The Oakland Athletics for much of the season led the American League West, yet in August the team began to slump and needed a complete game shutout from Sonny Gray to earn the second wildcard. Which meant facing the Kansas City Royals on the road in a one game series.
Jon Lester took the mound for the A’s, which was the plan all along by manager Bob Melvin. It seemed like a great idea and for the most part it was. Until the bottom of the eighth inning when Alcides Escobar opened with a lead off single, stole second and got to third on a ground out by Nori Aoki. Lorenzo Cain followed with a RBI single, stole second and Eric Hosmer walked to end the night for Lester the center piece of the Yoenis Cespedes trade.
With Billy Butler at the plate Melvin decided to bring in Luke Gregerson instead of Dan Otero. It didn’t work out well for the most part as Butler went the other way with a RBI single moving Hosmer to third. It didn’t get better for Gregerson as Ned Yost pinch ran for Butler with Terrance Gore who promptly stole second. A wild pitch pulled the Royals within a run as Hosmer scored.The A’s reliever then walked Alex Gordon before striking out Salvador Perez and Omar Infante.
Now what would have been different for Oakland if Otero had gotten the call from the bullpen? He is known for his ability to throw strikes and if an opponent makes contact he’s more likely to induce a ground ball and with one of the slowest runners in Major League Baseball in Butler, the A’s got an excellent opportunity to limit the damage and it didn’t happen.
Still during the top of the ninth inning the A’s loaded the bases against Greg Holland with two outs. Instead of pinch-hitting with Adam Dunn, Melvin let Jed Lowrie hit and he promptly swung at the first pitch after Holland walked three in the inning and flew out to right field.
A’s closer Sean Doolittle blew the save. He allowed a lead off single to former Athletic, Josh Willingham who got pinch ran for with Jarrod Dyson. Escobar sacrificed, Dyson then stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly to deep right field that nearly got over the head of Josh Reddick. Cain ended the inning by lining out to Lowrie.
In the bottom of the 10th and 11th inning for the Royals got a runner to third, yet each time the A’s were able to get the final out. Oakland took an 8-7 lead in the 12th after Reddick walked, Lowrie moved him over with a sacrifice bunt and got to third on a wild pitch, Alberto Callaspo singled him in after pinch-hitting for Nate Freiman.
Most importantly is that Coco Crisp left in the 11th inning with an apparent hamstring injury meaning that Johnny Gomes went to left field and Sam Fuld moved to center. Gomes who isn’t known for his defense proved that in the 12th when Eric Hosmer hit a deep drive that neither outfielder could get to, though Gomes did hustle over to get it back to the infield while Hosmer ended up on third with a triple.
Otero who was still pitching and threw a nasty pitch to Christian Colon who hit a high chopper that didn’t give Josh Donaldson a chance to get Hosmer at the plate or Colon at first. Melvin then brought in Fernando Abad to face Alex Gordon who fouled out on the first pitch he saw.
Instead of Melvin allowing Abad to face Salvador Perez he went to the bullpen again this time bring in starting pitcher Jason Hammel. The A’s did call for a pitch out and guessed correctly, yet catcher Derek Norris never caught the baseball allowing the stolen base with ease.
Perez ended the A’s season on the next pitch by hitting the ball down the left field line to score Colon.
Again it comes right back down to the decision-making of Melvin it was non-existent tonight. He had no reason to bring Hammel in, as Abad showcased throughout the 2014 season that he will get right-handed and left-handed batters out equally well.
If Melvin had gone to Otero likely advance and he stuck with Abad the game would have continued to the 13th.