The Oakland Athletics would not waste another dominant start. Instead, Kendall Graveman was rewarded for the team’s first complete game of the season with a pair of homers in the ninth, including a walk-off job by rookie bomber Ryon Healy.
In clinching a winning record (6-3) in their first home stand of the second half, the A’s (44-54) claimed a 4-3 victory Saturday night, scoring three in the ninth.
The Tampa Bay Rays (38-59) limited the Oakland offense to one run through the first eight frames. Including the 1-0 13-inning affair Friday night, Rays pitching had allowed just two tallies in 21 innings, but suffered defeat at the end of each contest, with both wins coming via walk-off hits.
One of the A’s three stars, Graveman, who is now 5-0 in his last six outings, said that the late-inning fight displayed in the past 24 hours resembles the attitude in the dugout:
“To have two walkoffs, in back-to-back nights, that’s fun. There’s something fun happening in this clubhouse — a good atmosphere going right now.”
Manager Bob Melvin said his starter exemplified that fight:
“You just hang in there. Apropos the whole situation was Kendall — hung in there, gave us a complete game. … We got what he deserved, there at the end.”
After waiting until the 13th inning to get on the scoreboard one day earlier, the A’s wasted no time firing the game’s opening salvo.
Khris Davis, who appeared to have been struck out on a slider in the first, was given second life when home plate umpire Kerwin Danley ruled that the swing produced a foul tip that touched the dirt before the catcher’s mit. Davis lined the next pitch back up the middle driving in Jed Lowrie, who had singled earlier two batters prior.
Tampa starter Drew Smyly (ND, 2-11, 5.42 ERA) shut the door from there, lasting six innings.
Graveman was unable to get the shut-down inning, giving up an Oswaldo Arcia RBI single in the second. The Rays then claimed the lead in the fourth, and a lack of aggression was to blame.
With runners at second and third, and just one out, Brandon Guyer chopped a high-hopper toward Lowrie. As the second baseman rushed in, he corralled the ball with Steve Pearce, who is of average speed at best, half-way between third and home. After considering a play at the plate for a moment, he chose to get the out at first allowing the lead run to cross.
The Rays added insurance in the seventh, while the A’s had not been able to muster so much as a base runner since the fourth.
The Oakland starter said that he knew, if he could keep his offense within reach the fight would return:
“I just knew that if you keep your team in it, and give them a chance to strike with one swing of the bat, you’ll have a chance.”
In the ninth, that recent fight did return.
Facing the Rays All-Star closer Alex Colome (L, 1-3, 2.34 ERA), Davis drew a walk leading off. Then came what Melvin called “no-doubters and really loud sounds.”
First was a one-out jack by Jake Smolinski (6), who struck out facing Colome Thursday. The young slugger said that he wasn’t going to let a “pretty middle” fastball go for a first-pitch strike again:
“I saw him the other day and he grooved one, and I took it. After that, I saw his cutter-slider and that’s pretty nasty.”
The first-pitch homer, which landed in the left field barbecue terrace, tied the game coaxing some emotion from Graveman, who said he had an idea it was coming.
Healy, who followed a fly ball out from Marcus Semien, headed to the plate with what his skipper called “a fire in his eyes.”
After falling behind 0-2, the 24 year-old took a pair of Colome’s strikeout cutters to work the count full. Then he got a fastball, and sent into the seats in left-center.
He said the emotion of his first career walk-off homer took a minute to sink in:
“It really didn’t hit me until I rounded second, then I saw Wash (third base coach Ron Washington) going crazy at third base. It was awesome seeing the guys there, and how excited they were — seeing the bullpen sprinting down.”
Of the now nine games Healy has been a part of in the major leagues, his A’s have been victorious in six with three of those wins coming in walk-off fashion. He said:
“I don’t think there’s anything more fun than walk-off wins in baseball, so the fact that we’ve been able to have so many in my short career, it just makes winning that much more special — don’t forget, it’s nine days, guys.”
Melvin tried to explain his team’s successful start to the second half:
“With some younger players, you get some enthusiasm. We had a tough first half, we got beat down a little bit, and now you get a couple younger guys that are excited to be there and it rubs off.”
Jesse Hahn (2-4, 6.49 ERA) will make his return to the big leagues, getting his first major league start since June 8, in search of a third straight series victory. The Rays will counter with rookie Blake Snell (2-4, 3.11 ERA) who is coming off his best start, tossing six innings of scoreless one-hit ball at Colorado.