OAKLAND – For a while Sunday, the A’s likely would have settled for a base runner of any kind, let alone a base hit. Snatching a victory away from the Boston Red Sox seemed almost unfathomable.
Yet, the A’s tied the game in the seventh inning on a two-run home run by Josh Donaldson, two batters after Coco Crisp notched the A’s first hit of the game, and then won the game, 3-2, in the 11th on a Donaldson run-scoring single.
A’s manager Bob Melvin called it “apropos” that Donaldson provided the punctuation mark on the first half of the season given how well Donaldson played the first 95 games.
Those in the A’s organization, as well as many people across the league, felt as if Donaldson deserved to be a part of the American League All-Star team.
Look no further than what Donaldson does in crucial situations, Melvin said, to understand his value.
“He’s a fighter,” Melvin said. “He’s got that competitive bone. In situations that are big, he’s not scared of them, he enjoys them. He looks forward to them. You can just see, there’s added focus, there’s desire and attention to what he’s doing. It’s been pretty impressive to watch.”
Reliever Sean Doolittle was one of three relievers that shut down the Red Sox after they jumped to a 2-0 lead.
Doolittle said Donaldson has been so consistent this season that the A’s almost take it for granted that he’s going to come through in the clutch situations.
The same can be said of an A’s team that won 56 games in the first half of the season, which matches the franchise record. That places them two games clear of the Texas Rangers in the American League West as they head to the All-Star Game break.
The last time the A’s were in sole possession of first place in the AL West was in 1990. Oh, and by the way, that’s the last time the A’s advanced to the World Series.
Sunday’s game is the kind of game people in these parts are accustomed to seeing. It might take awhile longer for others to realize that the A’s aren’t a one-year wonder.
Hence, when the A’s play top-tier teams such as the Reds, Cardinals, Pirates and Red Sox, as they did the past three weeks or so, they view it as an opportunity to open more eyes.
“When we get an opportunity to play a good team … we’re going out there trying to send a message that we are a really good team and that we’re for real,” Donaldson said.
Good teams find a way to win games. It’s what the A’s do so well, even when everything isn’t going their way, even against the team with the best record in the American League.
That was the case Sunday, with Red Sox rookie Brandon Workman holding the A’s hitless for six innings and outdueling A’s ace Bartolo Colon until the seventh.
Finally, the A’s broke through, with Donaldson hitting a ball as well as he can, by his estimation, for a game-tying home run that energized the A’s and the crowd.
His game-winning hit in the 11th sent the fans into a frenzy and the A’s into the break on a high.
“That’s huge,” Doolittle said. “One thing our guys do really well is making adjustments and giving us a chance to win the game later on. A walk-off is one thing but to win against a team like that that’s been playing so well, that’s big for us.”
It’s also more fodder for the A’s in making a case for inclusion in the conversation about legitimate World Series contenders.
“For us to be able to come out with a series win right there, especially with how well they were playing, says a lot about our team,” Donaldson said.
— Melvin sympathized with what Giants manager Bruce Bochy endured during Tim Lincecum’s no-hitter Saturday night.
Lincecum needed 148 pitches to complete his first no-hitter. That’s the most pitches thrown by a Giants pitcher in 35 years.
“You’d like to be able to enjoy that, but I’m sure Bruce Bochy wasn’t enjoying that with (Lincecum’s) pitch count where it was,” Melvin said. “Again, it’s very difficult to take a guy out of a no-hitter. … I don’t blame him what he did last night. You want to see a guy like him get a no-hitter.”
— The A’s are 107-64 since the 2012 All-Star Game break, far and away the best record in the majors. The Reds (103-69) and Braves (102-70) are next in line.
— David Ortiz entered Sunday’s game with a .130 career average (6 for 46) against Colon. That figure dropped to .122 after Ortiz went hitless in three at-bats vs. Colon.
— Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury arrived in Oakland as one of the game’s hottest hitters and riding a majors-best 19-game hitting streak. He went hitless the first two games of the three-game series but rebounded with three singles Sunday.
— A’s right fielder Josh Reddick struck out in all four of his plate appearances. That matched a career-high and snapped his streak of reaching base via hit or walk at 19 games.
— Melvin said his players need the four-day break that comes with the All-Star Game.
“Everybody is ready for a break,” Melvin said. “We’ve put a lot into this thing. We’ve been in (many) close games. … Everybody knows where the All-Star break is on the schedule.”
— Injured starting pitcher Brett Anderson might throw off a mound on the next road trip, Melvin said.
Once Anderson reaches the next step in his recovery from a right ankle sprain, Melvin will have a better grasp on Anderson’s time frame for a return.