By Morris Phillips
The A’s 7-6 win over the Twins Sunday wasn’t wild solely based on the game’s dramatic ebbs and flows, but also because numerous pitches were wild, and timely enough to decide the game’s outcome.
Oh yeah, and the umpiring was wild enough to have the A’s declare this a win against all odds.
“If you want to look at one game and say ‘what are the Oakland A’s made of?’ this was the game,” starting pitcher Chris Bassitt said. “I mean, every single thing went against us… and we still won.”
The A’s needed responses to a pair of Minnesota comebacks, the second of which concluded with Ramon Laureano scoring the winning run in the ninth on Taylor Rogers’ wild pitch. Matt Chapman actually struck out swinging on the pitch that crossed up catcher Mitch Garver, with the ball bounding all the way to the backstop, then up the first base line.
The setup for the dramatic, go-ahead run could have been an A’s hard-earned hit-and-run single, but it wasn’t. Instead, the Twins’ Josh Donaldson dropped Rogers throw off a come-backer that was tailor-made for an inning-ending double play. That set the A’s up with the go-ahead run at third with one out.
“Probably could have been better on my part,” Rogers said, not particularly enthusiastic about reliving a nightmare ninth inning. “Probably could have been caught on his part. I don’t know. It is what it is. No sense in looking at it, because it ain’t changing.”
The decisive ninth encompassed all of the weekend’s storylines: the Twins desperate to climb out of a dismal start to the season, and build on a dramatic, Saturday night win, couldn’t, while the far more fortunate, first-place A’s found a way to keep things rolling.
To wit, the Oakland offensive attack was quite unconventional for 2021: no homers, no run-scoring doubles, instead base hits, sac flies, advancing runners –and thanks to the home team–take full advantage of opponent’s mistakes. Incredibly, again given how teams attack these days, the A’s scored all seven runs one at a time with at least one base runner aboard each time.
Unconventional? Elvis Andrus found himself in a run down in between third and home, one out and the A’s trailing by a run in the fifth. Dead to rights, right? But the veteran Andrus took advantage of rookie Twins catcher Ben Rortvedt, by inducing a quick throw to third, then reversing ground to home, and slyly brushing Rortvedt, who wasn’t savvy enough to concede the baseline.
The call? Catcher’s interference, an Andrus scores to tie the game. Resourceful? You bet, leaving manager Bob Melvin to marvel at his team’s resolve.
“People keep asking me about how you respond from something like (Saturday’s loss). Guys keep doing it. A lot of heart on this team,” Melvin said.
Bassitt pitched five innings that were anything but smooth. In the second, he hit two batters, which conveniently set the table for Max Kepler’s three-run homer. The veteran pitcher then saw his pitch count explode through three innings, with 52 of his 61 pitches expended in the second and third.
But he continued to battle, somehow getting through five innings without exposing the Oakland bullpen early.
The A’s finish their brief trip to Boston and Minneapolis at 4-2 and now return to the Coliseum for Tuesday’s showdown with the second-place Astros.