SAN FRANCISCO — Despite the emotional ups-and-downs for his team, and despite what was possibly his most physically demanding game in the past seven years, Ryan Madson managed to thoroughly enjoy himself Tuesday night.
The smile on his face afterward suggested he was 100 percent sincere.
Madson was, for all intents and purposes, the last man standing in an A’s bullpen that was running on empty by the end of a wild 13-11 win over the Giants.
It was the first two-inning outing for the 35-year-old Madson since Sept. 29, 2009. He later said it was one of the most enjoyable games of his 11-year career, this from a guy who has won World Series rings with Kansas City and Philadelphia.
“It was a whirlwind game,” Madson said. “That was the funnest game I’ve been part of in a long time, maybe minus just the two clinching games of the World Series."
The A’s and Giants combined for 30 hits. The 24 runs scored tied the most ever in a Bay Bridge Series game. And the night eventually became a crazy battle of bullpen attrition.
A’s relievers Sean Doolittle and Liam Hendriks were both unavailable for physical reasons. Manager Bob Melvin also was intent on staying away from Fernando Rodriguez, who has been worked heavily but still was warming up toward the end of the game.
Melvin essentially handed Madson the ball to start the eighth and told him to take it to the finish line . The right-hander did that, though it took 43 pitches and him surviving back-to-back homers from Jarrett Parker and Denard Span leading off the bottom of the ninth.
“Really, we had several guys unavailable tonight,” Melvin said. “To get two innings out of Madson like that was Herculean.”
But it was just one of several huge individual efforts that were responsible for the win. And it was that ensemble effort that contributed to Madson’s elation afterward. There was the two-out, two-run double from Stephen Vogt in the sixth off George Kontos that kickstarted another big game offensively for the A’s. Billy Butler followed up later that inning with a pinch-hit two-run single that put the A’s ahead 5-4.
The lead wouldn’t last, as John Axford and Marc Rzepczynski gave up four runs between them in the bottom of the sixth. Seemingly down for the count, the A’s roared back with a five-run eighth that erased an 8-5 deficit, highlighted by Jake Smolinski’s pinch-hit three-run homer off Giants lefty Javy Lopez that put the A’s ahead for good, 9-8.
Smolinski fell behind in the count 0-2, worked it back to 2-2, then got a low slider from Lopez and launched it into the left field seats for his first career homer in the pinch.
“I’d watched some video on him days prior, so I felt like I had a good idea what was gonna happen,” Smolinski said of his at-bat. “Fortunately it worked out tonight.” It’s worked out a lot lately for the A’s (34-43), who have won six of their past eight and have taken two in a row from a Giants squad that had won 31 of its past 40 entering the series. The A’s have been fueled by an offense that has scored 46 runs over the past six games (7.67 per game). They’ve swatted 10 homers in the last seven.
But the current state of the bullpen is worrisome. Doolittle’s left shoulder has bothered him since a 33-pitch outing Saturday in Anaheim. He said he was told he’d get a couple days off, and any discomfort regarding Doolittle’s shoulder is cause for at least a degree of concern. Melvin didn’t offer specifics on what’s bothering Hendriks, who just came off the DL for a triceps strain June 19. Madson may require a couple days’ rest now after Tuesday’s extended outing, and Axford has allowed nine earned runs over his past 3 1/3 innings, covering seven games.
With Sean Manaea coming off the disabled list Wednesday, the obvious move would have been to send out one of the eight relievers currently on the roster. But now it appears the A’s may require bullpen reinforcements.
That decision will come Wednesday. For Tuesday night, Madson was basking in one of the most memorable nights of his long career and heaping praise on the A’s hitters.
“When they score runs and hit like this, it makes everybody look good,” Madson said. “It kind of erases what everybody didn’t do and made us all look good.”