As if they were worried they wouldn’t be able to make the Fourth of July fireworks show at Jack London Square, the Oakland Athletics and Chicago White Sox staged their own Tuesday at the Oakland Coliseum.
The A’s (36-48) also received a two-homer day from Yonder Alonso, the third multi-homer game of his career — all coming this year.
Manager Bob Melvin said he could see the 21-year-old infielder’s confidence grow with each passing pitch from fireballing reliever Tommy Kahnle (L, 0-3, 2.45 ERA). Of the overall production
“Obviously, home runs are something that we use when we win, and we hit some long balls today.”
Barreto added through team translator Juan Dorado that this was the first walk-off homer of his baseball career — including in Venezuela and the minors. He said:
“It’s always been a dream of mine to help the team win, and I finally got to realize that today.”
Daniel Gossett wasn’t able to repeat his performance of 10 days ago, when he held the White Sox (37-46) to two uneared runs over 6 innings, and following a blown save (4) from Santiago Casilla (W, 2-3, 4.02 ERA) he was unable to repeat the results — a win over James Shields.
After flying out to end the first, Alonso, who was without a homer since June 15, had gone 56 at-bats without adding to his career-high 17 dingers. And leading off the fourth, it seemed as if he had added another to that run.
Getting under a 3-1 fastball in on the hands, the newly minted All-Star lofted a fly ball well above the optimal launch angle — 46 degrees, to be exact — ticketed for the glove of Chicago right fielder Avisail Garcia.
But Garcia began to drift with the ball as the 106-mph exit velocity continued to charge it through the warm East Bay sky. Alas, a leaping attempt at the wall was not enough to reach the go-ahead big fly which banged off the fence fronting the right field BBQ Terrace.
Said the skipper:
“Pretty significant (dip) for him here recently. We really do rely on the middle of our order, and when we don’t hit in the middle of our order, everybody kinda feels it, so it’s good to get him back going.”
Alonso’s homer (18) was the A’s second in as many innings, backing up a two-run shot (11) from Matt Joyce, which answered a Cabrera two-run job (10).
It was a nearly-three week wait between home runs 17 and 18 for Alonso, but it was less than an hour before he clubbed No. 19. And once again it came in response to a Chicago homer. The White Sox pushed ahead on a three-run rocket (16) from first baseman Jose Abreu in the fifth.
The response began far more modestly. Khris Davis, known for his prowess as a power threat, took a weak swing at a first-pitch curveball, rolling a billiard short perfectly past a diving Shields. Abreu was able to field it coming in and to his right, but had no one to throw to at first. He scored on Alonso’s second homer of the game.
Melvin was pleased with his team’s ability to claw back each time the White Sox scored:
“To keep getting some hits, and adding on. In a game that went back and forth, it’s important not to get down every time they come back and take the lead or tie the game.”
Oakland responded to each Chicago score, thanks in large part to Alonso’s two-homer effort. The most pronounced answer, of course, was from the sky-scraping moonshot from Barreto, countering a game-tying RBI single from Cabrera in the top of the ninth.
Long before his magical moment, the rookie began his game with a strikeout on a fastball down the middle to begin the third. After the at-bat, Alonso pulled the young slugger aside for some pointers — or, as he called it, “a little talk.”
Alonso was impressed by how quickly the club’s No. 1 prospect made changes. In his very next at-bat, Barreto pulverized a cutter down and away the opposite way. It wasn’t enough for a two-run homer, but as it banged off the wall he flashed his speed, gliding into third for an RBI triple. Said Alonso:
“Trying yo give him a few pointers here and there. He’s special, man. He took it all in, he made an adjustment and you saw the potential that he has and the ability that he has to hit the baseball.”
Then, in the ninth, Barreto worked a 3-2 count. he saw three fastballs in the upper reaches of the 90’s to get there. And when Kahnle a fourth by him on the inside, Barreto ended the game with his second hit — locking his first career multi-hit game.
Gossett (ND, 1-3, 6.23 ERA), who was pulled after giving up nine hits and five runs in 5 frames, was in the clubhouse when his fellow rookie began the celebration. The win, he hopes, will trigger a turnaround:
“It’s (a) huge (win) for the team. Hopefully we can ride this momentum, help the morale a little bit, and catapult us into the next couple games.”
Looking to claim a series victory closing out their six-game home stand — their last of the first half — the A’s will send Sonny Gray (3-4, 4.09 ERA) to the mound against Mike Pelfrey (3-6, 4.13 ERA) Wednesday afternoon. Gray has put together his best back-to-back starts since early August of his Cy Young finals 2015 season, allowing two earned runs in 15 innings.