The Oakland Athletics held off the Los Angeles Angels yet again Monday night to maintain their top spot in the American League West and hold onto the best record in the Majors.
The funny thing is that the two teams were not even playing each other but early on the A’s knew what they had to do. It just took them awhile and a late-inning appearance from the now famous Coliseum rally possum to get there.
The Angels jumped out to a four run lead over the Dodgers in the first inning against Zach Grienke at Dodger Stadium. Grienke settled down, giving up just one more run in the 6th. The Dodgers bats however were no match for Angel’s starter Garrett Richards who threw a complete game shutout, striking out nine batters.
All the while a gritty game was being played up north in Oakland between the Athletics and the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays struck first in the second inning on a solo home run by Evan Longoria off of A’s starter Jeff Samardzija who allowed just one more run in the fifth inning.
The problem was that they A’s couldn’t seem to score with runners in scoring position, leaving the bases loaded in the first and second innings against Rays’ starter Alex Cobb. The A’s managed to get a run back in the third to tie the game at a run apiece.
After Samardzija allowed an RBI single in the fifth to Desmond Jennings, the A’s had to come from behind again. They answered back scoring a run in the bottom of the sixth inning on an RBI single by Josh Donaldson that re-tied the game a 2-2.
Even after having thrown his 100th pitch in the sixth inning Samardzija pitched through the seventh allowing just two runs on five hits, walking one and striking out three. He induced 13-ground ball outs on the night. The A’s managed to load the bases again in the bottom of the seventh but were still unable to push the go-ahead run across, leaving Samardzija with a no-decision.
Luke Gregerson pitched in the eighth. Sean Doolittle got the A’s out of a somewhat crazy ninth inning with a great defensive play to keep a run from scoring. With runners at the corners and only one out, Brandon Guyer put down a bunt towards Doolittle who didn’t flinch but reacted seamlessly, flipping the ball to catcher Derek Norris to get the out at the plate. He struck out Kevin Kiermaier to end the inning. Ryan Cook got Oakland out of the tenth inning safely.
It was then that a possum, who, come to find out was known by many of the players, decided to make his Major league debut on the field. He was just hanging out there on the left field warning track when Derek Norris hit a walk-off single off of former Athletics teammate Grant Balfour to win the game for the Athletics.
Is he a rally possum? Maybe. Samardzija later told reporters,
“He’s been out here before when we’re warming up. We’re going to have to give him a name or a jersey. We’ll keep feeding him, and as long as he keeps giving us enough wins, we’ll be all right.”
Maybe it was the rally possum or the fact that they A’s were already aware of the Angels win and knew what they needed to do to maintain their status as baseball’s best team but they were able to pull off their eighth walk-off win of the season. Samardzija talked about the team’s ability to rally late in the game,
“Seems to be my M.O. since I’ve been here,” he said. “Go out and throw some innings and then watch these guys put on a show at the end of the game. I love this team, man. I love how they play, they don’t quit … It’s fun to watch, and as a pitcher, it makes you go out and battle every inning, because you understand that every run counts.”
Every run does count and whatever the reason for their seemingly consistent late-inning heroics at O.Co Coliseum, maybe the A’s should consider giving that little rally possum a name and a little jersey. You have to laugh, but it is true and it is something you would only ever see in Oakland.