A’s save best for last in quirky extra-inning win

It wasn’t without late-inning quirkiness, but the Oakland Athletics clawed back from an early deficit Tuesday night for the fifth time in five second-half games to claim a 4-3 win over the Houston Astros in 10 innings.

The A’s (42-52) experienced a roller coaster of emotions, from staring down defeat, to the jubilation of a walk-off home run. From the realization that the home run was not, to a the celebration of a winning run coming on a hit that left the bat like a wet dish rag — a broken-bat infield single by Josh Reddick that scored Marcus Semien from second when a single to left field earlier could not.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the A’s clubhouse at the Oakland Coliseum.

Rookie Ryon Healy, who delivered a big two-run double in the seventh, told SFBay that you, in fact, cannot predict ball:

“I’ve been playing baseball my entire life, and I think I see something new every day [laughs]. I don’t put anything past anybody, but obviously I’m glad we ended up on top.”

A’s Manager Bob Melvin said the current mindset of his team is that “no matter, what we have a chance”:

“It was a really good game for us. … There was a lot of fight tonight, for sure. We get down, then battle back. We always knew we had a chance.”

Heading into the bottom of the seventh down 3-0, and facing the reigning American League CY Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel (ND, 6-9, 4.70 ERA), the A’s went back into the scrappy mode that has now netted them a 4-1 start to the second half.

A one-out single by Billy Butler was followed immediately by a Jake Smolinski double, chasing Keuchel from the game. Reliever Ken Giles (1-3, 4.19 ERA) was greeted by Healy, who sent the Houston reliever’s second pitch into right-center field for a double, scoring both runners.

In his first at-bat, Healy poked a single past shortstop Carlos Correa only to have the speedy Marcus Semien thrown out at home on a perfect toss from left fielder Colby Rasmus. Healy is now an incredible 5-for-6 (.833) with runners in scoring position, though Semien being cut down at home marked the second time in those attempts that he has lost an RBI at the plate.

The third baseman was stranded at third, though, as third base coach Ron Washington was unwilling to challenge Rasmus a second time on a Coco Crisp single.

The home team once again threatened, in the eighth, getting a pair on for pinch-hitter Josh Reddick, who was not in the starting lineup due to .067 batting average against the Astros starter. On a fly out down the left field line, Reddick was retired leaving the tying run in scoring position and Healy on deck.

In the ninth, the Astros (50-44) and manager A.J. Hinch went to closer Will Harris (1-1, 1.80 ERA).

With one down, Stephen Vogt, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh, engaged himself in an epic battle with his fellow All-Star and on the twelfth pitch, the Oakland backstop won — launching a double into the gap in right-center.

Said Melvin:

“That’s tenacious at-bat. Every swing, he’s got some conviction in what he’s doing. It doesn’t surprise you.”

Crisp did not wait as long, sending a drive into the right-field corner on the fifth pitch he saw.

Vogt scored easily, but as the ball caromed off the top of the eight-foot-tall wall, the stadium speakers blared the opening notes of Kool and The Gang’s “Celebration” — the signature sound of an Oakland victory. Crisp broke down into a trot, thinking it had cleared the fence as well, but was tagged out between second and third.

Crisp, who told SFBay that he did not hear the victory tune, said:

“I thought it was a home run, so I’m running around the bases like it’s a home run. Just bad base running. … When I realized it wasn’t (a home run) I was like, ‘uh oh. Backslash, exclamation point.’ Thankfully we won the game.”

Added Reddick:

“I was as far out as the grass, because I thought it went out. So, when I saw him stop, I was like, ‘what’s he doing, that’s a homer,’ then everybody in the dugout was yelling at him to go back. … It was definitely an interesting two-inning period.”

Though Harris did not suffer the loss, he was tagged with his first blown save in 10 attempts. The A’s are the only team to have gotten to the breakout reliever. Against the rest of the league, he is sporting a 0.72 ERA, but the Green and Gold have saddled him with a 19.3 in his three outings thus far.

The tandem of Liam Hendriks (0-2, 5.06 ERA) and Marc Rzepczynski (W, 1-0, 3.30 ERA) responded with a scoreless top of the tenth, setting up the heart of the Oakland order. And, after two quick outs, the “Swingin’ A’s” once again flashed two-out thunder, this time against former-Athletic Pat Neshek (L, 2-2, 2.73 ERA).

A Semien single was followed by a Yonder Alonso walk. Reddick, down 1-2 facing lefty specialist Tony Sipp (1-2, 4.91 ERA), took a half-cut on a slider off the plate away. A dribbler that rolled just past the third baseman Luis Valbuena  was fielded by Correa. The shortstop was unable to get Semien, who was sent from second by Washington.

Melvin likened the play to a basketball shot, saying his thoughts were “no, no, no, yeah”:

“At the time you’re thinking (it’s risky). But then, if you actually watch the play, (Correa’s) off balance, he’s got to throw on the run or in the air, like he did — he’s going to have to make a good throw, and he’s not going to have a whole lot on it.”

The walk-off hero, Reddick added:

“I have no idea how that worked out. That was something special — the baseball gods looking out for us, I guess.”

Rookie Dillon Overton (ND, 1-1, 8.40 ERA), who had been scheduled to start for Triple-A Nashville on Monday, performed admirably stepping into the spot left vacant by Sean Manaea (3-5, 5.13 ERA) who was forced into action on Sunday due to an injury to Rich Hill (9-3, 2.25 ERA).

Lasting a career-best 6-1/3 innings, Overton held Houston to three runs while scattering a career-high nine hits allowed. He also piled up a career-high six strikeouts while walking none.

Houston was paced by Jose Altuve, who collected four hits and finished a home run shy of the cycle.

The series wraps Wednesday afternoon with Oakland in search of a sweep; toeing the rubber will be Daniel Mengden (1-4, 5.54 ERA) — who lasted 4-2/3 innings allowing six runs in his only previous start against the Astros — and Doug Fister (9-6, 3.64 ERA), who is 3-4 with a 3.02 ERA in eight career starts at the Coliseum.


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.