BY RYAN LEONG
In the classic movie Bull Durham, catcher Crash Davis implores rookie phenom “Nuke” Laloosh to relax and have some fun out there because baseball is a fun game… Fun g-dammit!
Well the young A’s have certainly gotten back to their magical fun ways of winning games in their last-at bat. In fact, each of the past two games have been “walk-off” wins and none more dramatic than a game-ending two run homer from Ryon Healy as the Athletics come back to beat the Tigers, 8-6 on Sunday.
The win helped to cover up some subpar pitching by Sonny Gray, who was less than his usual dynamic self as he lasted only 4.2 innings giving up seven hits and four runs.
Although Ryan Dull has been a reliable set-up man, he wasn’t on Sunday as he allowed a two-run homer to Detroit catcher James McCann. If not for the heroics of Jed Lowrie and Healy in the 9th, McCann would have driven in the winning runs.
While the A’s didn’t lead on Saturday until the 9th inning, Sunday’s series finale was one in which Oakland blew leads of 2-1 and 4-1 respectively.
In the first month, it’s Yonder Alonso and with a first name like Yonder, he’s gone yard nine times tying his career high in homers. Alonso hit a two-run blast in the 4th inning giving him an American League leading five home runs this week.
Momentum is always important in baseball because of the daily nature of the sport. The A’s wins in consecutive games in which they trailed after the seventh inning ends a streak of 28-straight losses when they were behind in the 7th inning or later prior to this weekend.
After blowing the save on Saturday night, Francisco Rodriguez tried to forget his failures from the previous game but was unsuccessful. It began auspiciously for the A’s as Rajai Davis worked a lead-off walk to open the ninth. Lowrie then doubled to left-center scoring Davis.
Khris Davis then lined out before Healy ended it with a high fly ball just over the left-field out of town scoreboard. After he was greeted with the expected scrum at home plate, he received an even more exuberant celebration from a jubilant bench.
Healy then got the usual whipped cream pie to the face followed by a shower of water and gatorade but the finishing touch was especially memorable. He had a container of bubble gum poured over his head with the empty bucket serving as a crown and everyone from the fans, players, and media laughing at the moment.
One of those young players really savoring the experience was rookie reliever Bobby Wahl, pitching in only his third career game in the majors. In the joyful clubhouse afterwards, Wahl was asked what’s it like to be in one of those famous A’s celebrations?
“It’s better than you could ever think of,” Wahl replied. “Just the energy we have in the dugout, sitting in there the past few games I’ve been in, we’re always rooting for each other, always pulling for each other and it’s a pretty special team that we’ve got here.”
Healy seconded the sentiment, stating “We said it after (Saturday) night’s win, we just really, really enjoyed it. We feel like sometimes it’s tough to have fun in baseball when you’re losing. So having that big win yesterday really just made us all realize how fun it should be and can be, and to be able to repeat it today is special and we should be able to carry that (momentum) into the next series.”
I can see it now, Crash Davis would be patting Healy on the back for a job well done.
Ryan Leong is a San Francisco native and covers all Bay Area sports teams as a correspondent for ESPN radio and wire services. He is a former sports anchor for KCBS and has reported on over 3,600 live games since 1998.