It wasn’t easy — it definitely wasn’t quick — but the Oakland A’s got the walkoff win against the Arizona Diamondbacks today.
Starting for the A’s was their Opening Day starter, rookie Kyle Muller, who’s quickly running out of chances to figure it out in the majors. Going into today’s game, he carried a 7.34 ERA/5.75 FIP with only 6 more strikeouts than walks.
And today, he allowed the game to start off with a bang, specifically one that came out of Christian Walker’s bat. After a single from Emmanuel Rivera, the power-hitting first baseman launched a towering over to left field off an 88 mph slider from Muller, making it a quick 2-0 game.
The A’s got their own action going in the bottom of the inning, starting with a leadoff bloop single from Esteury Ruiz that he hustled into a double before stealing third base. In other words, Ruiz had a leadoff triple to start the game. AL MVP frontrunner (if the A’s were good) Brent Rooker singled him in for Oakland’s first run of the game. Aledmys Diaz, who’s inexplicably still batting third, predictably grounded into a double play and killed the A’s chance at getting a rally going.
But fear not, Nick Allen is here. Riding a mini hot streak in which he has 6 hits in his last 14 PAs, Allen drove a ball to far left field that bounced right off the foul pole, tying the game for the A’s.
Nick Allen throwing darts off the foul pole pic.twitter.com/BXnF5VkRPx— Oakland A's (@Athletics) May 17, 2023
He finished today’s game 2-for-3 with a walk, bringing his season average up over .200 and his OPS over .500. Oh, and he also made this routine throw in the bottom of the 4th.
An inning later, Ramon Laureano then stole the lead for the A’s with a solo homer of his own. Unfortunately, that didn’t last for long as Muller had his signature 5th inning unraveling. After allowing a 2-run double to Rivera, Mark Kotsay took him out in favor of major league newcomer Garrett Acton. He only threw 5 pitches before Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. launched an up-the-middle 95 mph fastball to deep left-center field to make it a 6-3 game. Acton walked 2 more batters in the inning but also struck another couple out to stop the damage. He also struck out the side the next inning up, displaying his potential as a high leverage reliever.
The A’s clawed back a tiny bit with a couple walks from Allen and Rooker in the bottom of the 5th followed by a Carlos Perez RBI single, but the Dbacks extended the lead to once again in the top of the 7th with back-to-back-to-back hits off Shintaro Fujinami.
With the game now 8-4 and it feeling like another inevitable bad A’s loss, some late-game magic came to life. After two quick outs, Rooker hit a hard groundball single right between Nick Ahmed and Evan Longoria, followed by another single to almost the exact same spot from Diaz. Then, Carlos Perez came up and grounded another ball to Longoria. This time, he actually got a handle on it but bobbled it just enough for all runners to be safe and to get the bases loaded with 2 outs.
Ryan Noda’s turn. The rookie first baseman, pinch hitting for Jesus Aguilar, took one fastball above the zone and then blasted a GAME-TYING GRAND SLAM TO DEEP CENTER FIELD off Kyle Nelson, who I happened to go to high school with. It won’t change our season at all, but it was invigorating to see such a huge hit from a team that seems like it’s forgotten how to do it.
RYAN NODA GAME TYING GRAND SLAM pic.twitter.com/rJUKL2edTW— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) May 17, 2023
As the game moved into extra innings, Oakland were gifted loaded bases again in the bottom of the 10th with 1 out but could not capitalize, though not for a lack of effort. Ruiz got called out on strikes despite the pitch sitting outside the strike zone and Rooker scorched a 106 mph right into Ahmed’s glove.
Surprisingly, the A’s bullpen held the Dbacks scoreless for nearly 5 innings, largely thanks to Austin Pruitt’s signature “didn’t know you had that in you” multi-inning appearance that he delivers every couple months.
That takes us to bottom of the 12th with Laureano serving as the ghost runner. Arizona decided to intentionally walk Jace Peterson to start the inning and set up the double play for Allen, who called their bluff and hit a deep grounder to second base, allowing him to safely get to 1st base. Bases loaded AGAIN. Ruiz also coming up to the plate AGAIN. But he didn’t let his chance slip away this time. After taking 2 balls, the speedy center fielder drilled a ball to Ahmed’s feet, who barely grazed it with his glove. The ball landed still in the shortstop hole, allowing Laureano to score the winning run and securing the walkoff hit for Ruiz.
Though the score was ugly at times, this was one of the better wins for the A’s. That Noda grand slam will definitely be on the A’s 2023 season highlight reel, which likely won’t be a very long video. Can the A’s win two in a row?? Probably not, but we’ll get to see them try with Luis Medina getting his third major league start.