Mitch Moreland pinch-hit for the A’s in the ninth inning and did not disappoint, delivering a sharp ground ball that dove under the glove of Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario to give the A’s a 3-2 walk-off win, series sweep and eighth-straight victory Sunday afternoon.
An earlier defensive blunder opened a window in the bottom of the ninth when center fielder Victor Reyes lost a Matt Olson popup in the Oakland Coliseum sun. The ball dropped and a hustling Olson landed safely on second on what was ruled a double. Matt Chapman struck out before Moreland stepped to the plate and ended the game with a party, on what would be ruled a Candelario error.
Bob Melvin explained what went into his decision to pinch hit Moreland against a lefty and said he was confident Moreland could get the job done:
“He is a tough guy. He has been through it all. He has come up with big hits, we have seen him come up with so many big hits with us. He is a world champion, he is all of the above. … you know the moment is not too big for him.”
Bob Melvin was not surprised or disappointed by Olson who scored from second. Olson was almost picked off during the Moreland at-bat trying to stretch a big lead, but Melvin knows Olson always hustles and has played at the Coliseum enough to know how tough the sun is late in day games.
Melvin touched on the Moreland at bat:
“Little unorthodox, left-on-left, pinch hitter right there, but Mitch [Moreland] has been around a little bit and pretty smart in what he is looking for. I don’t think he was looking to do too much. Just try to shoot it the other way where there were some holes open.”
Tigers starter Matthew Boyd led the league in allowed home runs in 2020 but had not allowed any in three 2021 starts until a Sean Murphy solo blast 404 feet to center tied the game at 2-2 after the A’s (9-7) trailed 2-1 for the first time in the four-game series.
Bassitt spoke on how well Boyd pitched and was also very thankful for Murphy, who caught five scoreless innings for Bassitt and was the tying run:
“It is obviously nice to have a comeback win but I mean it’s hard to hold our offense down for nine innings and Boyd did a really dang good job of doing that it’s just Murphy kinda saved the day for me personally to say the least.”
Melvin explained how big of a hit Murphy had, and how it changed the momentum of the game:
“It was huge. The way the swings were getting off Boyd it felt like a grand slam at the time. We just weren’t doing a whole lot and you get a swing like that, which we haven’t seen the entire game … that was a big momentum shift in the game.”
Chris Bassitt escaped a bases-loaded first inning with eighteen pitches. It all started with a six-pitch walk to former teammate Robbie Grossman before Candelario singled to put on a pair of runners with no outs. Shortstop Willi Castro hit a bloop to center and Grossman froze, waiting to see if his former outfield buddy Ramon Laureano would make the catch. Laureano let the ball bounce, and Grossman was forced out at third.
Bassitt on his day:
“Just got through the first calmed the nerves and kinda just rolled from there a little bit… I was trying to pitch a little bit too much in the first and trying to hit spots instead of just going right at them.”
And Bassitt on the A’s season so far, including their early struggles:
“I think it was a mixture of everything. I think our starters were not good, and the teams we were facing were red hot. It is what it is but I think it’s more so we ran into a perfect storm the first week of the season.”
Bassitt struck out Castro to end the first then threw three straight strikeouts in the second. The first five innings all ended in strikeouts and he even gave himself a fist bump walking off the mound in the fourth inning. But the sixth inning looked different.
Bassitt entered the sixth inning with 75 pitches and got into a jam which looked similar to the first, but this time around Bassitt couldn’t escape scoreless. Two runs scored and the Tigers (6-10) had their first lead of the series. Bassitt finished the day with eight strikeouts, two walks, two earned runs and no decision in six full innings where he allowed five hits off 90 pitches.
Melvin thought Bassitt pitched great and explained his team’s comeback win and Bassitt’s start:
“It’s one pitch there. When it’s a 1-0 game and you give up a two-run single it feels like maybe you didn’t do enough, but he did. We just didn’t score enough and didn’t support him enough early on. Ends up only giving up two runs, keeping us in the game. Like we can do often at home, is we end up coming back and giving ourselves a chance. That’s what happened today. I thought he threw the ball well after the first inning. Was maybe not his best command but after that he was on it pretty good.”
Boyd pitched perfect for three innings after a leadoff walk to Mark Canha started the game before Canha was picked off at first to end the inning. In the fourth, Canha singled before Laureano raked a ball to straight center, bouncing it off the top part of the wall in center then rolling to the middle outfield. Laureano slid into third with an RBI triple and put a run on the board.
Boyd stood at 81 pitches after seven full innings and held the A’s bats to just two hits. Boyd pitched 1-2-3 innings aside for the fourth, where the A’s earned a run, and the first-inning walk to Canha.
The A’s entered the bottom of the eighth trailing for the first time in four games, but Murphy’s solo shot (1) to center would tie it 2-2. Murphy’s first homer of the season was Boyd’s first allowed homer of the season, and the A’s momentum came alive for the first time since the fourth inning.
DH Aramís García took a 79-mph slider to the arm, landing him on first. Tony Kemp hit a hard grounder down the first base line to put runners on the corners with one out, and Boyd was relieved with top of the order up. José Cisnero struck out Canha, who took five straight pitches before striking out swinging on the sixth. Laureano struck out to end the inning and the A’s left two runners stranded.
Lou Trivino pitched the ninth, giving up a single to Harold Castro who was already 3-for-3, having earlier driven in all the Tigers runs. Trivino (W, 1-0, 0.84 ERA) escaped the inning with two groundouts to Jed Lowrie and a strikeout.
The hustle of Olson — and a generous amount of questionable Detroit defense — set the table in the ninth for Moreland’s second walk-off of 2021. Moreland had the A’s only walk-off of the season, and he just did it again.
Monday’s game against the Minnesota Twins has been postponed due to the Twins dealing with Covid issues. A doubleheader is expected for Tuesday is not yet certain. Minnesota is waiting on testing results to decide what is next.
The A’s now lead the majors in runs scored in the seventh inning or later. … The A’s win their first four-game series sweep in Oakland since Sept. 2017 against the Astros.