Another game, another walk-off win for A’s

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.

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

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.”

He added:

“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.

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.”

After zeroes from Ryan Madson and Santiago CasillaLiam Hendriks (W, 1-0, 3.68 ERA) took over, tossing a perfect 10th. His reward was a shot at the 11th, which got off to a leery start.

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.

On deck

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.

Notes

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.


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.