OAKLAND – The celebratory pie to the face was delivered, even if the execution wasn’t perfect.
The A’s haven’t gotten to party together a whole lot at the end of games this season. So while Tuesday’s 5-4 walk-off victory over the Texas Rangers counts the same as any other run-of-the-mill June victory as far as the standings go, it was much-needed for a team with which the good times have been lacking.
Josh Reddick came through with the game-ending fielder’s choice that scored Sam Fuld in the bottom of the ninth. As such, he was the one getting interviewed on TV. Normally Reddick’s the pie wielder, so it fell on Stephen Vogt to smash the postgame pastry into his teammate’s face. Only problem was he late with the delivery.
“The fans and the cameras kind of give it away, but I don't want to turn around and be that guy that tries to avoid it,” Reddick said. “… I give and I receive, and it feels good to be that guy.”
The 2015 A’s are a team that was largely pieced together from all over the majors, through numerous offseason trades and roster turnover. Nothing brings a group together like a late-inning come-from-behind victory. Last season Oakland led the majors in wins when trailing after seven innings. They tied for the second-most walk-off wins in the American League.
[INSTANT REPLAY: A's tie game in eighth, walk off on Rangers]
That magic has been missing this season. One comeback victory isn’t going to reverse the course for a 24-37 team, but the A’s hope the feeling that permeated the clubhouse Tuesday night is one they keep experiencing.
“Walk-offs, they’re amazing,” designated hitter Billy Butler said. “It’s an awesome thing. A pie in the face, giving him a Gatorade bath. That’s what this game’s all about. That’s what takes teams to the next level. Baseball, the competition is so even, it’s based on confidence. Some teams are more confident than others. Things like (walk-off wins), you can go on a run.”
Butler teamed with reliever Drew Pomeranz to get Reddick with the Gatorade, but before that could happen, the A’s needed to erase a 4-2 deficit in the eighth. They did it with help from Butler’s game-tying RBI single. To this point, Butler hasn’t been the middle-of-the-lineup force the A’s were hoping for in his first season with Oakland. At times he’s hit the ball on the screws right at defenders, but he also entered the night tied for the AL lead in double plays grounded into (11).
He chopped a single into left field off Tanner Scheppers in the eighth that scored Ben Zobrist to make it 4-4.
Fuld was another struggling player who played a key role in the victory. His playing time in left field has been cut lately, with Eric Sogard playing second and Zobrist drawing starts in left.
But Fuld got the winning rally started with a one-out single off Keone Kela. Then he stole second and advanced to third on Billy Burns’ infield single. With the infield drawn in, Reddick pulled a grounder that Rangers second baseman Adam Rosales made a diving stop on. His throw to the plate wasn’t in time as Fuld slid across with the game-winner.
“Not getting a ton of at-bats, I can only imagine how he feels up there at times,” Butler said. “That was a great at-bat right there. He stole second and had a great read on that ball that Red hit. Hopefully that gives him some confidence and he takes off from there. It’s tough when you’re not playing every day and you’re not getting the breaks. It’s tough for me and I’m getting four at-bats every day.”
Worth noting: The A’s bullpen delivered 5 1/3 shutout innings behind switch pitcher Pat Venditte, Fernando Abad, Evan Scribner and Tyler Clippard (1-3). Venditte went 2 1/3 innings in relief of Jesse Hahn, and has not allowed a run in four appearances to start his career (5 2/3 IP).
“The whole bullpen was probably the key to the game,” manager Bob Melvin said.
But this was a victory rightfully enjoyed by all 25 players on the roster, and one they hope can be a building block to bigger things.