The Derek Jeter flip is a play that every Athletics fan loves to hate: A player out of position to make a winning play in a huge game.
That was exactly the genesis of Friday night’s game-changing play, with Houston shortstop Carlos Correa leaving his position to make a huge play.
This time though, the out call was overturned and the result favored the A’s (73-49) setting the stage for a Matt Olson walkoff homer in the 10th to drop the Astros (74-48), 4-3, and pull Oakland to within one game of the AL West division lead.
This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the A’s clubhouse at the Oakland Coliseum.
In the ninth, with the lighting-quick Ramon Laureano pinch-running for Chad Pinder, who turned a pinch-hit appearance into a one-out walk, Nick Martini hammered a 97-mph heater from Houston closer Hector Rondon into the right field corner. Josh Reddick, well known in Oakland for his strong and accurate arm, dug it out and fired a rocket toward the cutoff man — for this play, the second baseman.
But second baseman Yuli Gurriel dove to the ground, as did secondary cutoff man and first baseman Tyler White, giving way to Correa and his shortstop’s arm.
Correa, responsible for second on the play, vacated his area, giving Martini second uncontested for a chance to get Laureano and keep the game tied. Correa’s throw, the second perfect whip of the play, was ruled to have gotten Laureano.
Manager Bob Melvin said:
“That’s instinct. You read the throw and kinda see where it is, he’s a pretty good instinctual player. He made a good throw, just a little bit late.”
After a review that took three minutes and six seconds, one Laureano adamantly requested, the call was overturned. And that was merely the surface of the play.
Gurriel and White were both out of ideal position, given the strength of Reddick’s arm. Also, it appeared that third baseman Alex Bregman forced Laureano to alter his angle rounding third, amplified by a momentary slip as the rookie headed home. At home, catcher Martín Maldonado looked to block the plate. And after crossing the plate, Laureano appeared to kick his leg out in an apparent attempt to jar the ball loose from Maldonado’s glove.
Melvin said his request for a replay review was all-encompassing:
“I wanted to hear about potential interference at third, blocking of the plate — I wanted to make sure I had all the information.”
As for Bregman, Melvin thought there was enough for an obstruction call, but was unable to challenge that part of play with it being a judgement call.
Laureano, however, said he blacked out and couldn’t say for sure that Bregman did in fact change his angle. And the slip, he said that was something that happens:
“That was my form, terrible form. It happens to me all the time.”
He did say he thought Maldonado was in fact blocking his access to the plate. But his slip, the perfect relay and even the catcher blocking the plate wasn’t enough to stop him from scoring. That was the reason for his immediate wave to the dugout:
“I beat the tag. He blocked the plate, but I knew I was safe. … I only had like this much [holds up carton of coconut water] (of the plate).”
Olson saw the same as his skipper and teammates: safe. And his 378-foot rocket (23) one inning later off lefty Tony Sipp (L, 2-1, 1.80 ERA), along with Martini’s ringing double into the same general area, erased a game that saw the Oakland offense once again unable to cash in.
following homers by Bregman (23) and Maldonado (6) in the fourth and fifth respectively, bobbles by Bregman and Correa — the second of which was ruled an error — set the A’s up with bases loaded and no outs, their second promising chance in as many innings. But the A’s could do nothing more than tie the score, getting runs on a double-play grounder from Jonathan Lucroy and an RBI single by Matt Chapman, who extended his on base streak to 30 games.
All told, Oakland got just two hits in 14 at-bats with runners in scoring position, letting starter Charlie Morton (ND, 12-3, 2.85 ERA) and four relievers off the hook.
The offense’s failing also wasted another strong outing by Edwin Jackson (ND, 4-2, 2.58 ERA) who battled through five innings of two-run ball despite being at a lack for his best stuff:
“I kept the game close but I feel like my cutter wasn’t as sharp as it has been and both home runs came off cutters that were badly executed. But at the end of the day, I wanted to just keep it close.”
Melvin commended his starter for doing exactly that:
“Five’s a little short, I would have liked one more, but once we took the lead we were going to put our best foot forward. But, again, like he has every single game since he’s been here, he kept us in the game.”
Blake Treinen (W, 6-2, 0.87 ERA) was credited with the win for a scoreless ninth after similar efforts by Shawn Kelley, Emilio Pagán and Fernando Rodney following Lou Trivino, who allowed his fourth run in six appearances since Aug. 8 — seven runs 45 outings prior.
Olson also took a moment following the game to address the crowd, an announced 23,535 that sounded like much more all night. The walk-off hero — his first walkoff homer as a big leaguer — said his club could feel the energy of the crowd. Leaving the box after the homer, he said, gave him a chance to really soak up the atmosphere:
“I was pretty sure I got it and I took a second to enjoy it.”
Trevor Cahill (4-2, 3.39 ERA), who has allowed five earned runs in seven starts in Oakland this season, will put his 0.99 home ERA on the line in a Saturday matinee against 2015 Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel (9-9, 3.43 ERA).
The A’s are hopeful that Matt Joyce (lower back) will be able to return to the field in September, according to manager Bob Melvin. Joyce has not played since July 4 and has received two epidural shots in his back. Melvin said Friday that Joyce has felt “really good” consecutive days since being placed on the 10-day disabled list for the second time this season. … Andrew Triggs (right triceps) threw off the mound this week for the first time since injuring his throwing arm in May. Like Joyce, Melvin is hopeful that Triggs will get back on the mound at some point this season. The issue though, is that the minor league season ends in early September. … The A’s will honor the 2002 20-consecutive win team in a pregame ceremony Saturday. Jermaine Dye, Scott Hatteberg, Tim Hudson, Billy Koch and Mark Mulder, among others, will be in attendance.
Kalama Hines is SFBay’s sports director and Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.