The Oakland A’s didn’t fall one play short this time.
After missing out on some winnable games earlier in July, the A’s came out of the All-Star break on Friday with a 5-4 walk-off victory over the Cleveland Indians at the Coliseum.
Oakland struck early to score the first three runs of the evening, but Cleveland stormed back with four of their own to take the lead. Rather than settle for that near-miss result, though, the A’s put together one more rally in the 9th inning to flip the script one more time and snatch the win.
Three hitters led the way for Oakland, as Elvis Andrus, Matt Olson, and Jed Lowrie notched three hits apiece and accounted for most of the scoring. In the 3rd inning, with two outs already on the board, Andrus singled, Olson doubled him in, and Lowrie hit a popup to nobody for a lucky RBI hit.
In the 4th they got some help from Mitch Moreland, who hit a solo homer in his first game back from the injured list. The veteran DH last batted on July 2 before going on the IL, and last homered June 29, and this dinger gave the A’s a 3-0 advantage.
But then Cleveland found their rhythm. Oakland starter Sean Manaea made it through four scoreless innings but allowed a solo homer in the 5th, and in the 6th three straight singles plated a run and brought the bullpen into the game. With runners on the corners and one out, Yusmeiro Petit allowed a sac fly to tie the score. Petit stayed in for the 7th and served up a solo homer, and just like that the Indians had the lead 4-3.
- Manaea: 5⅓ ip, 3 runs, 7 Ks, 0 BB, 1 HBP, 1 HR, 7 hits, 96 pitches, 94.1 mph EV
Suddenly this was beginning to look like the A’s recent slump from the past few weeks. They’d blown their early lead, and then they squandered all their chances to build a new one — they stranded two runners in the 6th, and then loaded the bases with one out in the 7th but struck out looking twice to leave them all aboard.
But that wasn’t how the story ended this time. They got one more opportunity in the 9th, and they grabbed it. Andrus singled to lead off the inning, and Lowrie blasted a two-run dinger to walk it off.
The pitch Lowrie hit was a 100.5 mph fastball from reliever Emmanuel Clase, making it the fastest pitch that any A’s batter has homered off since they began tracking such things in 2008. It’s Lowrie’s third career walk-off homer, with the most recent one coming in an Oakland uniform in 2017 against now-teammate Deolis Guerra (then of the Angels). Of course he got the Team Trident after his latest heroics.
For the club overall, it’s their eighth walk-off victory this season.
Since Bob Melvin took over as A's manager on June 9, 2011, Oakland's 91 walk-off wins over that span are most in the Majors.— Martín Gallegos (@MartinJGallegos) July 17, 2021
More importantly, it was a change from the frustrating days of late-June and early-July, when this type of affair usually ended with the tantalizingly close 4-3 deficit remaining just out of reach. The A’s were never going to keep losing every close game forever, and after a well-timed four-day rest for the All-Star break they indeed got back on track tonight.
One close win isn’t any more meaningful in the big picture than all the close losses the past month, but it’s sure refreshing to see. “This too shall pass” finally appears to be passing, or hopefully even fully passed considering Oakland is now on a three-game win streak dating back to last Saturday before the break. And if one win was ever going to give you an emotional charge, a come-from-behind walk-off to open the second half of the season is about as good as it gets.
Is it a new wave? Let’s ride it and find out!