Home of the walk-off: A’s send Twins to defeat with a game-ending homer for the second, straight day

July 30, 2017

MLB, Oakland Athletics

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Minnesota Twins pitcher Bartolo Colon works against the Oakland Athletics in the first inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 30, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

By Morris Phillip

OAKLAND–Somewhere near the three-hour mark of Sunday’s series finale between the Twins and the A’s, the stalemates appeared pretty much entrenched.

No movement on the scoreboard, and no movement on the trade front. Sonny Gray, scratched from his scheduled start with speculation high that the A’s young ace would be dealt prior to Monday’s deadline, was still sitting in the Oakland dugout quietly pulling for the only big league club he’s known to summon some extra-inning dramatics.

A weird scene? Indeed, but at the three-hour mark this one had already qualified as strange ballgame.

Luckily, for the A’s, Yonder Alonso would provide a straightforward and satisfying ending–after four hours and six minutes of baseball.

Alonso sent Tyler Duffy’s first offering in the 12th inning over the right field wall to win it, and complete the A’s methodical climb from a 5-0, fourth inning deficit. The 6-5 win enhanced the A’s reputation for late ballgame dramatics despite their being positioned 22 1/2 games out of first place in the AL West.

Sort of like a tantrum-engulfed toddler wailing loudly in a crowded room, the swinging A’s are capable of demanding your attention.

“Once you get a few of them (walk off wins), I don’t want to say you expect it, but you have a good feeling about it happening again once we get to the dugout and have a chance to win,” manager Bob Melvin said.

The A’s won for the ninth time–and second day in a row–on their final at-bat of the day.

The momentum swings in this one ran the range from subtle to stark starting with the Twins’ two-homer, first inning off Jharel Cotton. Thrust into the starting role when Gray was scratched, and fresh from the disabled list, Cotton continued two, disturbing trends by allowing the two bombs, and walking five. The walks were distributed across Cotton’s brief, 78-pitch outing, and visibly frustrated the young pitcher, but Melvin still saw positives.

“He just got a little bit out of sync. He threw some really good changeups at times, good pitches, but he just couldn’t get into a rhythm,” Melvin said. “I thought his stuff was pretty good, it just didn’t translate into outs.”

In contrast, Cotton’s adversary on the mound, Bartolo Colon was Old Steady, making his 516th big league start which lasted into the seventh inning. Colon has hinted at an imminent retirement, but the decision wasn’t in connection with Sunday’s outing. Colon allowed eight hits and a walk, and departed with a 5-3 lead.

Home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi complicated things for Colon, Cotton and both lineups with his inconsistent ball and strike calls. The Twins Brian Dozier got the worst of it. After his first inning home run, he struck out five times, and fussed with Cuzzo throughout. Dozier was around for the finish, but Miguel Sano was not. After fanning for the third time in the 11th, Sano paused, then exploded, throwing his bat down, prompting Cuzzi to issue his ejection.

While Cotton and six Oakland relievers compiled 15 strikeouts, they also issued eight walks, helping make the latter innings hectic with the Twins threatening to push across the go-ahead run. But that’s where the A’s defense kicked in with Khris Davis making a pair of high-difficulty catches, and Matt Chapman’s heads up tag play at third that prevented Max Kepler from reaching the base with one out in the ninth.

The beleaguered A’s bullpen was dialed in, throwing 8 1/3 scoreless innings after Cotton allowed all five Minnesota runs.

Gray’s status remains undetermined at press time, but if he’s moved to the Yankees, it will follow weeks of intense negotiating with the Yankees protecting their high-level prospects and the A’s insisting that one or two be included in any deal. If nothing else, stubborn negotiations, and a relatively small number of deals consummated to date by all of the clubs leave room for the possibility that Gray won’t be moved at all.

If 4pm Monday passes without a trade of Gray, he’s expected to make his rescheduled start against the Giants in the Bay Bridge Series opener. Matt Cain, looking to avoid a 10th loss on the season, will pitch for the Giants.

 

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