by Charlie O. Mallonee
The Oakland Athletics ended up on the right side of a one-run game on Saturday night when they defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2. For a team that has been on the wrong end of so many close games this season, to win a one-run game on the road against a team that may well wind up in the playoffs has to be a confidence builder.
The game was decided in the top of the eighth inning. With Oakland (56-73) trailing 2-1 and one out, the A’s Khris Davis lined a single to center. Rookie Ryan Healy extended his major league leading hitting streak to 13 games when he hit a double to left field that moved Davis up to third.
The Cardinals (68-60) made a pitching change after Healy’s double sending reliever Matt Bowman to the showers and bringing in Seung Hwan Oh to pitch. Max Muncy hit a grounder to first baseman Brandon Moss who decided to throw home to try and throw out Davis who was attempting to score from third. Davis scored and Muncy was safe on a fielder’s choice while Healy moved up to third. It was one of those “hero or goat” decisions that did not go the way Moss wanted it to go.
Brett Eibner was the next A’s batter and he hit a fly ball to shallow center field. When the ball was caught, Healy was on the third base bag and he took off for home. The throw home bounced away from catcher Yadier Molina and Healy scored what would turn out to be the winning run of the game.
The series is tied at 1-1 with the rubber game of the match to be played on Sunday.
On the Bump
RHP Zach Neal made his fourth start of the year for the A’s on Saturday. He gave up two runs (one earned) on six hits in 6.0 innings of work. He struck out six hitters and walked none. He did give up a home run Randal Grichuk. Neal threw 91 pitches (61 strikes) while facing 24 Cardinal batters. Despite his strong outing, Neal did figure into the decision.
LHP reliever Daniel Coulombe took over for Oakland in the bottom of the seventh inning. Coulombe worked 1.1 innings allowing no runs, no hits and no walks to go with three strike outs. He was the pitcher of record when the A’s took the lead in the top of the eighth inning so Coulombe picked up his second win of season.
The A’s changed pitchers with one out in the top of the eighth inning and RHP Liam Hendriks entered the game. Hendriks faced two batters and struck both out to end the inning.
The bottom of the ninth was closer time. RHP Ryan Madson set the side down in order allowing no hits and no walks while striking out one. He recorded his 26th save of the year.
The big story of the game for St. Louis was the start by RHP Alex Reyes. Mike Leake was scheduled to pitch but has be diagnosed with shingles and may be on the sidelines for sometime.
Reyes – who had to deal with a 50-game suspension earlier this year – made his first start for the Cards. He pitched 4.2 innings giving up just one run (earned) on two hits while striking out four and walking four. Reyes was pulled in the top of the fifth inning primarily due to pitch count. He had thrown 89 pitches (51 strikes) and with two men on base St. Louis manager Mike Matheny decided it was time for a pitching change. Reyes did not figure into the final decision.
Right-hand reliever Matt Bowman (2-5) who was on the mound when Davis scored and was responsible for Healy because he gave up the hit to the A’s third baseman took the loss.
RHP Seung Hwan Oh who gave up the sacrifice fly to Eibner was charged with his third blown save of the season.
In the Batter’s Box
The A’s scored their three runs on just four hits. They also took advantage of the four walks that were issued to them.
The spotlight has to be on Ryon Healy extending his hitting streak to 13 games. His batting average now stands at .281 with 39 hits including eight doubles and six home runs in 139 at bats. Remember this is from a young man who played his first 36 games of the season at Double-A Midland in the Texas League.
Khris Davis had a timely hit in the top of the eighth inning and scored the tying run for the A’s. He picked up his 83rd RBI of the year when he walked in the top of the fifth inning and forced catcher Bruce Maxwell home to score the A’s first run of the game.
The A’s do not win the game if Brett Eibner does not do his job and put wood on the ball that would become the sacrifice fly – RBI in the eighth inning that would win the game for Oakland.
Cardinals leadoff man Greg Garcia did his best going 2-for-4 and scoring a run on Saturday night. Garcia hit his eighth double of year off Zach Neal.
Center fielder Randal Grichuk also had a big game for St. Louis. Grichuck hit his 18th home run of the season in the second inning off Neal. He went 2-for-3 in the game with a run scored and a RBI (47).
The A’s and Cardinals close out the three-game series on Sunday with first pitch scheduled for 11:15 AM PDT. RHP Andrew Triggs (0-1, 4.38) will start for the A’s and will face the Cardinals LHP Jamie Garcia (10-9, 4.37) who is looking his 11th win of the season.