After losing their series opener Thursday against the Kansas City Royals, the Oakland A’s bounced right back on Friday, and along the way they busted a few individual slumps.
The A’s blew a 3-0 lead but charged back in the bottom of the 9th to earn a 4-3 walk-off victory over the Royals, providing an alternate ending to a game that had all the ingredients of the previous night’s frustrating defeat.
On Thursday, Oakland took an early lead but let the Royals overpower them in the late innings. On Friday, the A’s took an early lead and once again Kansas City stormed back in the late innings, but this time the visitors were only able to tie it up rather than take full control.
Oakland’s initial burst came thanks to two of their coldest hitters. Matt Chapman has been struggling all year, entering with a .201 average and too many strikeouts, but he collected three hits tonight. The first of them was an RBI double in the 4th inning.
The next batter was Seth Brown, riding an 0-for-31 skid dating back to late May. He snapped that hitless streak in a big way, blasting a 405-foot homer for two more runs.
ARE YOU FEELING IT NOW MR. KRABS!? pic.twitter.com/lxwaN6gLbM— Oakland A's (@Athletics) June 12, 2021
However, after Brown’s dinger, 13 of the A’s next 15 batters were retired through the end of the 8th. It was looking like they might need to make their One Big Inning hold up, but meanwhile the Royals were mounting a comeback for the second night in a row.
Just like last night, Oakland’s starter kept Kansas City off the board for the first six innings. This time it was Cole Irvin, and he only needed 58 pitches to do it while limiting the Royals to three hits. Even when they made hard contact, it usually found a glove, like this line drive double play turned by Matt Olson.
Oly too quick ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/yqB6mXDHBk— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) June 12, 2021
But the magic ended in the 7th. Irvin served up a homer to Salvador Perez, then a sharp single, then a dinky bloop single, and suddenly he was being pulled from the game with the go-ahead run at the plate.
- Irvin: 6+ ip, 2 runs (1 earned), 4 Ks, 0 BB, 1 HR, 6 hits, 62 pitches, 91.8 mph EV
The southpaw was amazingly efficient, pounding the zone and only letting four batters work a two-ball count. But the rally in the 7th knocked him out, and it kept going after his departure.
With two on and no out, Yusmeiro Petit came in from the bullpen. He got the first two outs, and induced a grounder that could have ended the inning, but Elvis Andrus clanked it for an error and the runner scored from third. The next batter hit it to Andrus too, but the shortstop’s flip to second was too late for the forceout. Fortunately that second slip-up didn’t matter, as Petit escaped with the lead barely intact.
In the 8th, Jake Diekman came in, and Perez struck again. He swatted another solo homer, and this one tied the score and blew the save.
It almost got even worse. Diekman was lifted for Lou Trivino with one on and two out, and the next batter ran the count full. With the runner moving on the pitch, the batter blooped a single to center. The runner (Andrew Benintendi) hesitated around third base but broke for home, and the relay from Mark Canha to Olson to the plate got there just in time to nab him. The out call went to replay review and was upheld, and the game remained tied.
The A's survive the replay review pic.twitter.com/mSM1MolvnU— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) June 12, 2021
In my opinion he looks more safe than out, but under the current rules I don’t think it’s clear and convincing enough to overturn. Benintendi’s hand might have been elevated over the plate before he touched it, or he might have gotten it down before the tag, tough to say. For once the close replay went the A’s way, and if we’re being truly honest then the primary reason he didn’t score is that he didn’t hustle around third.
Still, this was shaping up as a bummer of a rerun. Thursday night, the Royals were shut out for six innings and then exploded in the 7th and 8th. They’d done it again Friday, and we had a new ballgame entering the 9th.
The script finally changed in the final frame, with the A’s finding the extra push they needed, and it couldn’t have had a more Hollywood ending.
It began with Chapman, lining a one-out double for his third hit of the night. Any dreams of seeing Brown match Perez with a heroic second homer were dashed by an intentional walk, as the Royals opted instead to face Andrus and his .209 batting average with a dominant righty reliever on the mound.
But this was a day of bounce-backs for Oakland. Despite the uninspiring matchup, Andrus laid off a 1-2 slider, fouled off a couple more pitches, and then poked a sharp single to right. The throw home nearly caught Chapman, but was late by a hair. Elvis had walked off the premises.
It’s hard to decide which twist ending is more satisfying. Andrus atoning for his crucial defensive error by delivering the winning hit? The A’s rebounding from last night’s frustrating loss and not letting it happen again? The Royals being beaten by a slappy hitter picking up a rare knock at the perfect clutch moment? Let’s go with all of the above.
Any win is good, but this was an especially fun victory because of who led the way. The lineup overall was quiet, but they got contributions out of exactly the hitters you want to see more from. Chapman was productive all night, and also made a vintage running catch in foul territory. Brown unloaded on his slump, and Andrus came through with the big moment we’ve been waiting to see from him all year. This was a bounce-back evening on all kinds of levels.