After an hour-plus rain delay and having their batting practice canceled, the A’s could have been excused for coming out flat Tuesday.
And struggle they did for much of the night against New York Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda. But as they’ve shown before, the A’s can take a dull offensive effort and transform it into something special.
Their come-from-behind 5-2 extra-inning victory at Yankee Stadium was the ideal launching pad for this nine-game road trip. Brandon Moss was the hero with two home runs, including the go-ahead shot in the top of the 10th, but what was so encouraging for Oakland is it was an ensemble effort – a victory where several players were needed to come through and did.
“That’s a huge win for us, going up against Kuroda and this team,” A’s closer Sean Doolittle said. “The first game of a long road trip for us, to be able to get a come-from-behind win against a team like that … for our guys to find a way to get it done late, that’s a big team win.”
Moss still isn’t running great after missing two games with a strained right calf. On a night he served as designated hitter, his most strenuous activity was trotting around the bases. Moss crushed a homer to center in the fifth to make it a 1-1 game, getting hold of a two-seamer from Kuroda after he narrowly missed on the same pitch in the second, flying out to deep center.
“I hit the (fly out) pretty good, I guess I had a little fade on it,” Moss said. “The second one, I recognized it a little bit sooner and threw my hands out in front a little bit more.”
Kuroda gave up just two hits in his 6 2/3 innings, and for the second start in a row, A’s left-hander Scott Kazmir found himself engaged in a pitcher’s duel.
Kazmir’s last two starts have been perhaps the best two outings he’s grouped together all season. His fastball popped the glove as hard as 95 miles per hour. His changeup had hitters flailing – Alfonso Soriano struck out three times against him – and Kazmir rang up a season-high 10 strikeouts.
He handed the ball to his bullpen, and Fernando Abad, Luke Gregerson, Dan Otero and Doolittle held the Yankees scoreless over the final 3 2/3 innings.
But the A’s were trailing 2-1 with two outs in the top of the eighth, facing tough right-handed reliever Dellin Betances, when Stephen Vogt pinch-hit for Craig Gentry and doubled home Alberto Callaspo to tie the game.
It was a big moment for Vogt, who was just recalled from the minors Sunday. He had an 0-for-4 day in his first game, then sat most of the night Tuesday before being called upon in the eighth.
“He’s aggressive. He’s a smart guy, and he knows the mindset for pinch-hitting,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “It’s never easy coming in when you’re sitting on the bench the whole game and now you have the biggest at-bat of the game, but he was prepared for it.”
At 19-10, the A’s are the best road team in the majors. Their momentum and confidence tends to snowball from game to game. And though Tuesday didn’t start out particularly encouraging, the final outcome leads you to wonder where they might take it from here.