On the night Coco Crisp earned the Catfish Hunter Award, the team’s table-setter delivered the decisive table-clearing shot.
“That was huge,” Sean Doolittle said of Crisp’s go-ahead two-run home run. “When it looked like they were maybe starting to take some of that momentum there in the eighth. For him to hit that home run took the wind out of their sails.”
The left-handed reliever, who nailed down the final four outs added: “He’s been such an integral part of our offense all season long. It’s no secret what he brings to the table. Obviously one of the big stories for him this year has been his power. Tonight’s just another case of him putting us on his back and getting us a win.”
The A’s improve to 90-63 (.588) as the club, which leads all of baseball in home runs since the All-Star Break, connected on three more long balls.
“You’ll take the home runs when you get them. It’s not like you’re going to back off the long ball to do something different. I feel like we can score in a number of different ways.” Melvin said when asked by a reporter if he thought his team was becoming home run dependent.
“Anytime you have that kind of offense behind you as a pitcher, it’s a lot easier to pitch” Dan Straily said. The right-hander went 5.2 innings and allowed three runs (two earned) on three hits while striking out six.
“Ultimately he comes out of the game, and we’re ahead, and that’s what you want out of your starter. So he pitched well,” Melvin said.
Straily would remain stuck on 10 wins, though, as the A’s would need to rally more than once on the night. In the sixth inning with no runners on and two outs, Callaspo stepped to the plate in the place of Eric Sogard. The switch-hitter swatted a home run to left field to pull the A’s even at 3-3.
“They’ve got one of the better relievers in the game in [Brian] Duensing.” Melvin said. “So, anytime you can get a pinch hit homer and it ties the game back up, it feels good.”
After a pair of singles from Coco Crisp and Josh Donaldson, Jed Lowrie gave the A’s a brief 6-3 advantage as the shortstop clubbed home run no. 13 beyond the wall in right center field. However, the bullpen coughed up the lead in the top of the eighth as Ryan Cook was unable to work a complete inning for a sixth straight outing.
“How do I feel about my bullpen?” Melvin asked rhetorically after the question had been posed to him by a reporter.
“We just won a game and I had some guys come up big. Obviously Cookie has not been as good as we normally see him, but I’m fine with my guys. There are going to be periods of struggle. Doolittle went through a period of struggle, he’s throwing the ball as well as he has. We’ll get it ironed out with Cook. I feel good.”
Doolittle ended up recording the final out in the eighth before the lineup rallied yet again in the bottom half of the frame. Daric Barton walked to lead off the inning, and then Crisp staked the A’s to an 8-6 lead as the centerfield sent home run no. 21 into the seats in the right field bleachers.
“I’ve just had one of those years. “I don’t know if it will ever happen again, but I am grateful. Hopefully it will,” Crisp said, with a big emphasis on the final word. “It is what it is right now. I’m grateful that I’m able to do it in a helpful fashion.”
Of the team’s ability to hit home runs up and down the lineup, Crisp added:
“We definitely have a lot of threats in our lineup, and it takes a lot of pressure off just one guy to be the power supplier.”
With first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m., Bartolo Colon (16-6, 2.73 ERA) takes the mound for Oakland in game two. The 40-year-old’s 16 wins are tied for third best in the AL, and his ERA is the second lowest in the league. The right-hander is 2-1 with a 2.13 ERA since returning from the DL, and he shutdown the Twins in his most recent outing. Colon went eight innings in Minnesota as he allowed no runs on seven hits while striking out seven.
The Twins meanwhile will call on Andrew Albers (2-3, 3.81 ERA) in game two. The rookie left-hander has never faced Oakland, and has failed to record a win in his last six starts after winning the first two outings of his career.
Notes: John Jaso took batting practice on the field before the game. According to John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group, the catcher could be headed to Arizona for at-bats in the instructional league as soon as next week. Jaso has been out since July 24 with a concussion, but it’s still possible that the catcher could land on the postseason roster.
Before the game Crisp was named the team’s Catfish Hunter Award winner. The award honors the A’s player who best exemplifies the on field play and off field conduct of the late Hall of Famer as voted on by teammates, coaches and staff:
“The award is very humbling,” Crisp said. “ I’m grateful that these guys feel the way they feel about me. It’s pretty cool. There’s a few people that are probably really deserving of that award, and for them to vote for me is a really good feeling.”