For the third-straight game Monday, the Athletics won in the most exciting fashion possible — a walk-off.
Once again, a home run ended things in Oakland, this one a solo bomb by Jed Lowrie. But, this one had to wait until the 11th inning.
After leaping out to an early 2-0 advantage on a homer of their, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (16-18) were shut down, as Oakland pitching produced 10 consecutive zeroes setting the offense up for more magic.
Of the three straight walk-offs, a feat the A’s (15-17) hadn’t accomplished since the first three days of June in 2004, Lowrie said:
“Minus some big postseason games, I think this is the most exciting stretch of baseball as I’ve been a part of.”
Manager Bob Melvin, who has skippered the green and gold since 2011 agreed, adding a moment of recollection:
“This certainly never gets old. We’ve had a number of them over the years here, especially a few years past.”
For the third time in 2017, starters Kendall Graveman and Ricky Nolasco squared off, with each having claimed a win while handing the other a loss in their home park. Both bested their previous performances, but neither did enough to factor into the outcome leaving the grudge match decision for another day.
Nolasco (ND, 2-2, 4.31 ERA) struck out at least one A’s hitter in each of his 7 innings, finishing with 10 — the most he has recorded since tallying 11 on Aug. 28, 2013. He held Oakland to five hits and two runs and finished without issuing a single free pass.
Graveman (ND, 2-2, 3.67 ERA) was dependent more on contact, striking out six. He also faced more trouble than Nolasco, surrendering seven hits, walking one and hitting another. But, after a two-run homer (1) off the bat of Luis Valbuena in the first, Graveman rode his stellar sinker-changeup combination to six straight zeroes.
The homer was a product of Valbuena getting what catcher Stephen Vogt called a “really good swing” on what “wasn’t that bad of a pitch.” That’s when Vogt, a two-time All-Star, did something he hadn’t previously done with Graveman — call for changeups.
Said the starter:
“The change of the game was when I was able to throw the changeup for strikes and get some early contact, some early outs.”
“We threw 20-plus changeups tonight, something we hadn’t done all year.”
Graveman settled in from there.
The Oakland offense got to Nolasco with the long ball as well, smashing a pair of solo home runs for their scoring applied to the Anaheim starter.
Lowrie (3) opened the home nine’s scoring in the fourth, blasting a first-pitch splitter just over the wall in right. One inning later, Trevor Plouffe (5) knotted things up 2-2 with his own solo shot on a 0-1 fastball. And knotted was where it stayed for the next five frames.
— Oakland Athletics ????????⚾️ (@Athletics) May 9, 2017
The Angels bullpen was tough, holding Oakland hitless through the 10th. But the A’s bullpen was able to get that one extra zero.
Despite a strong showing from the Anaheim group, Melvin said his pitchers were the difference:
“Our pitchers did an unbelievable job today, Kendall gives up the two-run homer (in the first) then nothing after that — bullpen, nothing. So, every inning that we came in the dugout, everybody had a good feeling about it and we finally finished it off.”
Valbuena, one of three Halos to post multi-hit performances (2-for-5), singled up the middle leading things off. Pinch-runner Jefry Marte replaced him, and was thrown between a rock and a hard place straight away.
Attempting to bunt his mate into scoring position, Danny Espinosa popped it straight up. As Hendriks gathered it with a little hop, he turned to fire on the first for a double play, but a mental mistake by Lowrie had left the base vacant. One batter later, Cameron Maybin slapped what appeared to be an inning-ending double play ball to short, but the sure-handed Adam Rosales had the ball carom off his arm and into his face.
Given another chance, “Rosey” smothered a grounder up the middle by Ben Revere on a dive, getting a force out at second.
The skipper was not surprised by the rebound:
“He sleeps with his glove — his glove comes with him — so, when you have one bad play that ends up being an error, it’s not like his confidence is shaken.”
Hendriks needed one more out, but got it on a routine fly out to medium-deep left field.
Graveman called Rosales’ resilient play the key to the extra-inning win:
“I’ll tell you, a big turning point right there was ‘Rosey.’ After he made that error, then he comes back and makes an outstanding play, and then Liam finds a way to get out of it — keep it tied — it’s huge.”
And the shortstop had the first chance to win the game, but he left it for his double-play partner, flying out to left himself.
Lowrie, on a 1-0 offering, got a pitch similar to the one had had yanked less than three hours earlier — a changeup inside — and he produced the same result.
— Oakland Athletics ????????⚾️ (@Athletics) May 9, 2017
Jharel Cotton (3-3, 4.64 ERA) looks to keep things rolling in the right direction, following a win in Minnesota the last time out, Tuesday. He will be opposed by Alex Meyer (0-1, 9.39 ERA), who has yet to get an out in the fifth inning of a start this season, looking to right his own ship.
With a strikeout in the first, Khris Davis has now struck out in 19 consecutive games tying the Oakland era Athletics record for non-pitchers. The mark was set twice, both in 2008 by Jack Cust. … Right-hander Daniel Mengden made his first minor league rehab start Monday, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks in 3-2/3 innings for Triple-A Nashville. He struck out six. … The back-to-back-to-back walk-off wins are a first since June 2004. So is the back-to-back walk-off wins ending on a home run. The hitters on June 1 and 2 that year were Bobby Kielty and current A’s bench coach Mark Kotsay. … Jed Lowrie recorded the fourth walk-off hit, and second walk-off home run, of his career.