For the second time this season, the Oakland Athletics have claimed walk-off wins in back-to-back games, cinching a 6-5, 12-inning victory Sunday on their seventh walk-off homer of the season.
Like they did in this series’ first two games, the Minnesota Twins sprinted to an early lead before trying to run out the 27-out clock. For the second-straight time, the game plan failed as the Twins (50-53) were sunk by the A’s (46-59) and walk-off hero Yonder Alonso.
Alonso said there is something better than collecting his club’s ninth walk-off hit of the season:
“It’s definitely something we don’t want to do. We want to have the lead a lot earlier.”
Jaycob Brugman, who boosted his average with a 3-for-5 performance with a run and an RBI, added:
“We just don’t give up. I guess that’s a testament to how we play and our attitude in the game.”
In an afternoon chocked full of Oakland heroes, perhaps none played a more significant role than Simon Castro. The wily vet entered the fray in a bases-loaded jam to face All-Star slugger Miguel Sano. After coaxing a pop-out from Minnesota’s home run leader, Castro continued his impressive work tossing 2-1/3 innings of one-hit relief.
Since his call-up, the former Rockies and White Sox reliever has been among Melvin’s best bullpen options, earning what is currently a 2.57 ERA and 0.86 WHIP. Castro gave the A’s exactly what they needed to come back — he shut the door on an offense attempting to pull away, and provided length to a bullpen forced to eat a total of 8-2/3 scoreless frames.
Manager Bob Melvin called Castro’s outing “huge”:
“He needed to hold it down. The game wasn’t going in the direction we wanted it to. When he comes in it’s the bases loaded, he’s got a pretty tough guy to get out and he gets him out. Then he kinda stalled the game out, where the momentum kinda came back to us. There were a lot of great bullpen performances, I don’t know that any were better than him.”
The 29-year-old journeyman was forced into early action by the continued struggles of Jharel Cotton (ND, 5-8, 5.49 ERA), making his return from the 10-day disabled list (blister).
Cotton was pulled with two down in the fourth — marking the shortest outing of his young career — after coughing up five hits and five runs to got with five strikeouts and a career-high five walks.
Cotton called it “great team” win, adding a tip of the cap to his bullpen buddies:
“They picked me up big time. … I didn’t do my job, but they came in and helped me out tremendously.”
Of his own performance, he added:
“It was just a bad day, in general. Overall, just a bad day. Command wasn’t there — there are things I can get better at.”
Minnesota, once again, got contributions throughout the lineup including Brian Dozier, who for the third-straight day reached base to open the game. In the previous two chances, though, the Twins were unable to create a run from his efforts.
This time he did so himself, crushing a leadoff home run (17) on Cotton’s second throw of the afternoon, but finished the day 1-for-6 with five strikeouts.
Eduardo Escobar piled on with a first-inning two-run blast (10) of his own. With single runs in the third and fourth, the Twins once again parlayed early knocks into a healthy lead, heading into the middle innings up 4-0.
The A’s deployed their chip-away attack, beginning with two runs in the bottom of the fourth before adding another on a solo homer (3) from Brugman in the fifth.
Less than 24 hours after a gargantuan eight-inning homer aiding a comeback win Saturday, Matt Chapman sent a frozen rope over the reach of a lunging Eddie Rosario in left, driving in two and tying the game, once again in the eighth. The double is the rookie’s first hit in 13 at-bats with a runner in scoring position and two outs.
As has become customary since his call-up in mid-June, Chapman added a cavalcade of astonishing defenses plays, which is why Melvin and the A’s have been happy to let the young slugger grow into his offense. That rearing has begun to bear fruit — Chapman is batting .250 (8-for-32) and slugging .704 over his past nine games.
Alonso said that he has been impressed with the rookie’s professionalism, calling him a guy who comes prepared and focused on improving every day:
“It’s fun to see a guy like that — a guy that has so much athleticism as well. He can play really good defense and he can run well, and he can hit obviously. Fun to watch.”
Chapman offered insight into that preparation addressing the at-bat, his first of the afternoon following the departure of crafty veteran Bartolo Colon (ND, 2-9, 7.70 ERA) — a completely different at-bat:
“I really just tried to bear down, and stay short. … My approach was, try to shorten up on the bat and I was not trying to do too much.”
That attack hit a snag after Chapman’s heroics.
In each of the next three innings — ninth, 10th and 11th — the A’s had their lead-off batter reach only to strand them, striking out five times in the span.
In the 12th, Alonso put the over-four hour marathon game to rest, hammering a one-out solo dinger (22) to right, giving the A’s a franchise-record seven walk-off homers on the season, making a winner out of the last man standing in the bullpen — Josh Smith (W, 1-0, 5.59 ERA).
Melvin, who got 2 innings out of Smith was worried about where he would go next with Daniel Coulombe, the final reliever, unavailable. He was also worried about where the offense would come from in extras:
“Usually, when it gets going like that into extra innings, there is some anxiety, everybody is trying to hit a homer, therefore you don’t see a lot of great at-bats. Everybody is trying to end it with one swing, and luckily that one swing came from us.”
Should his A’s tenure last beyond the 1 p.m. PT trade deadline, Sonny Gray (6-5, 3.43 ERA) will get the starting assignment in Game 1 of the Bay Bridge series Monday. He will be opposed by Matt Cain (3-9, 5.45 ERA).
The San Francisco Giants claimed a 3-1 season series victory over Oakland in 2016.
Manager Bob Melvin confirmed the A’s intention to activate utility man Chad Pinder (left hamstring) from the 10-day disabled list prior to Monday’s game against the Giants. … Melvin and the front office are weighing the option of activating Kendall Graveman (right shoulder) after the Opening Day starter’s most recent rehab start, a 4-2/3 inning effort in which he allowed four hits and one run. Melvin said that Graveman will be consulted before a decision is made.