OAKLAND – John Jaso lifted the A’s to victory Saturday night, and it really couldn’t have been anyone else cast as the hero.
On a mostly silent offensive night for the home team, Jaso was involved in everthing positive that happened. In the bottom of the 10th, he blasted the first pitch he saw from the Washington Nationals’ Drew Storen for a game-winning double that scored Nick Punto for a 4-3 A’s victory in front of a sellout crowd on fireworks night.
Jaso provided the A’s first run with a solo homer off Tanner Roark in the third. The A’s were blanked after that point until they scored twice in the bottom of the ninth to tie it off Rafael Soriano, who had converted 19 straight save opportuntieis.
Jaso started that rally with a single to lead off the inning, and he came around to score on Jed Lowrie’s double.
On Jaso’s walkoff double in the 10th, the towering drive bounced off the right field wall. But it appeared Nate McLouth might have a chance for the leaping catch. He couldn’t grab it, and the A’s had their third consecutive victory in the bag.
Starting pitching report
Delete the top of the third and Gray had himself a pretty nice night. But that’s when the Nationals struck for all three of their runs against him, and the rally happened in rapid-fire fashion. Gray allowed hits to four consecutive batters – a home run by Danny Espinosa, singles by Zach Walters and Denard Span and a two-run double from Kevin Frandsen. Gray also uncorked a wild pitch and hit Jayson Werth with a pitch in that inning, an odd sequence where the right-hander simply lost his command for a spurt.
Espinosa’s homer came on a belt-high 2-1 pitch, just the third homer Gray has allowed this season in 54 innings. It marked just the second time Gray has given up as many as three runs in an inning in eight starts this season.
Luke Gregerson delivered a scoreless eighth. Then Sean Doolittle looked dominant in retiring all six batters he faced over the ninth and 10th.
At the plate
The A’s managed just three base runners against Roark over 7 2/3 innings, and one of those reached on a fielding error. The second-year pitcher was coming off a rocky start in which he allowed seven runs in four innings against the Philadelphia Philles. But on Saturday night, he looked more like the pitcher who shut out the San Diego Padres two starts ago in a three-hitter.
Jaso’s third-inning homer to right-center was the only hit Oakland mustered through the first seven innings. But things changed quickly in the ninth off Nationals closer Rafael Soriano. Trailing 3-1, the A’s tied it in a span of three batters. Jaso led off with a single. Jed Lowrie’s double to the gap in right-center scored him and Josh Donaldson lined a single to left to tie it. For some reason, Soriano of all people cut off the throw from left field as Lowrie scored to make it 3-3.
In the field
Some nice plays sprinkled throughout the night helped Gray after his third-inning rough patch. Center fielder Craig Gentry threw out the Nationals’ Kevin Frandsen in the fifth as he tried to go first to third on Anthony Rendon’s bloop single. Josh Donaldson made a nice stab of Wilson Ramos’ sharp grounder in the sixth and threw him out, and Josh Reddick made a nice running catch along the wall of Frandsen’s foul fly ball in the seventh.
The first Fireworks Night of the season drew a sellout crowd of 36,067.
In a marquee matchup of left-handers, the Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez (3-2, 2.91) makes his first start against his old team. Scott Kazmir (4-1, 2.64) takes the hill for the A’s in the 1:05 p.m. series finale.