Sometimes, all it takes is a change of scenery. For the A’s, they got just what they hoped for in a return home Thursday after their most recent road trip concluded with a three-game sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers.
It helps, of course, that the A’s played in front of 32,913 adoring fans and had ace Sonny Gray at the ready to outduel Toronto Blue Jays knuckler R.A. Dickey. In the end, the A’s prevailed 4-1 at the Coliseum.
“We were a little tired at the end of another long road trip,” A’s closer Sean Doolittle said. “Coming home and seeing the place packed out, that was really kind of a shot in the arm for us. That was the boost that we needed.”
The A’s don’t care how they beat the Blue Jays, just as long as they got back in a winning mode and erased the bad taste from losing three straight in Detroit earlier this week.
That’s precisely what the A’s did in the first of four games between first-place teams in the American League on Thursday night.
Most of the scoring came in the second inning, and Gray and the A’s bullpen made the two runs they received that inning hold up. In turn, that left the fans in a festive mood as the postgame fireworks rolled around.
Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt credited Gray for keeping his composure early in the game, when there was the potential for disaster.
“Sonny doesn’t let anything get to him,” Vogt said. “With Sonny, there’s no such thing as pressure, there’s no such thing as a memory. He doesn’t remember yesterday or he doesn’t the last inning. He comes out and gives you the best he’s got every time.”
The turning point came in the second inning, when Gray induced Anthony Gose to hit a ground ball to first baseman Nate Freiman, with the bases loaded and one out.
Freiman tried to tag Munenori Kawasaki as he ran from first to second. First-base umpire Vic Carapazza signaled that Freiman missedKawasaki. Freiman then fired to Vogt for a force out at home.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons challenged the ruling on Freiman’s attempted tag of Kawasaki, knowing that if the call got overturned, Edwin Encarnacion would be safe at home because the force play no longer was in effect and Vogt didn’t tag Encarnacion.
The umpires huddled, reviewed the play and sided with Gibbons. That gave the Blue Jays a run and the A’s another out.
As a result, A’s manager Bob Melvin informed the umpires that he wanted the game played under protest on the grounds that Carapazza’s safe call “affected what (Vogt) did at home.”
Melvin said he was told afterward that anything that has to do with replay can’t be protested.
“We completely understand the dynamics of this because we made a call on the field that directly affected the play at the plate,” crew chief Bill Miller said. “That’s what I explained to Bob. I explained to Gibbons, too, that when we went to replay, that’s what we’re going to try to solve.
“Replay’s a new dimension to this game and there’s going to be quirks and funny plays like this that happen. Unfortunately it happened to us.
Gray waited for the umpires to sort out the confusion, then he got out of the inning with a grounder to short.
“I knew the inning had the potential to escalate very quickly,” Gray said, “so it was very important to get that guy out and move on.”
The protest became moot with the A’s victory, but it was a hot topic in the A’s locker room.
“You can’t change the way you’ve played baseball your whole life,” Vogt said. “That’s the tough part with replay now. I wouldn’t do anything different on the play than I did because the umpire didn’t signal that he tagged him. So, I have to assume that he missed the tag and get the force out at home.”
Gray lasted seven innings and picked up his eighth victory. Rediscovering his curveball made all the difference, Melvin said. Vogt and Gray agreed.
“That was the idea, to really get that going again,” Gray said. “The last six starts it was OK, but it hasn’t a big factor for us. … I was able to find that again.”
Just as the A’s were able to find the win column once again, which has become quite common this season. The A’s improved to 25-15 at home, the second-best mark in the majors.
— The A’s went back-to-back games without a walk for the first time since July 7-8, 2008, when they did so Tuesday and Wednesday.
Moreover, they walked only once during the four games before Thursday. That is the fewest number of walks in a four-game span in Oaklandhistory.
On Thursday, the A’s managed three walks off Dickey, two by Brandon Moss.