In for Joe Stiglich …
Don’t bother going out your driveway to find out about last night’s A’s game. You won’t get the final result there. In the weirdest, wildest game of the year, the A’s claimed their 12th walk-off victory 4-3 over Tampa Bay at 12:17 a.m. Fortunately, in the digital age, you still get a full recap on a game that lasted so long with plenty of player reaction, albeit in a different manner. It’ll be up on our website before you wake up, but if you’re an insomniac like me, you can read it here first with the game story I ultimately filed at 1:49 a.m.
A couple of things to note that aren’t in the game story. First, Oakland mayor Jean Quan apparently stuck out the entire game sitting in the bleachers, and she deserves full kudos for that. Maybe Lew Wolff will actually give her a call and congratulate her. Second, this game was destined to end quickly, even if the A’s hadn’t scored in the bottom of the 15th. After going through eight pitchers, the Rays were warming up their designated hitter, former Giant Jeff Keppinger, to pitch the bottom of the 16th.
Fortunately, the A’s saved Tampa the embarrassment by winning sooner.
Those who read this blog faithfully deserve this reward. I had a full blog post before the game that completely disappeared as I was typing the last sentence of it due to the wireless going out in the Coliseum press box. I should have known it was going to be that kind of night, but pretty much everything that was in that blog is in the final story (except the starting lineups).
Anyway, here’s the full, final story about a long but amazing game. — Carl
By Carl Steward
OAKLAND – The A’s turned in some heavy overtime to get their 12th walk-off win of the year, but it was worth the 5 hour, 9 minute wait.
Jemile Weeks’ sacrifice fly with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 15th inning put a sweet cap on a night of amazing numbers as Oakland beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 in a marathon at the Coliseum.
The A’s struck out a franchise record 21 times against eight Rays pitchers, but got eight shutout innings from their bullpen to allow Weeks, who was 0 for 7 heading into the final at-bat, to walk off the hero at 12:17 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Weeks was the 11th different A’s player to deliver a walk-off victory, and he wasted little time when he came to the plate with the bases full and Brandon Inge waiting to burst off third. Weeks swung at the first pitch from hard-throwing right-hander Kyle Farnsworth, made contact with a fastball up and out over the plate and lofted it to medium center.
It looked like center fielder B.J. Upton would have a play at the plate, but Inge was coming home regardless.
“Without a doubt,” he said. “Fifteenth inning? I don’t care if I get thrown out by 20 feet, I’m taking a chance on that one.”
Upton’s throw was high, and Inge slid under catcher Jose Lobaton for yet another Oakland sudden-death win.
The A’s certainly weren’t too tired to celebrate their 19th victory in July (a club record for the month with one more to go) against just four losses. Johnny Gomes doused Weeks with a bucket of Gatorade, and Josh Reddick not only nailed him with one pie, but two.
And Weeks didn’t mind one bit after the night he’d had.
“Man, it felt great,” he said. “I was kind of beating up myself before because I had some chances and didn’t get it done. But another opportunity came, I felt confident and it worked out.”
Only a smattering of the 12,564 who turned out for the 7:05 p.m. start Monday night were still there at the end. What many missed was the most remarkable performance by the Oakland bullpen this season – eight shutout inning on three hits by Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook, Grant Balfour, Jerry Blevins and Jordan Norberto (3-1), who ultimately got the victory.
“My goodness, they showed me up, didn’t they?” said A’s starter A.J. Griffin, who battled Tampa lefty ace David Price to a standoff over the first seven innings, No. 9 hitter Brandon Hicks ensuring a no-decision for both pitchers with a two-out homer off Price that knotted the score at 3-3.
Little did anyone know, though, that less than half the game had been played to that point.
The A’s certainly had several chances to win it earlier, loading the bases in the ninth and 10th and getting two on in the 11th. But when no one could come up with a key hit, the relief corps simply strapped in and got tougher. Cook pitched two innings, the ninth and 10th. Grant Balfour delivered 1 1/3, and then Jerry Blevins turned in the yeoman performance of the night, going 2 2/3 innings more.
“Blevins was really terrific,” said manager Bob Melvin. “We usually try to match up with him and he gave us two-plus.”
Blevins said he was getting tired in his third inning of work, but noted, “When your team needs you, you step up however you can. I just tried to bear down and let our offense do the magic, get another walk-off.”
