The A’s haven’t been celebrating as many walk-off wins this season as they did a couple years ago, but once in a while, the magic comes back in the Coliseum and it feels oh-so-good.
Tonight, it was Josh Donaldson providing the impetus with a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth, giving the A’s a 3-1 victory over the Tigers. They had just two hits up until the final inning, unable to put together any offense against Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez. But with one out, Coco Crisp doubled to left, knocking Sanchez out of the game. The closer Joe Nathan entered, but allowed a single to John Jaso, setting up runners at the corners for Donaldson, who promptly drilled the first pitch he saw into the left field seats.
The walk-off also gave some well-deserved justice to Scott Kazmir, who was in line for the loss despite allowing just one run in a full nine innings pitched. He made one mistake all night – a 3-2 slider to Torii Hunter in the fourth that was hit over the right-center field wall – and for a while, it seemed like he would be hard-luck loser.
This is the kind of game that has you scratching your head thinking to yourself, “How do the A’s do it?” When an opposing pitcher completely shuts you down for eight innings, you don’t just force him out of the game in the ninth, then knock around the current saves leader among active players like he’s Armando Benetiz. The A’s just did it, though, with their team of supposed misfits and cast-offs. At this point, there’s no need to question the “how” or the “why.” Just sit back and enjoy the show, because the A’s are inexplicably on the verge of taking three out of four games against the Tigers.
— This was déjà vu for the Tigers.
— Donaldson currently leads the All-Star Game A.L. fan voting amongst third baseman. You think tonight helped his cause?
— According to John Dickinson, the A’s are 6-5 this season when trailing after seven innings.
— A couple of key plays turned the tide in the A’s favor late.
The first was Miguel Cabrera being thrown out trying for second base after a hit off the left field wall in the ninth. It took replay to get the call correct, but the Tigers were denied a runner in scoring position and the A’s headed to the bottom of the ninth down by just the one run and not more.
If they had given up a run in the ninth, Sanchez may have had a longer leash. But even so, Alberto Callaspo worked a nine-pitched at-bat to lead off the inning against Sanchez. He grounded out to second, but got Sanchez’s pitch count up well over 100. So when Crisp followed that up with a double, it was enough for manager Brad Ausmus to pull the plug on his starter.
Enter Joe Nathan, and the rest is history.