OAKLAND COLISEUM — After a pitcher’s duel prevailed much of Tuesday night, The A’s pulled off some late-inning magic to defeat the Angels 2-1 and reduce their magic number to clinch the AL West crown down to six.
Both Sonny Gray and Garrett Richards allowed single runs in the first inning, but they settled in to keep their teams in the game.
Gray allowed a solo home run to Mike Trout that —much like Monday night’s bomb — sailed over the wall in center field.
Trout now has 25 homers, 30 stolen bases, and 100 walks. He is the first American League player ever to accomplish such a feat.
Gray said he welcomes the challenge of facing a hitter as good as Trout:
“It’s fun. He’s, in my mind, probably the best hitter in baseball. He can kinda make you change the way you face the hitter in front of him, just because you want to limit the times you face him. But it’s exciting to face him.”
Though historic, Trout’s home run wasn’t too costly, as the A’s quickly got the run back in the bottom of the first.
Coco Crisp led off with a walk, advanced to second on a groundout, and came home to score on a ground-rule double off the bat of Brandon Moss.
Both starting pitchers helped make sure the two lone runs would be the only offense either team could muster until the fateful bottom of the ninth.
Anaheim’s Garrett Richards tossed seven innings of seven-hit ball, walking two and striking out six on 100 pitches. Gray needed 98 pitches to get through six innings, walking one, and striking out five.
Oakland’s relievers were outstanding, shutting out Anaheim for three innings. Ryan Cook, Jerry Blevins, Sean Doolitte, and Grant Balfour combined to allow no runs and two hits.
Balfour (W, 1-3, 2.45 ERA) was credited with his first win of the season after striking out the side in the ninth.
All of this set the stage for the A’s eighth walk-off win of the year.
With Michael Kohn pitching, Alberto Callaspo led off the bottom of the ninth with a single to left, and was replaced by pinch-runner Jemile Weeks.
Weeks advanced to second on a fly ball from Stephen Vogt. Kohn (L, 1-3, 3.33 ERA) intentionally walked Jed Lowrie before Crisp battled to a ten-pitch walk to loading the bases. Kohn struck out Daric Barton to get the second out, and it looked grim for the struggling A’s offense.
But then came Josh Donaldson, who crushed a two-strike pitch into the gap in right-center field, allowing Weeks to easily score from third and giving Oakland the 2-1 victory.
The hero shot was Donaldson’s third hit of the game and third career walk-off hit. Manager Bob Melvin said he wasn’t surprised:
“We feel good about him up there any time in situations like that. Behind in the count, and still it looked like he was trying to drive one early and then, you know, with two strikes, shortened up and went the other way. And we’ve seen him do that all year.”
The A’s are 9-2 over their last 11 games. … Gray is 2-1 with a 1.26 ERA in five games at home compared to 1-2 with a 4.91 ERA in five games on the road. … Donaldson extended his on-base streak to 22 games, the longest streak by an A’s player over the last two years. … Sogard is 8-for-25 over his last ten games.