Just when you thought the Oakland A’s lineup couldn’t get any more frustrating to watch, they go and do something like this ... and totally redeem themselves.
The A’s were almost completely silent at the plate for eight innings on Wednesday, but with two outs in the 9th they tied it up, and then in the 10th they walked it off. The 5-4 victory salvaged a series split against the San Diego Padres in their two-game set at the Coliseum.
It’s been a weird couple of days in Oakland. Last night’s game was a trainwreck of bad luck, which the A’s could have won but instead lost in an 8-1 blowout. This afternoon they were simply getting beaten, with no excuses except facing a great pitcher in Joe Musgrove, and then suddenly they won instead.
In each of the first seven innings, Oakland put a runner on first base — twice via HBP, once on a single, and then four times by walk. Only one of those runners even made it to second base before being stranded, and two others were eliminated via double plays. They weren’t making hard contact against Musgrove and it showed. Like last night, their only run came on a solo homer (by Jed Lowrie today), but instead of going 0-for-13 in ample opportunities with runners in scoring position, they’d only gone 0-for-2 up to that point because they rarely got into scoring position to begin with.
By the end of the 8th, they only had two hits, and they were trailing 3-1.
Add up the first 17 innings of this series, and the A’s were 0-for-15 with RISP, with just two solo homers to show for their efforts. The existential concerns were beginning to creep in. They’d just added multiple exciting veteran bats at the trade deadline, including the perfect new star, and still they couldn’t buy a run.
And then the switch finally flipped in the 9th inning.
With Oakland trailing 3-1, Ramon Laureano ripped a double down the line. The next two batters were retired, calling to mind memories of so many recent leadoff doubles stranded, and Sean Murphy walked to put the tying run aboard and send the suspense through the roof.
That brought up Matt Chapman, who’s mired in a deep slump and also leads all MLB hitters in strikeouts including two more today. But he made contact this time! He pulled a grounder, not particularly hard, which eluded the shortstop just enough that he knocked it down but couldn’t make a play. A couple feet in either direction and it’s a routine out to end the game, but instead everybody was safe and Laureano scored.
Next up, one of the new hitters got the chance to shine when Yan Gomes was called to pinch-hit. He fell behind in the count 0-2, kept battling, fouled a couple pitches off, then made just enough contact off the end of the bat to send a soft flare into shallow center field. A run scored, and the game was tied.
SEND THIS TO YOUR "BASEBALL IS BORING" FRIEND pic.twitter.com/hcIm6aEJnt— Oakland A's (@Athletics) August 4, 2021
Neither Chapman nor Gomes hit the ball very hard, but they both hit it instead of striking out, and they were rewarded by finding useful pieces of turf. That’s a pair of clutch RBI singles, with an assist from a couple of those perfectly timed fortunate hops we’re always seeing go in favor of opponents.
The game went to extras, and the Padres promptly scored their automatic runner to retake the lead — with help from Platinum Glover Chapman flubbing a ground ball. But Oakland answered back again.
In the bottom of the 10th, Starling Marte blooped a single to right field, pushing the automatic runner to third base. Runners on the corners, nobody out, and Matt Olson at the plate. And then the moment we’d been waiting for, through two days and 19 innings of exasperating play — a deep fly ball at the right time. Even if it had been caught, it would have been a game-tying sac fly, but it carried all the way to the wall for a double. Both runners scored, and the A’s won.
OLY WALKS IT OFF IN THE 10th pic.twitter.com/bnVf1bCchg— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) August 4, 2021
In the 9th and 10th combined, the A’s went 4-for-7 with runners in scoring position. Finally.
On the pitching side, Frankie Montas put together his fifth straight quality start. He chewed through six innings without too much damage, and along the way he missed a bunch of bats and struck out a bunch of hitters without offering any help via free passes.
- Montas: 6 ip, 3 runs, 8 Ks, 0 BB, 8 hits, 86 pitches, 90.8 mph EV
He gave up his share of hard contact, and three runs on eight hits sounds about right. San Diego’s first run was a hustle double knocked in by a two-out groundball single, and the others came during an extended rally in the 4th inning featuring four straight hits.
But the A’s defense made some plays too. In particular, former Athletic Jurickson Profar was thrown out on the bases twice, including this caught stealing in the 2nd inning.
Strike 'em out ✔️— Oakland A's (@Athletics) August 4, 2021
Throw 'em out ✔️ pic.twitter.com/57kJDGmKWb
During the four-hit rally in the 4th, Profar notched the second hit. The next batter doubled and Profar tried to score from first base, especially when the carom off the wall got past Marte in center field. But Laureano backed him up and got the ball in quickly, and Profar was out by plenty.
The bullpen avoided any further earned runs, with Andrew Chafin in the 7th, Jake Diekman in the 8th, and Yusmeiro Petit in the 9th. Lou Trivino was charged with an unearned run in the 10th for letting through the free runner.
After last night’s disaster loss, I concluded my recap like this:
Keep hitting like this and you’ll score runs. Keep playing like this and you’ll win games. It would be virtually impossible not to. Try again tomorrow.
Those runs finally came. And, coupled with another round of strong pitching and some customary defensive highlights, so did the win.
These two games had more than their share of oddity, but the resulting split seems accurate. Both contending clubs played well enough to win once but imperfectly enough to not win both. Most importantly for the A’s, they avoided falling back into the same old slump with their shiny new lineup — they stared at what felt like a one-in-a-million chance in the 9th inning, and came through anyway.