When A’s closer Sean Doolittle took the mound Saturday with a one-run lead in the ninth inning, you probably never expected the game to make it to the 14th.
And surely you didn’t expect Jeff Francis to be the one receiving congratulatory handshakes for eventually nailing down a save for Oakland.
But in a marathon contest where the A’s let two different leads get away, they needed to reach to the deepest depths of their roster to finally nail down a 7-6 victory over the Miami Marlins.
[INSTANT REPLAY: A's battle back, beat Marlins 7-6 in 14]
It only materialized after Francis, a journeyman starter who had never notched a save in 10 big league seasons, came on for Jim Johnson and escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the bottom of the 14th to torpedo Miami’s final comeback hopes.
“I’m not used to finishing games,” Francis said. “I’m kind of used to walking off the field and getting ready for the next inning. But to slap hands after a game like that … it was a thrill.”
So the A’s got to savor a hard-earned victory, which was good because there are other problematic issues to consider coming out of this one.
Catcher Derek Norris, who left Friday’s game with lower back tightness, did not even suit up Saturday. Manager Bob Melvin considers him doubtful Sunday as the A’s go for a three-game sweep. Melvin told reporters the disabled list is not currently being considered, and he’s hopeful Norris will be able to return during a series at Detroit starting Monday.
[RELATED: Norris' back injury does not appear serious]
Right fielder Josh Reddick, who was playing just his fourth game since coming off the DL, re-injured the right knee that sidelined him 20 games in the first place and left early in Saturday’s game. Melvin said Reddick will undergo an MRI on Sunday morning, so more will be known after that. But Reddick was not in great spirits addressing his injury after the game.
“Similar and maybe even a little more than the first time,” Reddick said in describing the pain. “It’s very frustrating. I take three weeks off and it feels great the whole rehab stint. The last three or four days I’m not feeling anything except minor soreness. I’m swinging the bat well and then this happens. It’s just a huge letdown, especially after starting off so slow this year.”
Closer Sean Doolittle, who has been so lights-out in building his All-Star resume this season, blew just his second save of the season and saw his 26 2/3-inning scoreless streak end. But he was finally due for a poor outing.
Of more concern should be the lackluster showing from starting pitcher Sonny Gray. The right-hander, coming off a nine-day layoff that was designed to give him extra rest, lasted just five innings and surrendered five runs for the second time in his past four starts. Though Gray was very sharp in his previous start June 18 against Texas, he’s posted a 5.50 ERA over his past six outings.
Was he rusty from the long layoff?
Gray turned in a scoreless first inning but then hit hard times in a three-run second.
“I just didn’t feel like my stuff was very good today at all,” Gray said. “My velocity was down a little bit. Everything was pretty flat.”
But the A’s can at least ponder these current issues through the lense of a victory they had to work overtime for Saturday.
“That’s what this team is really all about,” Gray said. “It’s not one person or two or three people (who are important). If someone has a bad day, there are a lot of other guys that can step up and make a pitch or make a play.”