By Charlie O. Mallonee
“That’s American League baseball. A lead is never safe because they’re used to coming back and having big innings because the offensive clubs hit the ball out of the ballpark. We didn’t walk guys to get to that situation, they hit us,” opined Nationals manager Dusty Baker after the game.
I have the greatest of respect for Dusty Baker who I have covered as a manager since he was the skipper of the San Francisco Giants, but I have to disagree with him on his analysis of the game in Oakland on Sunday.
What the Nationals saw as they escaped with an 11-10 win in the third and final game of this interleague series match up was not American League baseball, it was Oakland Athletics’ baseball at home on Rickey Henderson Field. This 2017 A’s team loves to play at home in Oakland. At home they are tenacious, fierce and tough to beat which is why they are 16-12 in Oakland (on the road they are a different team, 8-20).
The second thing that Dusty Baker saw was a Nationals team that is now 35-20 on the season that had an 11-4 lead going into the bottom of the ninth inning against the last place team in the American League West lose its focus as they were looking ahead to a series with the Dodgers that begins in L.A. on Monday. Not to take anything away from the A’s, but that comeback should have never happened.
This was really a tale of two different games:
The Pitching Duel
Both starting pitchers were strong in this game. Which may surprise you when you look at the score.
Sonny Gray worked seven strong innings. He finished giving up three runs (all earned) on four hits. He walked three while striking out six National hitters. Gray threw 103 pitches (63 strikes). Sonny Gray wound up with a no-decision despite the fact that he pitched well enough to get a win.
Washington starter Tanner Roark looked like he might wind up with a “CG” (complete game) with the way he was pitching. Roark was strong through seven innings but ran into trouble in the eighth. He finished going 7.2 innings giving up 4 runs (all earned) on five hits. He walked just one and struck out four A’s. Roark also pitched well enough to win but his bullpen really let him down, but he still wound up with his sixth win of the season.
Sonny Gray left the game with score tied 3-3 after seven complete innings.
Tanner Roark exited the game with two out in the bottom of the eighth with a 6-4 lead.
The relief pitching was a little scary
The A’s brought in Ryan Madson for the top of the eighth inning. Madson gave up three runs on just two hits including a three-run home run to Ryan Zimmerman (16). After the Zimmerman round-tripper, Madson induced Daniel Murphy to ground out. He was then replaced by Frankie Montas who caused Anthony Rendon to pop out to end the inning. Madson would take the loss in the game.
The 100+ mph throwing Montas came back for the ninth inning and got shelled by the Nats. Montas gave up five runs (all earned) on five hits including back-to-back home runs to Matt Wieters and Michael Taylor. Josh Smith had to be brought in to close out the ninth for Montas.
Koda Glover who was able to get Tanner Roark out of a jam in the bottom of the eighth inning returned in the bottom of the ninth. Glover gave up five runs (all earned) on four hits. Shawn Kelley was brought to replace Glover and he gave up a grand slam home run to Matt Joyce while also earning his fourth save of the season.
Yes, it was a weird game.
Stars on offense
Both teams had stars on offense. The A’s scored 10 runs on 10 hits while leaving two runners on base. The Nationals scored 11 runs on 11 hits leaving four runners on base. There were a total of five home runs hit in the game. There were also three doubles and one triple hit in the contest.
The Nationals were led on offense by designated hitter Ryan Zimmerman who went 3-for-5 on Sunday with three RBI and scoring two runs to go with his 16th home run of the season.
Washington shortstop Trea Turner had a 2-for-4 day with two runs scored and two RBI. Turner hit his third triple of the year off Sonny Gray.
Catcher Matt Wieters went 2-for-3 scoring two runs and posting two RBI. Wieters hit his fifth homer of the year off Montas in the ninth inning.
The Nats number nine hitter – Michael Taylor – had a day every number nine batter would like to have any day. Taylor recorded a 2-for-4 day with two runs scored and one RBI. Taylor also hit his sixth home run of the season off Montas in the ninth inning of the game.
The Athletics Khris Davis had a day he would have liked to have had on Saturday – his bobblehead day. Davis went 3-for-4 scoring three runs with two RBI that included his 17th home run of the year and his sixth double.
Outfielder Matt Joyce posted four RBI and scored two runs while going 2-for-4 against the Nationals on Sunday. Joyce hit his seventh home run of the season in the A’s six-run ninth inning.
The A’s have three more games at home this week with the Toronto Blue Jays. The series begins on Monday night. The Blue Jays will send J.A. Happ to the hill in the first game of the series. He is 0-3 on the year with 4.50 ERA. The A’s will counter with lefty Sean Manaea who is 4-3 with a 3.91 ERA. The first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.