BY ANTHONY SOSA
In front of a crowd of 56,310, a new Oakland Coliseum record and the highest attended game in the Majors in 2018, Jonathan Lucroy hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th inning to give the Oakland Athletics a 4-3 victory over the San Francisco Giants in the second game of the final half of the Bay Bridge Series Saturday night in Oakland.
Lucroy, who entered the game in the top of the 10th inning as a defensive replacement, delivered the game-winning hit in his lone at-bat of the night. Will Smith took the mound for the Giants in the 11th, recording the first two outs of the inning with no trouble. Matt Chapman followed the two quick outs with a seeing-eye single up the middle. Chad Pinder followed with a single of his own, which set the stage for Lucroy’s heroics.
The 32-year-old backstop shot the ball into the right-center gap to send the A’s home with their 10th victory of the month. “Guys had good at-bats in front of me and I was able to get a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it,” Lucroy said about his walk-off knock. “Obviously, not the prototypical off day, but I’ll take it… It was pretty intense, obviously. Big series, you know kind of been grinding along myself personally, so to get a big hit like that to break the ice, it felt pretty good. Especially since we won.”
A rather lackluster game turned dramatic quickly in the top of the ninth inning. With the A’s holding a slim 3-2 lead, Blake Treinen looked to lock down the game, but chaos erupted with two outs and two strikes. A 1-2 slider in the dirt was swung at and missed by Alen Hanson, but the ball scampered away from catcher Josh Phegley and Hanson reached first on the wild pitch. Hunter Pence followed by lacing a ball down the first base line that ended up at the Giants’ bullpen. As Stephen Piscotty went to reach for the ball, he ran into a chair that was picked up by Mark Melancon. The incidental contact hindered Piscotty’s attempt to make a good throw home, which allowed Hanson to score the run and tie it.
Piscotty was clearly upset with what happened, along with A’s manager Bob Melvin, who came out of the dugout to discuss with the umpires what exactly happened. The play was reviewed but it was ruled unintentional, therefore, the ball was ruled in play. “I guess the rule is, it has to be intentional,” Melvin said about the strange play in the top of the ninth. “As far as moving the chair, if it gets lodge in the wooden area, then it is dead but anything else is playable. It’s always been a little bit sketchy down there with the chairs being there and guys sitting outside of that area, and so forth. So, I was looking for some sort of interference and the rule is, it must be intentional.”
After getting out of the top of ninth with the game tied, the A’s had a prime opportunity to win the game in the bottom of the ninth but failed to do so. Tony Watson started the inning by allowing back-to-back singles. Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy brought in Reyes Moronta, and after a sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk loaded the bases with one out, he promptly got Marcus Semien to ground into a 6-4-3, inning-ending double play. At the time, it looked like Moronta’s magic act might be enough to help the Giants win. “What a great job he has done,” Bochy said. “I brought him in some tough situations and he finds a way to get out of it… He’s just done a terrific job.”
Despite the eventful end to the game, the beginning started out as a pitcher’s duel. The first three innings, Athletics’ pitcher Trevor Cahill rolled against the Giants’ offense. He faced the minimum and allowed just one base runner on a walk, which was erased by a double play. However, the Giants finally got their first hit in the top of the fourth inning when Brandon Belt unloaded on a 2-0 cutter for a solo home run. The 353-foot shot was Belt’s 14th home run of the season, and his first since June 28 against the Colorado Rockies.
Besides for the home run allowed, Cahill managed to keep the Giants off the board. He ran into more trouble in the top of the fifth inning. After allowing a leadoff single to Pence, Cahill struck out back-to-back batters, but followed that with back-to-back walks. Melvin pulled the starter and put in reliever Ryan Buchter. The left-handed reliever got out of the jam by striking out Brandon Crawford. Cahill finished with 5.2 innings pitched, allowing one earned run on two hits and three walks. He only struck out one batter in his outing.
