OAKLAND -– The A’s are finding new and entertaining ways to satisfy the fan base, even in defeat.
It was tough for anyone pulling for the home team Sunday to walk away too disappointed over a 7-6, 10-inning loss to the Boston Red Sox.
The A’s erased a 6-1 deficit, tying the game with two home runs in the ninth off normally bullet-proof Boston closer Koji Uehara. They were forced to make so many lineup changes that right fielder Stephen Vogt wound up switching positions three times, and even wound up back in right field at one point.
Down to their final out, and with the designated hitter no longer available, the A’s put a bat in closer Sean Doolittle’s hands and sent him up to pinch-hit in the bottom of the 10th. Not only did Doolittle not humiliate himself, he bounced a grounder out to second base and made the Red Sox throw him out to finally end the game.
“Taking three out of four in a series, you’ll take that any day,” said John Jaso, who delivered a pinch-hit, game-tying homer with two outs in the ninth off Uehara. “To lose in that fashion, where we’re not just giving up, and fighting to the end, that’s how you want to lose a game.”
The A’s wound up going 7-3 on their 10-game homestand. And as they embark on a three-city, eight-game road trip starting Tuesday against the Mets, they can be buoyed by the confidence of their comeback ability.
They scored three in the eighth Sunday on two-out RBI singles from Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson and Derek Norris. Then they got homers from Vogt and Jaso in the ninth to tie it off Uehara, who was riding a string of 38 consecutive saves converted, including the postseason.
David Ortiz put a damper on the good times with his go-ahead homer off A’s lefty Fernando Abad in the top of the 10th, which turned out to be the deciding blow.
But the intrigue wasn’t over.
After Norris left the game when he was hit in the head by yet another backswing, a series of lineup switches ensued, with Josh Donaldson needing to switch from designated hitter to third base and the A’s losing the DH.
Doolittle, a converted first baseman, was out in the bullpen stretching in case he was needed to pitch. The phone rang, and bullpen coach Darren Bush notified Doolittle he might be needed to hit. Doolittle hustled down to the A’s batting cage and took about 10 to 15 swings with hitting coach Chili Davis.
[RELATED: Kyle Blanks leaves Sunday's game with injury]
With two outs in the bottom of the 10th, he pinch-hit for Abad and dug in for his first professional at-bat since 2009.
“I was really hoping there was a way I could draw a walk, break my bat and get a bloop hit, or something,” Doolittle said. “I’m not exactly sure what I would have done if I got on base.”
He fell behind 0-2, then took a splitter from Uehara for a ball that impressed his teammates and manager.
“The 0-2 split he took, he looked like a real hitter,” Bob Melvin said. “I know I would have swung at it.”
Then Doolittle bounced a ball to second and was thrown out by about three steps to end it. The A’s couldn’t avoid defeat, but he at least avoided embarrassment.
“It was kind of a letdown,” Jaso joked, before admitting: “I feel like if I didn’t have an at-bat for four years, I’d have done worse.”