OAKLAND -- The A's winning the American League West was a shock to many. Rookie reliever Evan Scribner winning the AL West for the A's was a shock to all. After the Rangers rallied for five runs off starting pitcher A.J. Griffin in the third inning, he was pulled from the game with two outs. With the A's division championship hopes seemingly on life support, Scribner made like Dr. House, sans the limp and cane, and enacted his own form of special healing over three scoreless innings of work. Scribner earned just his second career win and easily the biggest one. He allowed just two hits, no walks, and struck out two Rangers. As Scribner applied the tourniquet, the A's rallied for six runs, and ended up scoring 11 unanswered en route to sweeping Texas. "Pitching in the biggest game of the year, the last game to clinch the pennant, and doing my job, I couldn't ask for anything more," Scribner said. "I didn't think that I was going to keep going out."But he did. He retired the final batter of the third inning. Pitched the fourth and the fifth as well. Then left with two outs in the sixth, thus bridging the gap for the big guns in the bullpen. "There was no bigger contributor than Evan Scribner," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He's kind of silently been that type of contributor all year for us.""It's always about the players," general manager Billy Beane said. "But Bob's perfectly timed move with Scribner, and Scribner doing the job he did is really what turned this game around."Scribner is probably the most underrated player in a bullpen full of unsung heroes for the A's. Inside the clubhouse however, the work of the relievers has not been under-appreciated. Often referred to as the backbone of the team, they accumulated a 2.94 ERA and .209 opponents batting average this season -- both marks were the second best in the American League. Of Scribner's last 11 outings, 12 were scoreless. He is peaking at the perfect time for his team. He was 2-0 with a 2.55 ERA, 30 strikeouts and 12 walks in 35 13 innings for the A's this season. "Definitely a dream come true," Scribner said. "I remember this offseason I was just hoping to have another opportunity to make it to the big leagues again."After Scribner's effort, Jerry Blevins finished the sixth inning by striking out Josh Hamilton. The former American League MVP might consider changing leagues to avoid the A's lanky lefty. Hamilton is 0-for-7 with five strikeouts in his career against Blevins. Through six innings the A's knew it was time to send out their three-headed green monster. Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle, and closer Grant Balfour. Only one problem...Cook and Balfour had pitched in five consecutive games, and Doolittle had appeared in four straight. A cringe-worthy notion in Melvin's mind. The A's leadership, however, had been assured they were available."I was worried about the bullpen and Bob and I were talking in the office and he goes 'Every one of them came up to me and said I was available,'" Beane said. "And I looked at him and I go, 'Really?' and he goes 'Yeah.' And I go 'Good.'" "Once we got close and we had those guys available," Beane added. "I think everybody in the back of our minds were thinking, 7-8-9, we've got Cook, Doolittle, Balfour." And available they were. They threw three scoreless innings to lock down the game, complete a historical surge to take the American League West after trailing by five games with nine to play, and started the postgame champagne celebration. After all, nothing was going to keep the "Mad Aussie" known as Grant Balfour out of the game. Even with a 12-5 lead heading into the ninth inning, telling the intense closer to sit this one out wasn't a safe idea. "Once you get here you are playing on adrenaline and you want to be out there and contribute to this," Melvin said. "I even tried to get Balfour to sit down in the ninth and he wouldn't do it." "I look up to Balfour a lot," Scribner said. "He knows what he is doing so well, and he is always so prepared and fired up to go in." After the final out Balfour was so fired up he turned a hose on the A's crowd. They loved every second of it. The team then took a victory lap around the warning track and saluted the fans. It's fitting that the bullpen, the backbone of the team, kept them upright when it was needed the most.
The A's look to take down the Yankees in some early Saturday baseball. Manager Bob Melvin makes some changes to the order.
Oakland A's (22-25)
1. Rajai Davis (R) CF
2. Mark Canha (R) RF
3. Jed Lowrie (S) 2B
4. Khris Davis (R) LF
5. Ryon Healy (R) 1B
6. Trevor Plouffe (R) 3B
7. Chad Pinder (R) DH
8. Josh Phegley (R) C
9. Adam Rosales (R) SS
Jharel Cotton -- RHP
New York Yankees (27-18)
1. Brett Gardner (L) LF
2. Gary Sanchez (R) C
3. Matt Holliday (R) DH
4. Starlin Castro (R) 2B
5. Aaron Judge (R) RF
6. Didi Gregorius (L) SS
7. Aaron Hicks (S) CF
8. Chris Carter (R) 1B
9. Ronald Torreyes (R) 3B
CC Sabathia -- LHP
NEW YORK — Jed Lowrie is the counterpoint to the A’s home run-crazed offensive attack.
Sure, the A’s switch-hitting second baseman can muscle up and clear the fence. But Lowrie’s approach is more about spraying base hits all around and using the whole field. He was at it again in Friday’s 4-1 A’s victory over the Yankees, going 3-for-4 and delivering an RBI single that snapped a scoreless tie in the eighth.
“I always have to carry his glove out to second for him because he’s always on base,” shortstop Adam Rosales said. “He looks really good at the plate right now, and he’s kind of just putting us on his back. It’s contagious to see a guy like that doing so well.”
Lowrie bumped his average up to .310 with Friday’s game. Until he grounded out in the sixth, he’d notched hits in seven consecutive at-bats dating back to Tuesday night. That streak fell one shy of the A’s record for most consecutive hits. Three players share the record at eight — Josh Reddick (in 2016), Dave Magadan (1997) and Brent Gates (1994).
“It’s all about the work,” said Lowrie, whose 15 doubles are tied for third in the AL. “Everything comes together when you’re seeing it well. I’m seeing it well but the approach hasn’t changed.”
With two runners aboard and two out in the eighth, Lowrie punched an RBI single to right off Tyler Clippard for the game’s first run. It was the breakthrough the A’s needed after they’d struck out 13 times in seven innings against Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka. Khris Davis followed Lowrie’s hit by beating out an infield single to score another run. Then Stephen Vogt added a two-run homer in top of the ninth to make it 4-0, and that provided some cushion as closer Santiago Casilla gave up a run and made things tenser than they should have been in the bottom half.
Davis, the most fearsome hitter in Oakland’s lineup, is thrilled to have a productive Lowrie batting in front of him as the No. 3 man.
“Somebody’s gotta hit .300,” Davis said. “All year he’s been our most consistent hitter and best hitter. I hope he keeps going.”
The A’s have won four in a row at Yankee Stadium dating back to last year. It’s their longest winning streak in the Bronx since a four-gamer at the old stadium in 2006. And it was a good way to begin a seven-game road trip for the A’s, who came in with the league’s worst road record at 6-15.
Rosales had puffiness under his right eye and said he was anticipating a shiner after his hard head-first dive into third base didn’t go as planned in the eighth. He scraped up his face pretty good after going first to third on an errant pickoff throw and taking a hard dive into third, only to find the dirt wasn’t giving.
After addressing reporters, Rosales said he was on his way to find an ice pack.