“This game doesn’t go that far without our bullpen,” said Weeks. “They were big-time. But they’ve been doing it for us, so it’s no surprise to us. We just knew we had to get out there and play defense behind them.”
At long last, the A’s finally put together the winning rally against Farnsworth (0-3). Inge led off the inning with a single and was sacrificed to second by Kurt Suzuki. Seth Smith was intentionally walked, and Eric Sogard battled to finally earn a walk on a 3-2 count and load the bases, setting up Weeks for the deciding blow.
Reddick, despite striking out four times, delivered the key defensive gem, gunning down Carlos Pena at third base after he tried to go from first to third on a Jose Molina single with nobody out in the top of the seventh.
In short, there were many contributors to Oakland’s grittiest victory of the year. The A’s have won back-to-back home games in walk-off fashion, as well as three of the last four and nine of the last 17. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it is the first time a team has had nine walk-off wins in 17 games since the Los Angeles Dodgers did it in 1974.
Once they were in position to win by walk-off, the A’s were confident they would get it done.
“We think it’s going to happen every inning,” said Inge. “If you were wondering if anyone had a negative thought, not on this team. When it doesn’t work out, there may a letdown for a couple seconds. But then we put our gloves on and went out on the field with the attitude, `Let’s get three quick outs, get back in here and try again. There was never a give-up moment.’ ”
The 5:09 game was the longest at the Coliseum since July 3, 1983, and it upped Oakland’s extra-inning record to 8-2.
The way his team has been playing, Melvin isn’t exactly holding his breath for some last-minute trade deadline action.
As the clock wound closer to Tuesday’s 1 p.m. deadline, the A’s still hadn’t made any moves beyond catcher George Kottaras, acquired on Sunday from Milwaukee.
That’s fine with Melvin.
“I look at it as the group we have here is the group we have here,” he said prior to the game. “If I’m looking and hoping for a potential upgrade, you can get disappointed, and I like the group we have here.”
It’s been much speculated that the A’s are trying to acquire a shortstop before the deadline with starter Cliff Pennington currently on the disabled list with left elbow tendinitis, and the timetable for his return uncertain.
There was a minor ruffle via Twitter Monday night when an Arizona Republic beat reporter sent out a tweet that Diamondbacks shortstop Stephen Drew – a player reportedly on the A’s radar – had been called into a closed-door meeting with manager Kirk Gibson. Often when that happens at this time year, it means a player has been traded.
But it was a false alarm. Drew reported that the meeting amounted to nothing more than “baseball stuff” and that he hadn’t been dealt to Oakland or anywhere else.
Melvin was taking an inert attitude to all the trade chatter. Not his department, he said.
“If Billy feels there’s an upgrade out there, then certainly he’ll pull the trigger on something like that,” he said. “But we do feel like we have a good group here at this point.”
Kottaras joined the A’s after arriving in San Francisco late Sunday night. He spent the day soaking up information about the pitching staff in a crash course to be integrated into the club.
“It’s kind of hard when you’re thrown into the fire, but at the same time, it’s a challenge I’m excited about,” Kottaras said. “Everyone’s pitching great, so I kind of want to roll with from where they are right now. I’m certainly not going to come in and change anything.”
Melvin said that Kottaras will likely be the starter against right-handed pitching in a fairly strict platoon with Suzuki once he’s settled in.
“As you’ve seen, (platooning) has worked pretty well for us,’’ he said. “I think the offense has done a lot better with the (Chris) Carter/(Brandon) Moss and the (Johnny) Gomes/(Seth) Smith situations. We’re going to do our best to match up, and this is probably another facet of that.”
Brandon McCarthy made his first rehab start for the Sacramento RiverCats in Reno Monday night and pitched three scoreless innings – retiring seven straight batters at one point — before running into big trouble in the fourth.
McCarthy gave up a walk and five hits, including a two-run homer, in a six-run fourth before being replaced by reliever Brad Peacock. McCarthy wound up giving up seven hits, was charged with all six runs, walked one and struck out two. He threw 66 pitches, 42 for strikes.
Left-hander Brett Anderson will make his second rehab Tuesday night for the RiverCats in Reno. Anderson will throw roughly 75 pitches, Melvin said.
Outfielder Coco Crisp missed his second straight game with a tight hamstring. Crisp is scheduled to try running Tuesday and the A’s will assess how to proceed from there.