Like the Giants, the A’s struggled to get anything going on offense. Giants’ ace Madison Bumgarner was in full control through the first four innings. In that span, he allowed just one hit and one walk, however, the wheels fell off for him in the fifth frame. Matt Olson led off the inning by drawing a walk against the left-hander. Chapman followed with a single and Pinder drew a walk. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Bumgarner walked in back-to-back runs.
With 26 pitches in the fifth alone, Bumgarner was chased following the second run he walked in. The A’s scored another run in the fifth when Mark Canha hit into a 6-4-3 double play. An inability to keep the ball in the strike zone led to a short outing for the starter. He finished with four innings of work, allowing three earned runs on two hits and six walks. He did manage to punch out five batters.
With the lefty not making it out of the fifth, it ended an 89-game streak in which he pitched at least five innings in a start. It was the longest active streak in the league. “First four innings (I) was cruising pretty much and then in the fifth just couldn’t find the zone,” Bumgarner said. “I was trying to throw strikes. I wasn’t trying to pinch the corners. Just one of those times where I can’t do it I guess…Weird situation, just kind of lose your feel right there for a minute and let the inning get away from you.”
In the top of the seventh inning, the Giants plated a run when Hunter Pence drove home Buster Posey with an RBI single up the middle. The hit also sent Alen Hanson to third and set up first and third with one out. Lou Trivino entered out of the pen, struck out Gorkys Hernandez and got Steven Duggar to ground out to end the inning, escaping with a one-run lead. Pence finished the game going 3-for-5 with a double, two singles and two RBI.
The series concludes Sunday as the two Bay Area teams battle it out one last time. The A’s send out their ace Sean Manaea (9-6, 3.42), who threw six innings against the Giants last Sunday in San Francisco, earning both the win and the quality start. As for the Giants, they turn the ball over to right-hander Johnny Cueto (3-1, 2.36). The rubber match is set for 1:05 p.m. at the Oakland Coliseum as the Battle of the Bay trophy is up for grabs.
On Saturday, the Athletics acquired reliever Jeurys Familia from the New York Mets in exchange for two minor leaguers, infielder Will Toffey and pitcher Bobby Wahl. The A’s also sent $1 million in international slot pool money to New York. Spending his entire career with the Mets, Familia owns a 2.66 ERA along with 123 career saves in seven seasons. In 2016, the right-hander led all of baseball in saves with 51. Over the past season and a half, he’s dealt with multiple injuries and a 15-game suspension for a domestic violence charge.
The 28-year-old joins an already stellar core of relievers that possess the eighth-lowest bullpen ERA in baseball at 3.52, as of Friday. Melvin mentioned that it allows the club to not roll out relievers like Treinen and Trivino multiple days in a row. The addition makes the bullpen both deeper and more durable.
As for the Giants, before the game, Belt was reinstated from the paternity list after missing Friday night’s game due to the birth of his son. In a corresponding move, Ryder Jones was optioned back to triple-A Sacramento. Jones played a pivotal role in the Giants 5-1 win on Friday night, as he hit a go-ahead home run in the top of the fifth inning.
Evan Longoria is currently rehabbing in triple-A Sacramento as he continues to recover from a fractured left hand that he suffered in June. In his first rehab game on Friday, Longoria went 2-for-3 with a double, RBI and run scored. “Nice start for him. Swung the bat well, five innings, all went well. He felt great,” Bochy said about Longoria’s first rehab game. “He’ll get extended to seven innings today (Saturday). If he feels fine after the game tonight, he’ll do nine (innings tomorrow).
Before Saturday’s game, the Athletics honored the 1989 World Series champion club. Members of the 1989 A’s, including players such as Dennis Eckersley, Jose Canseco and Rickey Henderson were announced and presented. Oakland swept San Francisco in the ’89 World Series, which is well known for being interrupted by the Loma Prieta earthquake. Due to the earthquake, the A’s never received a parade after taking home the title. This ceremony was supposed to act as their “parade.”