Due to a perceived floating strike zone, frustration boiled over in the fourth inning for the Oakland Athletics.
But, a bit of fire proved to be exactly what the Green and Gold needed, serving as the prelude to a come-from-behind 8-7 win over the Toronto Blue Jays Friday night with late-inning heroics from the team’s sole All-Star representative.
Catcher Stephen Vogt said after the game:
“It was huge game for us, in a lot of ways. A lot of emotion tonight, and a lot of fire from our dugout. What a great way to kick off the second half.”
Starter Daniel Mengden (ND, 1-4, 5.54 ERA) came into the game having given up 10 runs in 10 innings spanning his final two starts of the first half, and he was worse Friday, giving up seven runs (six earned) in 3-1/3 innings pitched.
The Blue Jays (51-41) and starter Marcus Stroman (ND, 7-4, 5.15 ERA), who lasted just 4-2/3 innings allowing seven runs (six earned) of his own, rolled with the roaming zone a bit more calmly.
The two starting hurlers were forced to use 182 pitches through eight combined frames, seeking out the strike zone like a couple of “Pokémon Go” users looking for Charizard. They walked only four (three for Mengden), though, while striking out seven (five for Stroman) — averaging a combined 15.7 per nine innings coming in.
Of the 5-2/3 scoreless innings of work from his bullpen, the Oakland backstop had high praise:
“Bullpen versus bullpen, we feel pretty good with out bullpen.”
With Vogt on first, no outs and the A’s (39-51) trailing 7-3 in the fourth Marcus Semien took a half-swing on a 1-2 slider. Home plate umpire Mark Wegner ruled that Semien was unable to check his swing in time, calling him out rather than consulting first base umpire Mike Muchlinski. The slugging shortstop took a few seconds near the batter’s box to voice his displeasure over the decision.
The very next hitter, Yonder Alonso, had a 3-2 pitch called strike three — a pitch he viewed as both low and outside. He hung around to give Wegner some constructive criticism, but was ejected almost immediately. Manager Bob Melvin, who came out not only in defense of his hitters, but also Mengden — who looked to get an unfair shake on several close calls — was also given the thumb also.
Unable to discuss in detail the extent of his team’s gripes, Melvin injected a touch of levity:
“We just thought we were getting the short end on the low pitch. I just found out that I can’t argue balls and strikes.”
It was the first ejection of the season for both player and coach.
Closer Ryan Madson, who referred to the team’s comeback as “play when the cat’s away,” added:
“Our guys don’t get thrown out every day. So, obviously, something was going wrong and that kind of heightened everybody’s emotions, and woke everybody up from the break.”
Vogt was driven in on an RBI single from Jake Smolinski, triggering a furious comeback. One that happened in the blink of an eye.
Down 7-4, Josh Reddick singled following a Jed Lowrie called strikeout — one he was also frustrated about. Two pitches later, Khris Davis sent an opposite-field homer well over the wall in right-center. Vogt followed with a jack to center field, knotting the score at 7-7. It was the fourth time this season that A’s hitters combined for back-to-back homers.
As the All-Star catcher crossed the plate and arrived in the home dugout, emotions ran high again, this time in the form of passionate screams from the normally laid back veteran.
Reddick, who finished 2-for-2 with a homer and four runs scored, said:
“Just getting on four times is something unique. The you get the guys behind you to drive you in all four times — three times out of the four. KD and Vogt both had big nights as well. … Great night for the middle-of-the-lineup guys.”
The 3-4-5 hitters in the Oakland order — Reddick, Davis and Vogt — combined for a vociferous 8-for-10, with seven RBIs and seven runs. The five-hole hitting Vogt providing not just the game-tying shot, but the go-ahead run on an RBI single in the bottom of the seventh — and Wegner once again played a key role.
After Reddick was called out at home, following a fantastic throw Toronto center fielder Kevin Pillar, a nearly three-minute replay review proved Wegner’s decision on the close play to be incorrect.
Vogt, who said that his teammate and manager’s ejections were something that “kind of needed to happen,” spoke about the play:
“That’s one of the closest (reviewed plays) I’ve seen. I thought they got it right — as objectively as I can be. Talking with some of the Blue Jays, we couldn’t believe they overturned it, with how close it was. I would not have been surprised if they had said ‘inconclusive,’ but I definitely thought he was safe.”
The Jays were led by Devon Travis, who finished 2-for-3 with an RBI and run scored.