A’s, Healy walk off again, capture series over the Tigers

May 8, 2017

MLB, Oakland Athletics

AP17128000751270

By Morris Phillips

OAKLAND–Plan A for the Oakland A’s while well conceived, fell by the wayside on Sunday, when spent, snakebitten starter Sonny Gray departed in the fifth inning.

Plan B had promise, but faltered when Ryan Dull couldn’t hold a 5-4 lead in the sixth inning and act as a bridge to the sweet side of the Oakland bullpen.

Plan C, while impropable and lacking originality, had the backing of 25 strong-willed players, and unlike Plan A and B, panned out, producing a wildly-satisfying result for the resurgent A’s.

Ryon Healy’s two-run homer capped a three-run ninth, and the A’s shocked closer Frankie Rodriguez and Tigers for the second, consecutive day, winning 8-6.  While Healy’s blast won it, the final strike was built on a combination of individual efforts, including the two, aforementioned failures that ultimately led to the dramatic, bottom of the ninth.

“It just seemed like it was a total team effort.  We can’t rely on one or two guys,” manager Bob Melvin said.  “You have to get contributions on all ends of it from us, and we did.”

Healy’s shot set off the A’s customary, celebratory hijinks replete with whipped cream, Gatorade and a bubble gum kicker.  More succinctly, the win gave the streaky A’s consecutive wins for the first time since April 22.  The wins allowed the A’s to escape the AL West cellar, now occupied by the slumping Rangers.  In fact, the entire American League has a topsy turvy look to it with the Rangers, Blue Jays and Royals all in last place, while the Yankees–thought to be rebuilding–possess the circuit’s best record at 20-9.

Gray made his second start of the season after rehabilitating his shoulder, and he looked fine structurally, firing mid 90’s fastballs, and displaying command of all his pitches.  But bad luck factored in Gray’s departure; Dixon Machado’s infield single, and first baseman Yonder Alonso’s fielding error on a chopper hit by Andrew Romine sparked the Tiger’s three-run rally that forced Gray from the game in the fifth.

Earlier, Nick Castellanos’ check swing resulted in an RBI double scoring Machado with the game’s first run.  But the A’s presumptive ace but up a zero in the fourth, and the A’s rallied to take a 4-1 lead. Overall, not a bad outing for Gray, who’s looking to rebound from a subpar 2016.   Gray allowed seven hits, four runs but only one of the four was earned.

Alonso homered in the fourth with a man aboard, his fifth home run in the last six games, adding to his home run total, already at a career-best nine despite the season only being 30 games old.

Khris Davis, Healy and Trevor Plouffe enjoyed two-hit games, with the slumping Plouffe lifting his average above .200 with the effort.  Santiago Casilla pitched the ninth and picked up the win.

Rodriguez, the iconic closer who ranks fourth all-time with 437 saves, appeared despondent after the game, in complete disregard of his accomplishments over a 16-year, big league career, and preoccupied with a really, tough weekend for himself and the Tigers.

“I just hope they don’t give up because I don’t want to be judged for the last 10 outings of my career for what I’ve done for 15 years,” K-Rod said.  “I’m confident that I’m going to bounce back.”

Kendall Graveman will get the start for the A’s on Monday night at the Coliseum, in the series opener against the Angels.  Graveman is trying to regain his season-beginning momentum that dissipated when he was shelved on April 15 with shoulder issues.  Frequent flyer, opposing pitcher Ricky Nolasco will make his 10th career start against the A’s for Anaheim.

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