OAKLAND – The A’s packed their bags to head east late Sunday afternoon following a homestand that finished on a much higher note than anyone could have predicted.
This is a team that’s received great starting pitching in some games. It’s gotten clutch hitting in scattered instances, and watched its bullpen come through on other occasions.
But Sunday, the A’s managed to tie it all together in their most impressive victory of the season. A 3-2 comeback win over the Kansas City Royals provides some momentum as the A’s embark on a challenging 10-game trip against three teams expected to be postseason contenders.
After starting their homestand 0-4, the A’s took the final two from the Royals to claim the three-game set against last year’s World Series champs.
“If you have a win like this, where it’s against a team like the Royals, and you can come back late in the game like that, that’s something to build on,” Jed Lowrie said.
It was Lowrie, on the heels of his two-error game Saturday, who came off the bench and delivered the game’s most critical at-bat with Oakland trailing 2-1 in the seventh. Facing one of the game’s stingiest relievers in Kelvin Herrera, Lowrie fell behind in the count 1-2 before working it to full and singling to right to score Chris Coghlan with the tying run.
A’s pinch hitters were 0-for-12 on the season before that at-bat, which also happened to come on Lowrie’s 32nd birthday. His wife arranged for a birthday cake, shaped like a bottle of Pinot Noir, to be sent to the clubhouse Sunday morning. By the time reporters entered the clubhouse after the game, several pieces were missing from the immaculate-looking cake.
“It’s a really hard thing to do, just to come off the bench cold and go up there and be expected to get a hit,” A’s center fielder Billy Burns said. “That was huge for him and definitely gave us momentum.”
Burns sparked the go-ahead rally off Joakim Soria in the eighth. Despite the Royals protecting the foul lines, Burns yanked a ball past the diving Eric Hosmer at first and wound up with a leadoff triple. After Coco Crisp grounded out against a drawn-in infield, Josh Reddick came through with a sacrifice fly to put the A’s ahead.
“Typically the seventh, eighth and ninth is quite a chore coming back against them. It’s kind of how they’re built,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of the Royals’ bullpen.
No one knows that better than first-year Athletic Ryan Madson, who was a part of the Kansas City bullpen last season that was such a driving force behind the Royals’ World Series title.
What a range of emotions for Madson this weekend. Before Friday’s game, he received his championship ring from Royals manager Ned Yost. Throughout the series, Madson said some of his former teammates were jawing at him playfully as he watched from the A’s bullpen.
Then Madson found himself protecting a 3-2 lead in the ninth Sunday. With two outs and the tying run at second, Raymond Fuentes stung a liner that found the glove of A’s first baseman Yonder Alonso, and Madson notched his fourth save of the season.
Getting caught up in the nostalgia of facing his old team is something Madson would just as soon avoid.
“They’re good guys,” Madson said of the Royals. “At the end of the day it’s good and it’s fun. But on to a new team will be nice for me.”
The A’s mustered just one hit through the first six innings, but they eventually managed to break through before a crowd of 29,668. It was a late-game momentum shift – for the positive – that hasn’t happened often enough before the home fans. Sunday’s win was just the A’s third in 10 home games this season.
But it sure provided a boost as they head out on a three-city trip to face the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays and Detroit Tigers.
“Just having everybody kind of working together,” Burns said, “the pitching holding us in there and the offense just clawing for a couple runs, it was a great team effort.”