Oakland Athletics

A’s strand 18, beat Rays (and former closer Balfour) in 10th

The A’s left 18 runners on base, loaded the bases four times, and went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position. But being the A’s, they walked off anyway on a Derek Norris RBI single in the bottom of the 10th inning to take a 3-2 win over the Rays.

They finished the job against Grant Balfour, who saved 64 games for the A’s from 2011-13. Oakland loaded the bases with one out on Balfour, but things looked grim after Brandon Moss struck out and Norris put himself in an 0-2 hole. Little did we know that the next pitch would be hit right back up the middle, past the diving shortstop, and into center field. Cue the celebration, the pie, the Gatorade shower, wrapping up what was a weird and wacky win for the A’s.

The A’s had opportunities to score all night but had trouble converting. They loaded the bases in the both the first and second innings and failed to score. They put continuous pressure on Rays’ starter Alex Cobb, putting at least one runner on base in each inning he pitched. Cobb threw 102 pitches in just 5.2 frames.

An interesting scenario unfolded in the bottom of the seventh. The A’s had runners on first and second with two out, but the Rays intentionally walked Johnny Gomes to load the bases. It was a risky move … that worked when Sam Fuld struck out to end the inning.

They did convert a few times, though. A two-out rally in the third inning tied the game up at 1-1 when Jed Lowrie knocked in Josh Reddick from first with a double that was inches from being a homer. They tied it up again at 2-2 in the sixth on a clutch two-out single by Josh Donaldson that knocked home a run.

Jeff Samardzija pitched well for the A’s, allowing two runs on five hits in seven innings. He gave up a solo blast to Evan Longoria in the second inning, and the other run came in on a two-out rally in the fifth.

Straight A’s

— C.B. Bucknor was behind the plate tonight. As is often the case, his strike zone was peanut-shaped.

— The A’s loaded the bases in the 10th thanks to a walk from Donaldson, but it shouldn’t have been a walk. Donaldson appeared to check his swing on a 2-2 pitch, but replays showed he clearly went around. Rays manager Joe Maddon was tossed after arguing the swing.

— A possum was seen running around near the tarp on the first base side of foul territory in the 10th inning, so naturally, it should be called the “Rally Possum.”

— The A’s have seven (count ‘em, seven) former Rays on their roster: Sam Fuld, Stephen Vogt, John Jaso, Scott Kazmir, Jason Hammel, Johnny Gomes, and Jesse Chavez, who pitched in the minors for the Rays but not in the majors. They also have seven former Red Sox.

— Samardzija has shown an alarmingly increased penchant for giving up home runs since coming to the A’s. After allowing just seven home runs total in 17 starts with the Cubs, he has given up six homers in six starts with the A’s. It could have to do with the location of his fastballs. 28% of his fastballs were classified as “high” in the zone during his time with the Cubs, as opposed to 40% since joining the A’s.

— How much do A’s fans love Balfour? Some of them actually did “The Rage” when he entered the game.

— After hitting lights-out when he was called up, Stephen Vogt has cooled down for the first time this season. He has no hits in his last 20 at-bats after going 0-for-3 tonight. He was pinch-hit for by Coco Crisp in the seventh inning, and is inching toward his career-high (low?) of 0-for-32 when he first appeared in the big leagues. He’s still hitting .321.

— The Angels beat the Dodgers earlier tonight, so the A’s remain a game ahead of L.A. and are still in sole possession of first place in the AL West.

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