I set some sort of record Tuesday night, I know it. So did the San Francisco Chronicle’s Steve Kroner. We both serve as backup writers for the A’s and Giants, and in two consecutive games we’ve covered for our respective papers, we saw walkoff hits against a five-man infield, two-man outfield from a team in each league. Top that, national scribes.
And that doesn’t count even that both Kroner and I covered the last game of the A’s previous homestand, in which the A’s won in the 14th inning on another walkoff after falling behind in the top half.
Kroner and I are on a heck of a roll. What a great gig we have, the deadline pressures and constant rewrites notwithstanding. Of the three walkoff victories, Tuesday’s probably was the topper. When Grant Balfour gave up a run in the top of the ninth after the two teams had battled the first eight innings to a 2-2 standoff, you couldn’t have liked the odds, even though Toronto closer Francisco Cordero has been decidedly vulnerable all year and particularly lately.
Everything changed when recent call-up Michael Taylor, who had looked horrible in three previous strikeout at-bats, punched one down the right field line that just stayed fair for a double. Jemile Weeks sacrificed him to third, and Cliff Pennington drove him home with a perfect miniature golf-type poke through a drawn-in infield. Penny steals second, Josh Reddick is intentionally walked. Wild pitch moves both runners up and Johnny Gomes is intentionally walked to load ‘em up.
In steps Brandon Inge, Detroit’s best gift to Oakland since the Model-A, and on a 1-0 count, boom-bye over the left field wall. Bedlam on the diamond, and in the stands among the paltry 6,000 or so who were actual real warm bodies of the announced count of just over 10,000.
But who could have felt better about the finish (besides Inge) than Ken Korach? In his first game back in the booth after missing the first 29 games following knee replacement surgery, he gets to call a walkoff slam in the bottom of the ninth. Showing nary a speck of rust, he made a great call … heard it on Chris Townsend’s postgame show driving home. Welcome back, Ken. After all you’ve been through, you deserved that.
Dare we say it? These A’s have been pretty fun to watch from the get-go. You have to like their pluck despite their collective team batting average just above the Mendoza Line, and who could have predicted this kind of start with a team of so many new and disparate parts, a team that had to slog 12,000 miles to play its first two games? Who knows how long it’ll last, but if you’re an A’s fan, ride the wave. It might not get any better than this.
The reason it may not get any better could be Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon McCarthy. McCarthy had a shoulder blade tweak that could be a precursor to another DL setback. He’s already had four in the past five years, same injury. McCarthy thinks he’s OK, but until he has a bullpen session and puts together a couple starts, hold your breath.
As for Cespedes, really hold your breath. He took a swing in batting practice and immediately grabbed his left hand, wincing in pain. He was scratched from the lineup, and after the game, his hand was very heavily wrapped. Not good. He’ll have an X-ray Wednesday, but one’s first thought is hamate bone. Jose Canseco. Pablo Sandoval. The Bay Area knows the score on that injury. Four to six weeks on the shelf if that’s the case, which would be an absolute shame for him and the team.
Elsewhere, it may be time for Bob Melvin to start thinking about a closer change. Maybe he’s already started, because Balfour isn’t looking like the right man of late, and when you contemplate setup man Ryan Cook’s video game numbers — 0 runs, 3 hits and 15 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings so far — it has to be tempting for Melvin to flop them. But Cook is going so well maybe you don’t want to mess with him. Besides, the eighth inning is often as important as the ninth, and the A’s always have the Plan B of Brian Fuentes to close. Tough call.
For now, just savor this victory. And while nobody likes to read about the Giants here unless they’re getting their noses rubbed in something, they made it a Bay Area double by beating the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw, converting four double plays in the process. Who gets the top headline? Another tough call.
Maybe we should give the banner spot to Josh Hamilton. Are you kidding me, four home runs and a double? He also homered in the final at-bat of his previous game. He’s just out of his gourd right now. Unreal to watch, and perhaps by the time Oakland plays the Rangers next week, he’ll have cooled off a bit.
Bottom line, just a great night of ball throughout the land. And we don’t mean the NBA playoffs. Let’s hope those McCarthy/Cespedes injuries aren’t serious, and the A’s can keep things in the black until Manny Ramirez gets here and by his very presence gets this team some better attention. Attention the team deserves right now, to be perfectly frank.