OAKLAND — The word of the week in Oakland is “walk-off.”
With the A’s and Indians knotted in the bottom of the ninth on Saturday, and runners on second and third, Oakland center fielder Ramon Laureano lofted a flare into no-man’s land in shallow right. Indians right fielder Jordan Luplow nearly caught it, but he slipped and fell at the last moment, allowing the ball to drop and Matt Olson to trot home with the winning run.
Saturday was the third time in their last four games that the A’s won in their final at-bat, this time a 3-2 win over the Cleveland Indians. On Wednesday Oakland got a walk-off homer from Stephen Piscotty, and on Friday, they got another from Matt Chapman, the first of his career at any level of the sport. On Saturday, though, they got the job done with some uncharacteristic small-ball.
“Just keep it simple as I can and just put the ball in play,” said Laureano of his approach leading up to his clutch hit. “I was just pissed off that I hit a blooper.”
Olson led off the ninth with a walk against Indians reliever A.J. Cole, and Kendrys Morales followed with a single to put the winning run in scoring position. Piscotty then laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners over, setting up Laureano’s heroics. Not only was it the first successful sac bunt by the A’s this season, it was their first in 84 games dating back to last August.
“We bunt a lot, so we expect to get that thing down, get guys over, and get ‘em in,” manager Bob Melvin said jokingly. “We don’t ask him to do that often, but when you get it in a big situation and you haven’t done it in quite a while, to be able to do it is pretty impressive.”
For Piscotty, it was only the second sac bunt of his career, and his first since 2016.
“It’s good to know that we can do that,” said Piscotty of the small-ball maneuvers. “It’s not our typical style, but we’re scratching and clawing and getting these W’s so we’ll take it.”
The A’s showed hustle in all of their scoring on Saturday. They managed only four hits on the afternoon, but, between their own aggressiveness and some help from the Indians defense, they made the most of their opportunities by plating a pair of unearned runs against All-Star starter Trevor Bauer.
For the second straight day, Marcus Semien reached base to lead off the first inning for Oakland and then came around to score. He chopped a grounder to third base, but Jose Ramirez clanked it for an error to allow Semien to reach safely. Semien then stole second base to put himself in scoring position, and was driven home on a single by Matt Chapman.
Nick Hundley added another run in the fifth inning on an even wilder play. The A’s catcher drilled a liner off the wall in left field, which missed clearing the fence by inches for what would have been his first homer of the year. The carom, however, was misplayed by Indians outfielder Jake Bauers, and Hundley tried to stretch his hit into a triple. He should have been out easily on the throw to third base, but once again, Ramirez was unable to make the play in front of him. The ball skipped by Ramirez, and Hundley raced home for a Little League homer, ruled as a triple and a throwing error.
“I thought when he hit it, it was gone,” Melvin said of Hundley’s blast.
It was only the third extra-base hit this season for Hundley, who’s hit .192 with a .491 OPS in 22 games.
The lineup’s late heroics were made necessary by another blown save from the bullpen, their second in as many days and their MLB-leading ninth of the season. Blake Treinen had a chance to close it in the top of the ninth inning, but right fielder Luplow singled to lead off the frame, moved up on a sac bunt and scored on a single by Leonys Martin, who drove in both of Cleveland’s runs on the day.
“Blake has picked up this team so many times. I think it’s the first run that has been scored on him in forever,” said Melvin, referencing Treinen’s franchise-record streak of 32 straight scoreless innings at home, which was broken on Saturday. “After he gives up a little groundball hit in the hole that scores a run, we’re able to come back and pick him up. That’s what being teammates are all about.”
Before Treinen’s hiccup, though, the A’s were kept in the game by another strong performance from their pitching staff, beginning with Liam Hendriks and Aaron Brooks. Oakland utilized a bullpen opener for the first time this year, after experimenting with the practice last summer, and Hendriks responded with a scoreless first inning. Brooks followed as the long reliever, after serving as a starter in his first six appearances of the season.
Brooks allowed plenty of hard contact in his four innings, but he worked around almost all of it. Despite giving up four hits and three walks, the only run he let through came on a solo homer by Martin. The long ball could have been more damaging, but Hundley threw out an attempted base stealer earlier in the inning.
“Maybe not his best stuff today, but made big pitches when he had to,” Melvin said of Brooks, who needed a hefty 91 pitches to make it through his four frames, but did pick up four strikeouts along the way.
“Nibbling a little bit, threw quite a bit of balls,” said Brooks of his outing. “They took some good pitches, but overall just try to keep them off balance and seemed like that kinda worked.”
Yusmeiro Petit chipped in as well, escaping a Cleveland rally in the sixth. After Brooks allowed the first two batters to reach base, Petit came in and retired the next three to strand both runners. He and Lou Trivino combined for three sterling innings to serve as a bridge from Brooks to Treinen.
“One of the reasons that we signed him a couple years ago was because of his inherited runners,” said Melvin of Petit’s Houdini act. “He’s a real calm thinker, late movement on his ball, expects to do well. That’s quite a jam he’s in, gets out of it unscathed. That was probably the biggest couple at-bats of the game.”
The pitching staff will welcome a familiar face back to the fold on Sunday, as they look to finish off a sweep of the Indians before heading back out on the road next week. Daniel Mengden is scheduled to come up from Triple-A Las Vegas and make the start for his season debut, opposite Jefry Rodriguez for Cleveland. Mengden pitched 22 games for the A’s last year, including 17 starts, and finished with a 4.05 ERA.