On a day that found the A’s sell potential ALDS playoff tickets very quickly (necessitating the removal of the tarps from the Coliseum’s third deck) and have their co-owner lament attendance woes in a new article written by a national sportswriter, the A’s capped off the emotional day with a 2-1 walk-off victory over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth against Angels reliever Michael Kohn, Josh Donaldson lined a game-winning single into right-center, breaking a 1-1 deadlock and putting Oakland one game closer to its second straight A.L. West Division title.
Rookie Sonny Gray put together a very strong showing, despite having some issues with his pitch count in the first few frames. Gray gave up a moonshot of a home run to Mike Trout – Trout’s second booming home run in as many days – in the first inning, but that would prove to be the only run the Angels tallied on the night.
Angels starter Garrett Richards walked Coco Crisp and gave up a two-out RBI double to Brandon Moss in the bottom of the first, but that was also the only run he’d allow on the night. Richards overmatched the A’s for many of his innings, mixing his pitches effectively and throwing in a devastating curve ball for a few key strikeouts. Richards finished with a line of 7 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K.
Gray, pushed back to Tuesday night after Jarrod Parker started Monday night’s 12-1 loss, was efficient as well, pitching his way out of a few minor jams en route to his final line of 6 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K.
Other than Josh Reddick’s highlight-reel-worthy diving catch of Mark Trumbo’s sinking liner in the top of the sixth (which prevented the Angels from rallying in the inning), the key to the victory for Oakland was the work of a few relievers.
After Ryan Cook entered in the seventh and recorded the first two outs, he pitched himself into a jam. J.B. Shuck singled and stole second before Cook hit Howie Kendrick. After making some dangerous inside pitches to Trout, Cook’s pitch graced the Angels’ star outfielder’s arm, loading the bases with two outs.
With the game maybe on the line, Jerry Blevins then came in to deal with Josh Hamilton – and struck him out on a 3-2 curve ball, again preserving the 1-1 tie.
Sean Doolittle and Grant Balfour navigated the eighth and ninth innings out of the A’s bullpen, while the combination of Richards, Buddy Boshers and Juan Gutierrez quashed a potential A’s rally in the bottom of the eighth.
In the bottom of the ninth, Michael Kohn was greeted by an Alberto Callaspo single. Jemile Weeks pinch-ran for Callaspo and advanced to second on Stephen Vogt’s fly to left, putting the winning run on second base with one out. After pinch-hitter Jed Lowrie was intentionally walked, Kohn walked Crisp after a lengthy at bat, loading the bases. With one out, Daric Barton struck out swinging, and Kohn worked into a two-strike count against Donaldson – but the A’s third baseman lined a high fastball into right-center to seal the dramatic walk-off win.
With the victory, Oakland’s magic number was reduced to six games (as the Rangers defeated the Rays earlier in the night). Also of note is the fact that the A’s (89-62) are now two games behind the Boston Red Sox for the American League’s top record – something that would affect seeding in the playoffs, should Oakland get there.
The A’s will look to get one game closer tomorrow, when A.J. Griffin (14-9, 3.81 ERA) takes on Jason Vargas (8-7, 4.20 ERA) at 12:35 p.m. PDT.