The Oakland Athletics continue to scratch and claw.
Even in the face of nine losses over their past 11 contests, they battle. Finally, on Saturday, the slashing was enough to gouge the Detroit Tigers in walk-off fashion.
After trailing by as many as three in three separate instances, and down to their final strike in the bottom of the ninth, the A’s (13-17) put together their best rally of an otherwise quiet night for the offense. And in the end it was the veteran Adam Rosales who rewarded his team’s fight with a walk-off single, handing the Tigers (15-14) and closer Francisco Rodriguez a 6-5 loss.
This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the A’s clubhouse at the Oakland Coliseum.
Rosales, who finished 1-for-4 with Saturday night’s two biggest RBIs, called the win a relief, adding that he loved being pummeled by teammates after the walk-off single, saying “it’s what you always want to feel”:
“We come back tomorrow and we have a chance to win the series now, and just kind of get over a little hump. We’ve been scuffling a little bit, but it feels good to be together — to win together — as a team, because we all fought to the end.”
The night got off to a sour start for the A’s and pitcher Jesse Hahn (ND, 1-3, 3.03 ERA), who needed 34 throws to get out of the first frame. But, though he walked two around a two-out single, the righty escaped without allowing a run. In the second, things didn’t get any easier.
An error by third baseman Ryon Healy (2) followed a line-out by Tyler Collins on the second pitch of the inning. A high chopper off the tip of the 6-foot-4 hurler’s glove made it first and second with one out. Hahn was unable to snuff the rally this time. A triple by Andrew Romine opened the scoring, bringing both Jim Adduci and Jose Iglesias home. A Nicholas Castellanos single chased home Romine, and before Hahn could stop the bleeding there a second error by Healy (3) made things a bit more stressful.
Healy did what he could to make up for his two mistakes, which led to an unearned run, by launching a solo home run (5) on a 2-2 fastball off the plate inside and at the knees.
Manager Bob Melvin said the turnaround says a lot about the mental fortitude of the young slugger:
“That shows you some toughness, because it’s easy to just fold up tent after you make a couple errors, and back off just a little bit. He’s a fierce competitor, and he’s not going to let something like that bother him.”
Detroit added single runs in the fourth and fifth. But the A’s, or more particularly Yonder Alonso, countered both in impressive fashion.
In the fourth, Alonso, who leads all American Leaguers with a .440 average with runners in scoring position, didn’t need a runner on as he jumped all over a 2-2 fastball up and away launching a solo homer (7) into the bleachers in right-center. Two innings later, the Oakland clean-up man got a similar pitch in a 2-1 count, and he did the same thing, smoking a line-drive over the 362-foot marker in the same spot for a two-run job (8).
Hahn said the first baseman’s power emergence keeps him in awe:
“It’s unbelievable, that’s one of the hottest bats in baseball right now, in my opinion. … He’s doing a lot of big things for us.”
The support came long after the starter had departed. Hahn needed 101 pitches (61 strikes) to get through 3-2/3 innings, serving up six hits, four walks and four runs (three earned). But the bullpen had his back.
A quintet of five relievers — Daniel Coulombe, Liam Hendriks, Ryan Dull, Ryan Madson and Frankie Montas (W, 1-0, 6.48 ERA) — combined to toss 5-1/3 frames of one-run relief, striking out 10 while allowing just five base runners — three hits and two walks.
Said Melvin, who recorded win No. 475 as the manager in Oakland:
“What a night. A lot of contributions, man. We used just about every body we have tonight.”
In fact, including pinch-hitter Chad Pinder and back-up catcher Bruce Maxwell, Melvin and the A’s used 17 of the 21 available players to get back into the win column.
Maxwell, who got just one at-bat, may have made the greatest contribution.
With two outs and down 0-2, the 26-year-old rookie battled to an eight-pitch walk. After coming so close to a three-up, three-down frame, Rodriguez (L, 1-3, 6.35 ERA) would throw just three more pitches.
After falling behind 0-1 swinging through a first-pitch changeup, Matt Joyce connected on a second consecutive change lining a double down the right field line. But Maxwell’s lack of speed and a quick play by Detroit right fielder Adduci kept the tying run off the board.
Having watched the at-bat unfold, Rosales went to Vogt and Khris Davis for advice facing “K-Rod” for the first time:
“I was watching Joyce’s at-bat and I saw him swing through an off-speed pitch and I’m like, ‘if I swing through an offspeed so what,’ I know he’s going to give me fastball some time. … But I didn’t know it was going to be the first pitch.”
And it was the first pitch. a heater right down the middle was sent through the hole between the third baseman and shortstop by “Rosey.” As the speedy Joyce raced home with a head-first slide, the throw from left fielder Justin Upton was up the first base line just enough for Oakland to perhaps stem the tide of a recent rash of losses.
“That was fun, obviously fun. It was definitely needed. We’re just a bunch of guys who just don’t quit. We grind, and I think we’ve been doing that the past couple days now. It’s just nice to see and definitely a good team win.”
“At this point in time, that’s exactly what we needed. That’s how win streaks start, a great team win right there, everybody had each other’s back tonight. The team picked me up big time, and that’s what it’s all about — that’s why we’re a team.”
Sonny Gray (0-1, 6.00 ERA) looks for his first big league win since July 26, 2016. Getting it would give the A’s a series victory. Lefty Daniel Norris (2-2, 4.00 ERA), making his first career start against the A’s, will get the ball for the Tigers.
Sean Manaea (1-2, 5.18 ERA) threw a bullpen session prior to the game. He looked the best he has since suffering a shoulder strain on April 21 and finished feeling good, according to manager Bob Melvin. The next step in his recovery is yet to be determined. … Daniel Mengden (right foot) will make his first rehab start Monday for Triple-A Nashville, and is scheduled to throw 60 pitches. Chris Bassitt (Tommy John surgery) will make a rehab start for the Nashville Sounds Tuesday. He will throw 75 pitches. Neither right-handed starter has made an appearance this season. … Yonder Alonso posted the first multi-home run game of his eight-year career. He now has eight home runs, which is one shy of his career single-season high (9), which came in 2012 when he was a member of the San Diego Padres. With 1 inning of scoreless relief Frankie Montas earned his first major league win, it was the 19th game of his career.
Kalama Hines is SFBay’s sports director and Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.