Athletics Create Extra Success in Extra Innings One More Time
The new rule on extra innings can’t be as easy as the A’s are making it look.
Oakland completed a 4-1 homestand Sunday with their fifth extra-inning win of the season in five tries, 5-4 over the Angels.
And while the focus of the extra-inning rule change was generating offense, putting a runner at second base for each half inning to increase the possibility of one team or another of scoring, that’s not Oakland’s focus. It’s not even the focus of the A’s hitters.
“For a lot of the credit, you’ve got to give a shoutout to our bullpen,” Mark Canha said. The DH came up with no one out and men on the corners facing Ty Buttrey and delivered a walkoff sacrifice fly to right center.
Canha said the bullpen makes everything else work in extra innings “because they keep shutting to door with that new runner-on-second, nobody-out. When you do that, that’s huge. We’re going into the bottom of half of the inning just have to get one to win, and that takes the pressure off the offense. It makes our job a little bit easier.”
In the five extra-inning games the A’s have played, the Oakland bullpen has allowed just two hits in eight innings in overtime. And one of those came after the runner at second base had been thrown out. For the more part, then, that’s meant the A’s have been able to concentrate on scoring just one run, not on furiously rallying from behind.
So far, at least, the A’s have been able to make the new extra inning rule an ally, if not a weapon. The relievers, who have combined for the best bullpen ERA in the American League at 2.01, only seem to be getting better. The A’s pen hasn’t allowed a run in the last 17 innings and despite the A’s going to them early and often – the relievers have pitched at least 3.1 innings in each of Oakland’s last four games.
This time it was Liam Hendriks, who gout a foul ball, a grounder and a fly ball without the runner at second budging.
The bottom of the 10th began with pinch-runner Franklin Barreto at second base. Matt Chapman hit a bullet in front of left fielder Brian Goodwin. The left fielder bobbled the pickup, but the ball was hit hard enough that Barreto had to hold up and made in only as far as third base. Moments later, Canha got the run home with a fly ball that Mike Trout caught, but the Angels’ center fielder wasn’t close enough to make a competitive throw.
“I’ve always kind of believed in myself in those situations,” Canha said. “I was telling myself the same thing and just treat it, as `You have a good approach, take that up there and win this game.’”
Manager Bob Melvin said the success comes from “knowing the situation.”
“You know that Chappy’s looking for a good pitch to hit out over the plate,” Melvin said. ‘He was thinking of hitting it the other way, but he wound up pulling it because it was a little bit off-speed. And Mark is just terrific in those situations.”
This win was big for the A’s in lots of ways. They left the Bay Area Sunday night and will play the next 10 games on the road – four in Texas, three in Houston and, after a day off – three in Seattle. Oakland has now played 10 series and won seven (two of the losses were two-game series). They are now 5-0 in extra inning games and have four walkoff wins. And they won Sunday without hitting a home run, something they need to do much more frequently than they have been.
Their first four runs all came on two-out hits, and those had been scarce in the last 10 days or so. The one area where the A’s have come up big has been getting hits in the clutch, and that doesn’t seem to be going away.
Melvin was thrilled by the situational hitting saying “we won without a homer and we were 5-for-10 with runners in scoring position. It’s all good stuff.”
And now, one game short of the season’s halfway mark, the A’s are headed out for 10 road games against AL West competition.
“We’ve gotten off to a good start, which we’ve talked about since Day One,” Melvin said. “And now it’s about the second half of the season. And once we get through this road trip, there will only be about 20 games (21) left.
“That’s a serious sprint to the end. So, we’ve put ourselves in good position. We still have a lot more work to do.”
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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