This is not a drill. The Oakland A’s won a game!
It didn’t come easily, but they battled hard for nine innings on Saturday and earned a 9-7 victory over the Kansas City Royals in a thriller at Kauffman Stadium.
The A’s bats finally woke up amid a season-long slump, but defense might have played the biggest role this afternoon. Both clubs put double-digits in the hits column, including lots of extra-base knocks and some dingers, but Oakland made multiple run-saving plays in the field while Kansas City committed a handful of costly miscues.
Between their own lumber, some help from the Royals, and just enough pitching, the A’s were able to take an early lead and hang on to it throughout. They scored right away in the 1st inning, then kept adding until they were up 5-1 midway through the day. The cushion gradually dwindled down to 5-4, so they added some insurance in the late innings, allowing them to withstand a few Kansas City comeback attempts.
The 1st inning was plenty exciting on its own, before even getting to the rest of the game.
The top half began with a leadoff double by Tony Kemp, and then the Royals flubbed a routine grounder to hand Oakland another baserunner. With runners on second and third, Seth Brown cashed in with an RBI single, and Sean Murphy followed with an RBI groundout to drive in the unearned run.
Kansas City almost answered in the bottom half. They got a runner to second base, and then a weird play let him get to third. Just see for yourself below.
Did he leave the baseline?— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) June 25, 2022
The ump awarded Benintendi third base after an odd collision with Jonah Bride pic.twitter.com/qoNxIg48VU
I’m not sure I’d call that a true error, more just an unfortunate thing that happened, but it does go down that way in the box score. No matter, though, because the next batter hit a drive to left field and Kemp made a spectacular diving play to rob him of extra bases and save at least one run.
Just one inning into the game, and we’d already seen the A’s do a whole day’s worth of scoring and make a highlight catch. What’s more, the Royals had gifted them an extra run, while Oakland themselves prevented one with a defensive gem.
We’ve often seen the A’s score early only to go silent for the rest of the day, but this time they continued building their lead.
Kemp led off the 3rd inning with another “double,” but really it was a routine flyout that the right fielder lost in the sun. A pair of walks pushed Kemp to third, and then Brown hit a productive groundout to bring him home.
In the 4th inning, it happened again. Elvis Andrus lifted pretty much the same routine fly, and the right fielder missed it for another “double.” Nick Allen came up and bounced a grounder up the middle to score Andrus, and on top of that, the infielder booted the ball, caroming it far enough away to let Allen stretch his hit into a “double.” That extra base put Allen in position to score a moment later on a single by Jonah Bride (click here to watch Bride’s first career RBI!).
The sun is Edward Olivares’ worst nightmare right now.— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) June 25, 2022
That’s TWO dropped fly balls pic.twitter.com/DfuwHmneYM
Yesterday, Edward Olivares was the hero for Kansas City, blasting two dingers for his first career multi-homer game. Today the wheel of fortune spun hard on him, as he dropped two easy flies and both of them yielded runs. D’oh!
At this point, the Royals defense had effectively spotted the A’s four of their five runs, though due to the absurd nuances of baseball scoring only one of them counted as “unearned.”
However, while Kansas City’s gloves melted down, their lineup kept the game close.
Rookie starter Jared Koenig made it through the first two innings unscathed, thanks in part to the defense behind him — including Kemp’s catch in the 1st, and a nice play at third base by Bride in the 2nd to snare a grounder down the line. However, a solo homer in the 3rd, and a two-run double in the 4th, cut into the early lead.
- Koenig: 4⅔ ip, 3 runs, 4 Ks, 3 BB, 1 HR, 5 hits, 83 pitches
The Royals threatened again in the 5th, when Koenig walked a pair of batters, but the bullpen escaped the jam. In the 6th they did plate a run on a couple of hard hits, narrowing the score to 5-4.
Oakland was still ahead, but clearly it wasn’t over yet. They’d need to add more, and that’s what they did.
The usual suspects struck again. In the 7th, Brown doubled off the wall, and Murphy singled him home. In the 8th, Allen walked, and Kemp followed with a two-run homer to make it 8-4.
That insurance did indeed prove vital, as Kansas City quickly answered back. In the bottom of the 8th, they drew two walks and then thumped a three-run dinger, matching everything the A’s had just done in the previous two frames. It was now 8-7.
The Royals kept pushing after that homer, drawing two more walks to start a new rally, but Oakland’s defense made another big play. Reliever Lou Trivino missed badly outside with a changeup, and the catcher Murphy knocked it down enough to keep it in front of him. The runners tried to advance, but Murphy pounced on the ball and delivered a throw to third base for the out. The next batter singled, but nobody scored.
Entering the 9th, the A’s were still clinging to a one-run lead. They got a runner to third base, and then Kansas City threw a wild pitch, allowing that runner to score.
Trivino finished off the 9th inning, with a brief moment of panic. With a runner on base, a 408-foot rocket found a glove on the warning track in center field, barely missing a game-tying homer.
Oakland banged out 14 hits and added five walks. Their nine runs matched the total from their previous seven games combined.
But some of that output, and a lot of this victory, came down to defense. The Royals gave away five runs, between the error in the 1st, the two missed catches in right field, the extra base on Allen’s hit in the 4th, and the wild pitch in the 9th. Meanwhile, the A’s saved a couple with Kemp’s catch and Murphy’s throw, at the very least. That’s a swing of seven runs in a contest ultimately decided by only two. Defense wins ballgames!
Perhaps most importantly, this one was fun. They hit the ball hard, they took advantage of the extra opportunities given to them, and they showed tons of hustle and perseverance. It’s been a tough season to watch so far, especially lately as Oakland had dropped 22 of 26 games while averaging just 2.5 runs during that span, but today had no shortage of excitement. And an actual real-life win!