by Charlie O. Mallonee
The Oakland Athletics and the Tampa Bay Rays honored the memory of the great Ernie Banks today by playing two the old fashion way. The teams played a true doubleheader where fans were able to watch two games for the price of one.
There are many baseball people who believe that having more doubleheaders would be beneficial for the game because it would help to shorten the season. Angels manager Mike Scioscia likes the idea of shortening the season to 154 games with one doubleheader per month scheduled for every team. “I would trade anything to get this game more seasonal and finish in October,” said Scioscia back in 2015.
Even if Major League Baseball decided to implement a schedule that included six doubleheaders per each season, most the twinbills would not be tradition two-for-one ticket games. In today’s sports economy, MLB owners would almost certainly insist on “day-night” doubleheaders where the stadiums are cleared and tickets must be purchased for each game.
So much for the romantic idea of returning to the days of Hall of Famer Ernie Banks and “Let’s play two!”.
Speaking of Mr. Cub – at the end of this story there will be an answer to a trivia question about playing two games on one day for you. How many doubleheaders did Ernie Banks play in both games of during his 19-year major league career?
The Rays used game one as a “throwback game” donning uniforms from their first year in Tampa Bay for the contest. The Athletics were looking to bounce back after 13-4 crushing loss that they suffered on Friday night.
Oakland entered the game with an 8-21 road record – the second worst in the major leagues. If the A’s are to ever even their record at .500 to have a chance making a run for a Wild Card spot, they have to start winning more games on the road.
That did not happen in game one on Saturday.
The A’s had their number one starter in Sonny Gray on the mound in the opening game. Gray went 6.0-innings giving up five runs but only two were earned due to two errors committed by the Athletics. Gray actually committed one of the errors himself on an errant throw to first base. The Rays collected nine hits off Gray while he struck out 10 and walked just one batter. He did not figure into the decision.
Erasmo Ramirez started for the Rays and he also struggled in his outing. He lasted 5.1-innings allowing three runs (all earned) on 10 hits. Ramirez struck out six and walked one. It was also a no-decision game for him.
Even though they took a 3-0 lead in the top of the second, the A’s trailed the Rays 5-4 as they headed to the top of the ninth. Khris Davis led off the ninth by striking out. Yonder Alonso then hit his 11th double of the season off reliever Alex Colome. Rajai Davis came in as a Pinch-runner for Alonso. DH Ryon Healy hit a double (16) to left field that drove Davis home to tie the game at 5-5. The inning would end with the potential go ahead run in Healy stranded at third base.
Ryan Madson set the Rays down in order in the bottom of the ninth and it was on to extra innings.
Tampa Bay brought in reliever Austin Pruitt to face Oakland in the top of the 10th. He kept the A’s from scoring and the game remained tied as it went to the bottom of the 10th.
Liam Hendriks took the ball for the A’s and gave up a single to the Rays leadoff hitter – Peter Bourjos. With Evan Longoria at bat, Hendriks threw a wild pitch that moved Bourjos to second. Longoria then hit a single to left that drove Bourjos home to score the winning run. The Rays won the game 6-5.
The good news was the A’s had only 45 minutes to think about the loss because they would have been deeply distressed by some of the numbers. They committed two errors. Errors have been the bane of this team’s existence. The A’s had 16 hits to go with two walks and left 13 men of base. The loss dropped their road record to 8-22 for the year.
The good news was game two was less than hour away from first pitch.
Jaycob Brugman who was held hitless in his firs professional game on Friday night went 2-for-4 with a walk in this game. Joyce, Lowrie, Davis, Alonso and Healy also had a multi-hit games in the opener.
The bad news was the A’s lost the first game. The good news was they had the very hot Sean Manaea on the mound for game number two. The key question was would the A’s be able to provide the run support Manaea would need win the game.
Manaea was definitely up to the task. He put in a quality start working 7.0-innings giving up two runs (both earned) on six hits (one home run). The lefty struck out five and walked just two Rays. Manaea earned the win and his record improved to 6-3 for 2017.
Manaea also received the run support that he needed. The A’s scored their first run in the first inning and they would never trail in the game. They scored another run in the second, one in the sixth, three in seventh and one more run in the ninth inning.
Six of the Oakland batters had a multi-hit game. Yonder Alonso went 4-for-5 with run scored and an RBI in the game. Khris Davis was 3-for-5 with two runs scored. Ryon Healy went 2-for-5 hitting his 14th home run of the season to go with two runs scored. Chad Pinder had a 2-for-5 day with a home run (8). Josh Phegley also had a 2-for-5 game hitting his third home run of the season. Jaycob Brugman stayed hot as he went 2-for-3 with two RBI in game two.
The Rays scored two runs on six hits.
The A’s road record improved to 9-22. Oakland remains in last place in the American League West with a record of 27-35, 16.5 games back of Houston and two games back of fourth place Texas.
The A’s and Rays wrap up the three day – four game series on Sunday. Jesse Hahn (2-4, 3.40) will start for Oakland while Tampa Bay will counter with Chris Archer (4-4, 3.65). The first pitch is scheduled for 10:10 a.m. PDT.
Oh yes, the answer to our Ernie Banks question
Ernie Banks played in both games of 318 doubleheaders over 19-years in the major leagues. No wonder he said, “Let’s play two!”