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Inside Pitch: Looking back at a wild East Bay weekend

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Oakland Athletics Manager Bob Melvin (6) talks with NBC Sports California Analyst Dallas Braden following the game against the San Francisco Giants at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on July 22, 2018. Melvin was present with the Bay Bridge trophy after the Athletics won the season series against the Giants 4-2.

Two walk-off wins, one broken trophy and what immediately became known as #Chairgate. If you weren’t one of the 146,290 fans who were in attendance at the Oakland Coliseum over the weekend, you missed a lot.

After taking two of three from the Giants in San Francisco, the Athletics rebounded from a Friday night loss and blown leads Saturday and Sunday to take two of three in Oakland and claim the 2018 Battle of the Bay four games to two. And while the balance of the scoreboard tipped back and forth action on the field was equally wild, with little going according to anyone’s plan.

Even the presentation of “The Bridge,” a new trophy awarded to the victor of the regular season series, suffered an unforeseen mishap, according to Oakland manager Bob Melvin:

“With the trophy and all that’s going on — I think I broke it, actually, in the front there trying to pick it up. … It’s heavier than I thought (it would be), it’s got to be at least 50 pounds.

The A’s logo popping off of the solid steel trophy didn’t hamper the elation of the skipper, his team or what was left of the 44,374 who were there to see the series-deciding game as cheers continued to rain down on Melvin from the packed Oakland Coliseum. And while the 44,374 paid attendance at Sunday’s game amounted to a larger crowd than had attended any game in the East Bay over the entire first half (45 games) it was the smallest crowd of the weekend.

Attendance at Friday’s game (45,606) topped Sunday’s by just over 1,000 and Saturday’s attendance, 56,310, not only set an MLB-wide high for the season, it was the largest attendance ever to see a baseball game in Oakland.

Crowds watch as San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner (40) pitches as the San Francisco Giants face the Oakland Athletics at Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Saturday, July 21, 2018.

It was loud — really loud — and while Trevor Cahill, who started that game for the A’s, said he didn’t hear or see the crowd while he was on the mound, like always, he admitted that he certainly did feel its energy before the game and even more as he left the field for the final time in the sixth.

Catcher Jonathan Lucroy has played in 14 postseason games, none of which in front of a crowd as large as 50,000. The nine-year veteran had a blast, adding that he hopes to play in front of more such crowds as the A’s continue to hunt for a playoff berth.

Sean Manaea, Sunday’s starter, was at a loss for words when discussing the crowds for the entire series:

“It was a lot, a lot of fun. … I haven’t felt anything like that or been in anything like that since I’ve been up here. It was so much fun to be a part of.”

Melvin was in awe of the crowd as well. The skipper also noted how happy he was to bring the massive crowd a win, saying he likes to put on a good show when his club has a chance to play in front of large crowds at home. After all, Oakland is currently third-from-the-bottom in home attendance for the season with an average crowd of 17,903 — even after the huge weekend.

The victory didn’t come easy, though. Instead, it added yet another quirky twist to an exciting series.

With the window quickly closing on Stephen Piscotty‘s chances to keep the Giants from scoring a game-tying run in the ninth, the right fielder chased a double into the visitor’s bullpen. Just before he got to the ball, Piscotty found himself hip-to-leg with a folding chair being wielded by San Francisco reliever Mark Melancon.

Within minutes, twitter was overrun with #Chairgate mentions. GIFs of wrestlers hitting each other with chairs and memes from both sides of the Bay filled the twitterverse.

Adding to the intrigue of “Chairgate” was the fact that umpires could do nothing about the outcome — an errant throw from Piscotty preventing a potential play on the tying run — due to the fact that any ruling of interference requires intention, which was unprovable.

Said Melvin:

“To me, it impeded the play — it was significant in the play. The rule states, unless it’s intentional, in a scenario like that they can’t do anything about it. … You don’t know (if it’s intentional) unless he deliberately blocks you or throws the chair at you. He’s standing there with his back to the play — looks like he was hanging a clothesline. It certainly didn’t appear that it was intentional, but it did affect the play.”

Once the joking was done, Melvin proposed some possible fixes to prevent similar such occurrences. The skipper said the team should consider, in the offseason, extending the wood area in the bullpens — the platforms on which several but not all chairs are placed. That way, all chairs, equipment and, of course, players have a designated area where they are allowed, and that can be a “dead area” invoking a dead ball should a play infiltrate that area leading to a ground-rule double.

In the end, the strange play did not change the outcome, only delayed it — and added to its excitement.

Lucroy put Saturday’s game in Oakland’s win column with a walk-off single in the 11th. It was the A’s first hit with a runner in scoring position over the weekend — in 12 such at-bats. They didn’t get another hit in those run-scoring positions until the 10th inning Sunday. It was yet another walkoff, this time the first in Matt Chapman‘s career.

When all was said and done, Oakland recorded two hits in 20 at-bats with runners on second, third or both — both walk-off singles.

Melvin and Chapman each wore the wild statistic as a badge of honor, proof that even in the least-ideal of conditions their team continues to find ways to win close games.

Of course, another way to look at it would be to say that had the offense recorded four hits rather than two — producing a still lackluster .200 average — Cahill and Manaea would have been awarded wins for their outstanding efforts.

For the third time since June 10, Manaea held the opposition to two runs or fewer over six innings of work or more while not factoring into the decision. And for the fifth time in as many chances at home this season, Cahill lasted into the sixth inning or later without surrendering more than two runs, though he has claimed just one win in those games.

With the starters falling out of the decisions on a pair of late Giants rallies, the wins instead went to a pair of relievers, the second of which being Jeurys Familia (pronounced hey-OO-rees).

Familia (5-4, 2.74 ERA between the Mets and A’s) was acquired via trade over the weekend, bringing his impressive resume, which includes and All-Star appearance, five World Series innings and five postseason saves, to Oakland’s playoff race. His first day as a member of the A’s  included a cross-country flight, a late arrival at the Coliseum and finally two scoreless innings and a win.

Just another chance for a madhouse full of green and orange to go nuts. Really, in the end, the least-exciting thing to happen over the weekend at the Oakland Coliseum was Friday night’s fireworks show.

Fireworks burst in the air on ’80’s night after the San Francisco Giants beat the Oakland Athletics 5-1 at Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Friday, July 20, 2018.


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.

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