Scrappy A’s rescue Dull with exciting finish

After a rare bullpen blunder by Ryan Dull, the Oakland Athletics once again showed late-inning scrappiness claiming a 3-2 win Sunday afternoon, and a 7-3 homestand out of the All-Star break.

While suffering his first blown save of the season, Dull was handed a win when Billy Butler, who finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs, sent a screaming liner just over the top of the wall in straight away center in the eighth for the go-ahead homer (3).

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

The designated hitter, who is hoping the big hit will allow his number to be called more in the near future, said:

“Winning is definitely contagious. When you come from behind, or make surges late, once you do that you have a confidence as a team.”

Making his first major league start since June 8, Jesse Hahn pitched 7-2/3 strong innings. But, departing with a 2-0 lead and a runner on first, the starter watched a game-tying homer fly out of the park carrying his win.

Rookie Blake Snell (ND, 2-4, 3.05 ERA) was on the other end of the emotional spectrum, seeing the homer as salvation from a hard-fought loss. In the end, though, the Tampa Bay Rays (38-60) and reliever Erasmo Ramirez (L, 7-8, 3.90 ERA) could not repeat their win in Thursday’s series opener, dropping three of four in Oakland.

Hahn (ND, 2-4, 5.53 ERA) said that, even after watching the tying homer leave the park, the confidence in the dugout didn’t waver:

“With the stuff that’s been happening, these last couple games, we were all really confident that we were going to win that game. We knew it was going to happen, so everyone stayed really positive.”

For the A’s, the story of the game early was defense. Lest a three-strike out second inning, the starter received stellar defensive support in each of the first five frames. In the first, it was the range of second baseman Jed Lowrie, who circled behind the second-base bag and made a strong throw to get Evan Longoria and end the inning.

The third came to an end when the young, offensive-minded third baseman Ryon Healy went deep behind the bag, then flashed a strong arm to get Tampa’s lead-off hitter Logan Forsythe. Hahn himself got involved, showing his quick hands to start an inning-ending double play in the fourth, then outrunning Steve Pearce to first putting the finishing touches on the latest gold-glove caliber diving play from first baseman Yonder Alonso.

Manager Bob Melvin discussed the difficulties that come with playing defense in one of the toughest parks in baseball — the Oakland Coliseum:

“This is a tough field to play, especially in the outfield in day games. … Smoli (Jake Smolinski) made some good plays, Danny (Valencia) actually made a good play, we made some good plays in the infield. When you have close games, (those plays have) an impact.”

Even in Hahn’s dominating second frame, the defense was on display.

Prior to the Oakland righty getting the 5-6-7 hitters in order, Corey Dickerson clobbered one right center. Smolinski sprinted deep into the gap and leapt high on the track. As the center fielder crashed into the wall near the 388 marker, the ball caromed off the top-half of the 15-foot-high wall landing Dickerson on second, where Hahn left him.

The starter, who was re-called before the game to fill the rotation spot left vacant in the absence of Rich Hill (9-3, 2.25 ERA), took full advantage of the defensive assistance. Matching a career high for innings pitched, Hahn said his rhythm and tempo put him in the most comfortable place he has been.

The skipper concurred:

“He was great. … He pitched similar to the way we saw him last year, when he was on a roll. Great outing. Too bad he didn’t get the win.”

On the strength of four consecutive one-out hits in the first, the Oakland offense put a two-spot on the board resulting in the only support for their starter. RBI hits from Khris Davis, who went 2-for-4 with a double, and Butler drove in Smolinski, who finished 2-for-3 with two doubles and a walk, and Valencia.

Smolinski made his defensive presence felt on Hahn’s final pitch of the afternoon. In full sprint, “Smol” lunged toward the wall in the left-center field gap, using every inch of his leather to deny the run-scoring extra-base hit. Along with his defense, the center fielder has been one of Oakland’s most productive in the box going 12-for-33 (.364) with three doubles, two home runs and six RBIs since All-Star break.

Bail-out specialist Dull (W, 4-2, 2.13 ERA) entered the action with two outs and his predecessor’s final runner in the eighth. After a pair of wild pitches, though, the normally reliable right-hander served up a game-tying home run to Forsythe, costing Hahn the win.

The starter was more surprised than frustrated:

“You never see that, he’s been awesome this year. That was the right decision, to go to him, he’s been perfect all year. That’s part of baseball — just one of those weird things that happen.”

The A’s will now take their show on the road, looking to keep the momentum on a nine-game trip. Over the next 11 days, the green and gold will visit the Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for three games apiece.


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.