OAKLAND – Josh Donaldson finally provided the A’s a lead they couldn’t relinquish Sunday. The A’s third baseman drove a walk-off two-run homer deep to center in the bottom of the 10th to lift Oakland to an 8-6 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.
Donaldson connected on a 1-0 pitch from Miguel Gonzalez and launched a tape-measure blast that hit off the green facing sitting high over the wall in center.
With that, the A’s took the three-game series and notched an important victory that kept them a half-game ahead of Kansas City for the AL’s top wild card spot with seven games left.
In a 3-hour, 48-minute marathon that unfolded at the pace of a Cactus League contest, the A’s took three different leads, only to see the Phillies come back to tie it each time against left-hander Scott Kazmir.
Donaldson, who finished 3-for-5, notched his third walkoff homer of the season.
It was an uplifting way for the A’s to finish the weekend as they prepare to welcome the Los Angeles Angels for their final home series of the season.
Starting pitching report
Three times Kazmir took the mound after being handed a lead. Three times the Phillies came back to tie it off the lefty. He gave up a season-high 11 hits and was charged with six runs, and Kazmir now carries an 8.58 ERA over his past six starts (27 ER in 28 1/3 IP).
Most vexing for Kazmir had to be that two of the Phillies’ rallies began after he retired the first two batters of an inning. And if body language counts for anything, it wasn’t a great sign to see Kazmir’s chin slump to his chest as soon as Marlon Byrd’s two-run double was heading for the left-center gap in the third.
Could you question whether manager Bob Melvin should have lifted Kazmir entering the sixth, with the A’s having taken a 6-4 lead? Yes, but Kazmir was coming off his best inning in the fifth, having struck out the side. From that standpoint, it’s tough to blame Melvin for sending the veteran back out.
Worth noting: It wasn’t the best showing for Kazmir after he criticized his teammates for their play behind him in his previous start against Texas.
He has one scheduled regular-season start left, and that’s Friday against the Rangers in Arlington.
Luke Gregerson did well to work out of an eighth-inning jam and keep the game tied. With a runner at third and one out, he got Freddy Galvis to pop up and Ben Revere to ground out to first.
Sean Doolittle handled the ninth and 10th and struck out four over two perfect innings.
At the plate
The A’s struck for their most runs since scoring 11 against the White Sox on Sept. 9. But once again they made it tough on themselves. They stranded Nick Punto at third with one out in the ninth after his triple.
They had nine hits and took advantage of six walks and two hit basemen from Phillies starter A.J. Burnett.
They got off to a great start, erasing a 1-0 deficit with three in the bottom of the first. That rally included Adam Dunn’s RBI single, a slicing double from Brandon Moss that glanced off the glove of Grady Sizemore and Josh Reddick’s sacrifice fly.
Geovany Soto split the gap in right-center with a two-run double in the fifth that put Oakland ahead 6-4.
In the field
It appeared that A’s center fielder Coco Crisp got late jumps on two shallow fly balls early in the game. Chase Utley’s two-out blooper fell in shallow center in the first, and Utley would come around to score on Byrd’s double. It’s debatable whether Crisp would have caught that ball anyway. But in the third, Crisp got a poor read on Ryan Howard’s shallow fly and couldn’t make a charging, sliding catch. It went for a double that aided the Phillies’ two-run rally.
Soto, drawing the start for Oakland behind the plate, provided a lift when he threw out Byrd trying to steal second in the seventh. Soto has nailed three of eight attempted base stealers in his time with the A’s, and that’s a good success rate for a team that’s had trouble controlling the opposition’s running game all season.
The announced turnout was 25,126.
The Los Angeles Angels, having clinched their first AL West title since 2009, arrive for a three-game series starting Monday. Jeff Samardzija (4-5, 3.13) and C.J. Wilson (13-9, 4.42) take the mound in the 7:05 p.m. opener. Tuesday – Sonny Gray (13-9, 3.28) vs. Wade LeBlanc (0-1, 5.24), 7:05 p.m. Wednesday – Jon Lester (16-10, 2.41) vs. Hector Santiago (5-9, 3.98), 12:35 p.m. All three games will air on Comcast SportsNet California.