The Pittsburgh Pirates scored the winning run in their 4-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics Saturday night in the 10th inning. But the game took an ominous turn in the fifth with a peculiarity that only the Oakland Coliseum could provide.
Behind a two-run rally triggered by a lead-off single from catcher Erik Kratz — his fifth hit in 67 at-bats this season — and charged by a pair of singles just beyond the reach of third baseman Danny Valencia, Pittsburgh punched Oakland for their second loss in four extra-inning games this season.
But earlier, in a bid to break a 2-2 tie in the fifth, A’s right fielder Josh Reddick was robbed by Coliseum quirkiness.
Reddick had been quiet since returning from a six-week stint on the disabled list on Wednesday, producing a single hit in his first 12 at-bats over three games. Pirates pitching could not get him out on Saturday, however, as the three-hole hitter slugged his way to a 4-for-4 night with a walk and an RBI.
With two down and Jed Lowrie, who drove in the game’s first run with a sacrifice fly in the third, standing at first, Reddick smoked an 0-1 slider over the head of Pittsburgh right fielder Sean Rodriguez. As Rodriguez retreated Lowrie appeared primed to score easily. But, as the ball sailed into the base of the fence it wedged into the wooden base of the wall below the padding for a ground-rule double.
Reddick, who was still in awe after the game, tried to keep it light when talking about the hole in the wall, part of the apparatus that moves the fence line for Oakland Raiders games:
“There’s literally a three-inch gap to put a baseball in. I’ve never hit a hole-in-one before, even in golf, so I guess this is going to have to count. It just sucks.”
“It was very frustrating. It could have won the game.”
By rule, Lowrie and the go-ahead run were sent back to third. Valencia followed the bizarre play with a routine ground out stranding both runners.
Manger Bob Melvin was at a loss for words:
“I’ve never seen that happen. If it doesn’t, it’s a run.”
The score remained the same through the ninth, when closer Ryan Madson (3-2, 2.91 ERA) surrendered a single, stolen base and, a one-out intentional walk. After a pop-up from Rodriguez, Josh Harrison attempted to bunt for a hit, but put too much steam on it, creating a window for Valencia.
On a Chipper Jones-esque bare-handed, one-motion pick and throw he got the speedy Harrison by a half-step. The out call was confirmed after a nearly two-minute review.
The skipper said he wasn’t surprised by the career .284 hitter’s decision to lay the bunt:
“He’s a baseball player. He’s going to look to get that run in any way he can. The decision was whether to play back or not, because the potential was there for him to bunt. I’m glad he bunted it hard, because it gave Danny a chance to make a play and he made a great play. It’s do-or-die — he has to field it cleanly, he’s got to make a good throw.”
In relief of starter Rich Hill (ND, 8-3, 2.31 ERA), who allowed two runs over 6 strong innings in his return from the disabled list, John Axford (3-2, 5.06 ERA), Ryan Dull (2-2, 2.18 ERA) and Madson held the line until the 10th when Daniel Coulombe (L, 1-1, 4.76 ERA) coughed up the game-deciding deuce.
Hill was upset with himself, despite a start by which both Reddick and Melvin were impressed. The starter cited his immediately relinquishing a 2-0 lead in the fourth as the source of his annoyance:
“When we go out there and score two runs, you’ve got to have a shut-down inning. You’ve go to go out there and keep us ahead. That didn’t work tonight and that is one thing that doesn’t sit well with me.”
Making his second career start, Chad Kuhl (ND, 1-0, 4.09 ERA) gave the Pirates (40-41) all they could have asked for handing the bullpen a 2-2 tie in the seventh, and his bullpen was just better than that of the A’s (35-46). Juan Nicasio (W, 6-6, 5.40 ERA) was credited with the win after working a scoreless ninth, with Mark Melancon (0-1, 1.39 ERA) earning save No. 23.
Getting the ball Sunday, in an attempt to stave off a sweep with his second career win, will be Daniel Mengden (1-3, 2.81 ERA). He faces Francisco Liriano (4-8, 5.33 ERA), who is 0-5 in his past six starts and carries a 5.46 ERA in six career starts at the Coliseum.