OAKLAND — Ryon Healy stood in front of a clubhouse TV, the celebratory shaving cream stains still caked on his undershirt.
Replays of his game-winning ninth-inning homer were playing, and could you blame the A’s rookie for wanting to relive it?
For the second night in a row, Healy crossed home plate with the winning run to punctuate a walk-off rally.
One might say the A’s are winning the hard way this weekend, going almost entire games without scoring before mounting a late-inning rally. But following Saturday’s 4-3 victory over Tampa Bay, it’s also accurate to say they’re winning the fun way.
Trailing 3-1 in the ninth, they got a game-tying two-run homer from Jake Smolinski off Alex Colome. Two batters later, Healy crushed a 3-2 pitch over the wall in left-center, his second career homer and the third walk-off victory he’s been part of since the A’s called him up to start the second half.
“I don’t think there’s anything more fun than walk-off wins in baseball,” Healy said. “The fact we’ve been able to have so many in my short eight-day career just makes winning that much better. It’s only been eight days, guys.”
[INSTANT REPLAY: Healy hits walk-off, Graveman goes distance vs Rays]
Actually it’s been nine days, but who’s counting? The A’s moved to 6-3 since the All-Star break, and Saturday’s thriller made it an especially sweet night for starting pitcher Kendall Graveman (7-6). He threw the first nine-inning complete game of his career and got rewarded with his sixth victory in a row.
Through the first eight innings, the A’s managed just one run and had advanced just three batters as far as third base. Saturday’s victory was similar to Friday’s 1-0, 13-inning win in that the A’s were held down offensively before finding a way to pull it out.
“You just kind of had a feeling in the dugout we were gonna put something together eventually,” Graveman said. “To have two walk-offs on back-to-back nights, that’s fun. There’s something fun happening in this clubhouse. It’s a good atmosphere going on right now.”
Saturday’s celebration was set in motion by Smolinski, who stepped to the plate with the A’s trailing 3-1 in the ninth and thought back to Thursday night’s at-bat against Colome. Colome, who came in a perfect 21-for-21 in save opportunities, had started Smolinski out with a first-pitch fastball Thursday that Smolinski took, before eventually striking out on a cutter to end the game.
I told (hitting coach Darren) Bush I was going to be ready for that first-pitch heater if I got it again,” Smolinski said. “And I did."
He cranked it over the left-field wall to tie it 3-3. After Marcus Semien flied out for the second out, Healy came to bat and quickly fell behind 0-2. The rookie worked the count to full and then parked a 95 mile-per-hour fastball over the wall in left-center, and a fireworks night crowd of 30,436 went wild. As Healy noticed, so did third base coach Ron Washington.
“It really didn’t hit me until I rounded second and I saw Wash going crazy,” Healy said. “It was awesome to see the guys there and how excited they were. I saw the bullpen sprinting down, so I sort of slowed my jog a little bit to enjoy it and let them get there.”
In nine games since getting promoted and taking over the third base job, Healy has been in the middle of some very big moments for the A’s. He’s hitting .281 (9-for-32) with two homers and seven RBI. He hit a three-run homer in a July 16 win over Toronto, then scored Friday’s game winner after he doubled and came around on Coco Crisp’s single.
Josh Reddick stuck him with a shaving cream pie after Saturday’s game as he conducted a postgame TV interview. Healy is setting quite a pace — two postgame pastries to the face in his first nine games. He also got nailed after that July 16 win.
“I just really wanted to come up here and contribute and help the team in any aspect,” Healy said. “I was going to get here extra early and put in the work. A lot of the guys have set an example for how a rookie should act.”
Reddick was scratched from Saturday’s lineup after his back acted up while taking pregame swings in the cage.
“When he hit in the cage he took about three or four swings” and felt it, A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Last night he felt something in his back, just like a little knot. It’s not like a pull, it’s not an oblique thing. It’s just a little knot in his back that wasn’t letting him release the bat, at least not today. Hopefully it’s something that goes away pretty quickly.”
Smolinski was shifted from center to right to replace Reddick and Coco Crisp was inserted in the lineup in center. Like left-hander Rich Hill, who has been sidelined with a blister issue, Reddick is considered one of the A’s best trade chips, though there are no indications the A’s are looking to pull the trigger on a deal for their right fielder.