The second half kicked off with a bang for the Oakland A’s, as All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson crushed a three-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth to turn a 4-2 deficit into a thrilling 5-4 win for the Green & Gold.
Jeff Samardzija took the hill for his third start as an Athletic and wasn’t at his best, allowing four runs over seven innings – but that was really due to two mistake pitches (more on those later).
With A’s fans raining down boos on O’s third baseman Manny Machado in the bottom of the first, Yoenis Cespedes cracked a two-out single to right but was stranded when Brandon Moss lined out to Machado (inspiring more boos).
Samardzija picked up a scoreless inning in the second, despite allowing singles to Chris Davis (who was caught stealing shortly afterwards) and J.J. Hardy before getting Machado to fly out, much to the joy of the crowd.
Samardzija began the fifth by hitting Hardy with a pitch. Machado followed with a single, putting two on with nobody out – but Caleb Joseph hit into a 6-4-3 double play. Samardzija wasn’t able to get out unscathed, though, as Jonathan Schoop lined a two-run homer to left to put the O’s in front 2-1.
Derek Norris, who hit a deep fly ball to center in his previous at-bat, smacked another line drive in the fifth – but this one cleared the wall in left field to tie the game at 2-2.
Things changed in the seventh: with one out, Hardy lined a single to center and Machado homered down the left field line, quickly giving Baltimore the lead back at 4-2 (and starting the “Manny Machado‘s Revenge’ narrative for the evening).
Tillman retired the first two A’s in the bottom of the seventh before being lifted in favor of Tommy Hunter, who struck out Norris to preserve the 4-2 lead.
Ryan Cook relieved Samardzija in the eighth and was greeted by a leadoff single from Nick Markakis. One out later, Cook drilled Adam Jones with a pitch for the A’s third HBP of the night, setting up another jam – but Cruz bounced into a 5-4-3 double play to quash the threat.
The A’s couldn’t turn that into momentum in their half of the eighth, as Hunter retired Parrino, Crisp and Jaso in order.
Back-t0-back singles from Cespedes (dribbler up the third base line) and Brandon Moss (broken bat bloop down the first base line) began the bottom of the ninth. Donaldson then stepped up and crushed the first pitch (a sinker, he’d say later) to left-center for a walk-off homer, sending the crowd of 27,232 into a frenzy (and flipping the script on that Machado narrative into something entirely different).
Donaldson’s postgame comments:
“It was a great game, wasn’t it?”
When asked if he thought it ironic that his homer flipped the script, considering what Machado had done earlier in the night:
“No, man. He had a really good game today. Fortunately enough, my teammates put me in the opportunity to come back and win the game, and that’s how it happened.”
When asked if the fans’ reception of Machado had any effect on the A’s mentality heading into the game:
“It’s a tough position for anybody to be in. It’s just one of those things, we’re out there trying to do what we need to do to win the game and not get caught up in that other extracurricular stuff. We try to play our style of baseball, and a lot of times that ends up with wins.”
On his approach against Britton:
“Honestly I’m just trying to get a pitch I can hit in the air because I’m not a burner by any means.”
Samardzija’s postgame comments:
On giving up the A’s 1-0 lead and the 2-2 tie:
“He (Schoop) hit a big homer on a 1-0 lead…I gave that back, and we tied the ballgame and I gave that back. So I’ve got some things I need to work on, dot these I’s and cross these T’s and I’ll be alright.”
On Donaldson’s heroics:
“You can tell as his career goes on that JD”s going to be the best in these situations, he loves those spots. Just for being here for two weeks, I can tell that. He gets these big eyes, he gets excited, he’s the guy you want up in that situation.”
“To see JD come up in the ninth you get this feeling of “really, could this happen?” and it did. Pretty terrific game all around.”
Zach Britton‘s postgame reaction:
It was definitely tough. I made some good pitches but guys got on. So…one pitch away from getting a double play ball and that game’s different but Donaldson put a good swing on the pitch and you just tip your cap to him.
We hope that they’re a team we’re facing later on in the season. They’re a quality baseball team that scraps for runs. They did a great job today coming off the (All-Star) break scoring some runs. Tillman did a great job on the mound just wasn’t able to wrap it up at the end unfortunately but we’ll get em tomorrow.
With the win, the A’s improved to a league-best 60-36 on the season.