After dropping Friday night’s game at the Coliseum to the Kansas City Royals, 4-2, it looked like more of the same for the Oakland Athletics. Since the start of the 2014 season, the A’s just had not been able to solve the Royals and their impressive mojo that carried them to two straight American League pennants and the 2015 World Series championship.
Yet after going 3-12 in their last 15 against K.C., Oakland rose from the dead on Saturday and Sunday to win close games and take its first home series of the 2016 regular season. Saturday’s hero was Sonny Gray, of course, while Sunday belonged to the whole team. With the two wins this weekend, the A’s improved their record to 6-7 this year and avoided a really ugly week at the Coliseum.
Friday night, starter Rich Hill struggled again, putting 12 men on base in only 4 1/3 innings. He was lucky to give up only three runs, but the A’s hitters couldn’t get enough going against Edison Volquez: Eight Oakland base runners produced just two runs. When Sean Doolittle gave up a solo home run in the top of the ninth to turn a one-run game into a two-run game, the wind fled the sails of a potential A’s comeback. That was the third time this year Doolittle has coughed up a ninth-inning HR, and it cost him his closer job (at least, temporarily).
Luckily for Oakland, it was Sonny Gray on the hill Saturday. The A’s No. 1 starter gave up one earned run in six innings, while striking out six batters. Meanwhile, homers from Josh Reddick and Stephen Vogt gave Oakland all the offense it would need, and the revamped bullpen was stellar: John Axford (1 2/3 innings), Doolittle (1/3 inning) and Ryan Madson (one inning and the save) closed out the Royals without a sound.
Today’s finale was even more special, as Kansas City took an early 2-0 lead off A’s starter Chris Bassitt by the third inning. Oakland scratched back with single runs in the fourth, seventh and eighth innings to take the lead—despite just four hits on the day for the A’s lineup. Billy Burns tripled to lead off the eighth inning, and one out later, Reddick drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly. Axford and Madson each pitched an inning at the end of the game, with the former getting the win and the latter getting another save.
This comeback win was huge, because it once again shows the A’s can win when Gray isn’t on the mound (i.e., #GrayandPray), and they can come back from early deficits even without a lot of offense. Bassitt still needs to prove he can win games, though, even if his seven innings today (five hits allowed, five strikeouts) were very strong. No one, however, is complaining with the end results.
As we discussed in our season predictions, we expect this Oakland club to compete for a wild-card spot. With a 3-7 record so far at home, the A’s need to pick it up there, obviously. The team stands one game out of first place in the American League West Division right now as it heads out on the road again: this time to New York, Toronto and Detroit for a 10-game trip.
Hopefully, Oakland can keep some momentum rolling here in April 2016, because the division is ripe for the picking right now.