off with a double, in his second start back from the injured list, and Sean Murphy singled him in. Two more singles loaded the bases, and Seth Brown tapped a productive grounder to bring the runner home from third. The Twins lead was down to 4-3, and there were still two on with one out.
Laureano came up next and hit a grounder to shortstop, and with the infield drawn in, Simmons threw home to get the runner at the plate. But that runner, Elvis Andrus, went full veteran-mode and willed a run into existence anyway.
With no chance to score on the initial play, Andrus got himself into a rundown to give the trail runners time to advance. Catcher Ben Rortvedt then made two mistakes. With the trail runner already arriving at third, there was no reason to throw at all, and he should have just run Andrus all the way back to the base. Then, once he did choose to throw, he needed to clear fully out of the basepath to give Andrus space to run.
But Rortvedt lingered too close to the line, and Andrus was able to toss out an elbow, draw contact, and deliver an NBA-caliber flop to earn an interference call and a free trip to home plate.
E2— MLB Errors (@mlberrors) May 16, 2021
Elvis Andrus with the flop of the year pic.twitter.com/UcUrQ4EO6Q
This was a rundown with a seemingly zero percent chance of success, and he still got it done. Regardless of whether he flopped to sell the contact, the play was correctly called by the umps, and it sure felt like a small piece of cosmic payback after all that had already transpired.
In addition to the run, Andrus’ guile also meant the second out was never recorded. A couple batters later, Chapman lofted a sac fly to bring home the go-ahead run.
Fortune continued to smile upon the A’s in the 7th. They loaded the bases with one out, and Chapman tapped what can only be described as a swinging squeeze bunt. He checked his swing but made contact, and the result was a grounder so dinky that third baseman Josh Donaldson couldn’t get to it in time. A crucial insurance run scored and everybody was safe.
There was a brief hitch in the bottom of the 8th. For the second straight day, in that specific inning, reliever Jake Diekman served up a homer to blow the lead and the save. This time it was by No. 9 hitter Simmons, into the first row of the seats, and it tied the score 6-6.
But just as Oakland had suffered a trifecta of frustrating calls earlier, they completed their own collection of gifts from the universe, as the Twins simply handed them the winning run in the top of the 9th.
With Laureano on first and one out, Matt Olson hit a comebacker to the mound, for a potential double play. The pitcher made a good throw to second but Donaldson clanked it, leaving everybody safe and Laureano at third. Chapman was up next and struck out, but Strike 3 got past the catcher and went to the backstop, allowing Laureano to score on a wild pitch.
And the craziest part? This still might not have been the wildest game between this two teams this year, after Oakland’s 10-inning, 13-12 win on a walk-off error last month.
Anyway, Lou Trivino pitched the 9th and this time it went smoothly for a save. The final out was a flyball by Sano, who had hit the late game-winning dinger the previous day off Diekman.
What they’re made of
If the A’s had lost today, it would have been frustrating because of how it happened. The fact that they won is even more amazing considering the early adversity. That’s what you want to see out of a contender — never give up, cunningly take every inch the opponent gives you, and put yourself in position to make your own luck as often as possible.
Chris Bassitt on today's win: "If you want to look at one game and say, What are the Oakland A's made of? This is the game."— Shayna Rubin (@ShaynaRubin) May 16, 2021