A’s: Rally Possum delivers as Norris hits walk-off single in 10th to beat Balfour, Rays

Derek Norris gets the pie and Gatorade treatment after his walk-off hit. (Staff photo/D. Ross Cameron).

Derek Norris gets the pie and Gatorade treatment after his walk-off hit. (Staff photo/D. Ross Cameron).

The A’s might have found themselves their new mascot — the Rally Possum.

Oakland ended a night of frustration with runners in scoring position when Derek Norris singled with the bases loaded in the 10th inning off former A’s closer Grant Balfour to beat the Rays 3-2.

Norris’ hit — the A’s first breakthrough of the night after stranding the bases loaded three previous times — came shortly after a possum appeared in the corner of the outfield.

Whether it remains as a good luck charm or not is to be seen, but for one night the A’s were happy to have it around. The win allowed Oakland to stay one game against of the Los Angeles Angels in first place in the American League West.

“I thought it was a really large rat, which would fit perfectly with the ways things have kind of shaped up the last few years,” Norris said of the possum.

The possum isn’t new to the Coliseum, according to starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who threw seven strong innings in a no-decision.

“He’s been out before,” said Samardzija, who’s only been with the team for a month. “He was out when we were warming up before a few times. We’re going to have to give him a name or give him a jersey.”

The good vibes were back in the A’s clubhouse after losing four of the past six games. This was their eighth walk-off win and second in Samardzija’s six starts since being traded from the Chicago Cubs on July 5.

“It seems to be my M.O. since I’ve been here,” Samardzija said. “I go out and throw some innings and then watch these guys put on a show at the end of the game. Once of these times I’m going to be out there to rip a jersey myself, but it’s going to be a game I don’t pitch in.”

After spending the first six years of his career on losing teams in Chicago, Samardzija is clearly enjoying his time with the A’s.

“I love this team,” he said. “I love how they play. They don’t quit. Every at-bat means the world to each guy and you see that in the emotions and how the react to each at-bat.”

Monday could’ve easily served as more frustration for an Oakland team that’s been scuffling at the plate and left a season-high 18 men on base. But manager Bob Melvin remained confident even after the team started the game 0 for 5 with the bases load.

“I’m thinking if we keep getting in that position, we’re going to come through,” Melvin said.

Norris was frustrated with his first-inning bases-loaded at-bat when he popped up, so that added extra satisfaction to his game-winning hit.

“I was really irritated with myself that I couldn’t get a couple runs across when he was really struggling,” Norris said of Rays’ starter Alex Cobb, who walked the bases loaded in the first. “It was good that I could come up and finally get the game over with the plenty of opportunities that we had.”

* The 10th inning had plenty of weirdness with the possum roaming around, but the bottom of the inning started with the A’s fans in the right field bleachers “raging” when Balfour took the mound at his former home. It was a bit of an odd site with them paying tribute to a now-opposing player, but I suppose it’s not all that surprising.

Norris had his take on it that ranged from midly annoyed at the beginning before sounding like he understood and accepted it.

“Yeah, I saw that. I’m not really sure what that was,” Norris said of the right field fans. “Maybe they’ve been waiting the last five months to do that. I’m not sure. He was a fan favorite here. A raging closer that’s bulldogging it out there. He was a fan favorite. I can see why he’s going to be a favorite. I literally think they’ve been waiting for that for about four months. Fans are going to be fans. They’re going to get excited about strange things. They’re still supporting us, that’s the most important thing. You can’t fault them for showing appreciation for one of their favorite players of the last three years.”

* On that note, it’s late. I’m going home.

Jimmy Durkin

Jimmy Durkin is a sports writer for the Bay Area News Group.