SEATTLE — When all was going against the A’s on Tuesday, they found a way to counter-punch.
On a wild night in which shaky bullpen work and a game-changing error nearly doomed them, A’s manager Bob Melvin was most pleased that his team found a way to overcome adversity and claim the kind of game that’s been snatched away from them too often.
“When you go through streaks like this, you’ve got to find some fight,” Melvin said after Oakland’s 9-6 win over the Mariners. “We’ve been losing games by a defensive play, one pitch, little things through this whole stretch. At some point you’ve got to overcome it and find some grit and do some good things late in games when we’re behind. We finally did it tonight. Hopefully this is something we can build on.”
To say the A’s are a work in progress is an understatement. Until they find a way to cut down on errors and tighten up their relief work, they’ll be challenged to keep opponents down after they jump ahead of them. But, unlike three previous games on this road trip when they relinquished leads in the late innings, they found a way to overcome their mistakes.
Matt Joyce provided the biggest swing of the game with a two-run homer off Steve Cishek in the top of the ninth that turned a 5-4 Oakland deficit into a 6-5 lead. Then Mark Canha added a three-run homer for cushion, which proved important when closer Santiago Casilla gave back a run in the bottom half.
But the consensus in the A’s clubhouse was that Rajai Davis’ leadoff single in the ninth was the spark for it all. Davis pinch-hit for Josh Phegley and singled to right-center. With the A’s biggest speed threat representing the tying run with no outs, Cishek had to split his attention between first base and the next hitter, Joyce.
“With Rajai on first, being a base stealer, I was pretty confident I was gonna get a heater to hit,” Joyce said. “He fell behind 2-0 there. He kind of had to throw a strike. He gave me a fastball, a good fastball over the plate to hit.”
Added Davis: “Me getting on base, I think it caused a little bit of a distraction. Now he’s gotta throw a strike, and Joycie was ready for it.”
Canha, drawing his first start of the season in center field, went 3-for-5 with his three-run shot to left-center. It was his first homer of the season after he was sent down to the minors April 15 and was just recalled on the most recent homestand. He’s now 7-for-14 over his past four games.
Though it was easy to forget about after the A’s let a 4-1 lead slip away, Phegley was a big factor early in the game. He threw out two runners trying steal second, including one as part of a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play, and singled home a run to give the A’s a 4-1 lead in the fourth. Those caught base stealers helped propel Andrew Triggs to yet another impressive start. The right-hander threw six innings of oen-run ball, lowering his ERA to 2.12, which ranks in the top five in the American League.
Seattle’s three-run game-tying rally was aided by third baseman Ryon Healy’s two-run error, not to mention a replay overturn in which Jean Segura was ruled safe at first after it appeared the A’s had turned an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play to preserve a lead.
“I don’t know how that’s overturned,” Melvin said. “I really don’t, because it feels like we’ve been burned on that all year long. Just a lot of unlucky stuff. You’ve got to make your own breaks and you have to overcome it, and they did tonight.”