Tuesday night’s walk-off loss at Seattle wound up feeling like one of those emotional swing games for the A’s, where the entire outlook on this series changed with one pitch.
Had the A’s held on to beat the Mariners, they would have captured the series with Wednesday’s finale still to go. Regardless, their trip to the Emerald City would rank as a success. But after Leonys Martin’s walk-off two-run homer in the ninth Tuesday, the A’s face the prospect of trying to win the series Wednesday behind rookie right-hander Zach Neal, who’s making his first major league start, and with a bullpen that got used more heavily than should have been necessary Tuesday.
What had to sting most after the 6-5 loss was that the late innings set up just as manager Bob Melvin would want them to from a bullpen standpoint. Sean Doolittle handled the seventh and transferred a 5-2 lead to John Axford. Neither Axford nor Ryan Madson, two veterans signed in the offseason to help ensure such leads would stay safe, had it on this night.
Axford gave up Robinson Cano’s two-run homer that made it a 5-4 game. Then Madson, needing one final strike to ice the win, piped a 1-2 changeup that Martin drilled for the game-winning two-run blast.
A gut-wrencher in the truest sense, after the A’s struck for four runs in the sixth to wipe away a 2-1 deficit. Ideally, the A’s would have sent Neal to the hill Wednesday with the series victory already tucked away. They’ve still got a chance to win this series, and if they do, Tuesday’s heartbreaker gets forgotten quickly. Easier said than done, but that’s the task.
Overshadowed by the ninth-inning turn of events was Coco Crisp’s excellent night at the plate. He went 2-for-5 with a solo homer and two-run double from the leadoff spot, and that should have been enough to make him the hero on this night.
Who would have thought that in this injury-plagued A’s season, Crisp of all players would be a reliable constant in the lineup that Melvin can count on every day? Tuesday’s game marked the outfielder’s 10th start in a row, after Melvin had said before the season that he probably wouldn’t start the oft-injured Crisp more than a few consecutive games in the hopes of keeping him healthy.
With Josh Reddick expected to miss a month at least with a fractured thumb, Crisp’s availability has been even more important. The A’s don’t have a surplus of outfield options right now, particularly those that can hit from the left side, so the switch-hitting Crisp is getting plenty of time. He’s throwing his body around in the outfield too, and he came up just short on a diving attempt at Nori Aoki’s two-out blooper in the ninth that fell for a double and set the stage for Martin’s game-ending blast.