OAKLAND — Shortstop Marcus Semien kept Jonathan Lucroy’s 11th-inning walk-off single on repeat on his phone in the clubhouse after the Oakland Athletics’ 4-3 win on Saturday night. First baseman Matt Olson looked over Semien’s shoulder as the sight of the slumping catcher lining a ball into the right-center field gap played again and again.
Each time Lucroy reached first base on Semien’s device with his finger pointed in the air, the rest of the A’s ran onto the field to mob him. Then Semien rewinded and played the clip once more.
Oakland’s victory could have just as easily have been a frustrating defeat. The highlight could have been the San Francisco Giants’ controversial game-tying hit in the top of the ninth, which delayed celebrations from a Coliseum-record 56,310 fans.
Instead, Lucroy helped the A’s overcome a set of unusual happenings to pull within three games of the second Wild Card spot.
“That’s such a huge hit right there,” right fielder Stephen Piscotty said. “That builds some momentum. … Lucroy coming off the bench and getting that [hit] off a tough closer? That’s going to jumpstart us.”
Lucroy came in batting .238 with a career-worst .309 slugging percentage. He started the day on the bench, with Josh Phegley starting behind the plate.
“Not the prototypical off day, but I’ll take it,” Lucroy said. “I’ve been kind of grinding along personally so to kind of get a big hit like that personally was nice and felt pretty good.”
Despite the positive ending for Oakland, multiple A’s players acknowledged they wasted opportunities to put the game away sooner, including grounding into a bases-loaded double play in the fifth.
Oakland entered the game with a 38-0 record when leading after seven innings, and they had the scoreboard advantage and their preferred relief duo of Lou Trivino and Blake Treinen lined up going into the eighth. There was also a sellout crowd, thanks to the temporary opening of Mount Davis. But those factors didn’t make things easier.
Trivino was introduced in the seventh inning with runners at the corners and one out. He allowed an RBI single to Hunter Pence but then induced a ground out and recorded a strikeout to escape with a 3-2 lead intact.
Treinen came in with a 0.94 ERA and just three blown saves on the season, but second baseman Alen Hanson’s speed and a Hunter Pence liner down the line increased that tally by one.
Hanson reached after Phegley tried to backhand a Treinen slider for strike three with two outs in the top of the ninth. With the A’s still leading the Giants (51-49) by a run, Hanson reacted decisively when Pence’s first-pitch liner stayed fair just inside the first base line. He didn’t look back to see reliever Mark Melancon seemingly put a chair in the way of Piscotty as he followed Pence’s liner into the bullpen. Hanson either didn’t see or didn’t care about the stop sign from third base coach Ron Wotus. He just kept running, eventually raising his arms in the air in celebration as he crossed the plate as the tying run.
Piscotty was unhappy with the umpires for not ruling interference. A’s manager Bob Melvin explained the call didn’t come because everything on the field is technically in play.
“I felt like I got short-changed right there,” Piscotty said. “The ruling kind of defied common sense I thought, but accidental or not, there’s obstruction and that shouldn’t be my fault. I shouldn’t be penalized for that.”
For much of the game, Oakland struggled to put the ball in play. The A’s (56-43) scored three runs off Madison Bumgarner, chasing him early, but managed just two hits against him. Their six walks drawn against the left-hander — including two that brought in runs — were the main source of offense before extra innings.
“I don’t know if that’s ever happened to [Bumgarner],” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He ran a lot of deep counts and the walks caught up to him. He started that inning with a walk and then a blooper that fell, and had trouble making his pitches. That’s unlike Bum but it happens occasionally.”
But after having stranded the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth — when Marcus Semien grounded into an inning-ending double play started by Brandon Crawford — Oakland rallied with two outs in the 11th. Matt Chapman hit a 1-2 single to center off of Giants reliever Will Smith, and Chad Pinder sent a first-pitch line-drive single to left. Lucroy — who entered in the 10th after Phegley caught the first nine — sent a two-strike line drive into right for the seventh walk-off hit of his career, bringing Chapman around to score.