Sogard: 'This team never dies'
OAKLAND -- The A's had lost a season-high tying four games in a row, and victory was a mere 90 feet away. There was only one problem. With the baseball rolling freely into the outfield, Eric Sogard was laying at third base and not running home.
With third base coach Mike Gallego's arm spinning so fast that he almost propelled himself into flight, Sogard finally realized what was happening, popped to his feet and frantically sprinted home ahead of the throw to score the game-winning run.
It took four seconds, but it must have felt like an eternity for the A's.
Moments earlier, Sogard reached base on a single with the game tied at eight runs in the 10th inning. He reached second when Adam Rosales laid down a sacrifice bunt that almost resulted in a force out. Coco Crisp followed with another sacrifice bunt down the third base line that Orioles third baseman Manny Machado scooped up and threw to shortstop J.J. Hardy, who was covering the bag, but the ball got away.
"I couldn't really tell what was going on," Sogard said. "I was trying to read the crowd to determine whether I was safe or out. Sure enough, I looked up at Gallego and he was waving me, looked up and saw the ball rolling into the outfield and decided to take off."
"I had a little breather there, which was nice," Sogard added with a laugh.
The end result was a 9-8 walk-off win for the A's and the first ever A's postgame pie for Sogard.
"It tasted good, it tasted great, I had the eye protection so it didn't get in my eyes," said the A's bespectacled second baseman.
The A's have been in a rut. They needed this win badly. It didn't look like they were going to get it. The Orioles erupted for four runs off starting pitcher Bartolo Colon in the fourth inning and added another run in the sixth to take a 5-0 lead.
The A's haven't overcome a five-run deficit to win a game since September 26, 2009. The Orioles hadn't lost a game when trailing after the seventh inning in their last 103 chances.
"We just needed to win," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "We needed to fight, we needed to claw back, do something good and win a game."
Yoenis Cespedes returned from the disabled list before the game and stepped right back into his role as the team's biggest offensive threat. He went 2 for 5 and hit a two-run game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth to keep the A's alive.
"I am so happy because my real goal is to stay healthy to help the team," Cespedes said through interpreter Ariel Prieto.
Two innings earlier, Seth Smith hit a two-run home run of his own to tie the game at six. In the sixth inning, the A's scored four runs and sent 10 batters to the plate. Josh Donaldson drove in two runs with a bases loaded double.
"It's amazing what a couple of good at-bats can do for the team and do for everyone," Smith said. "Cespedes is as good as they come, but we have a lot of good baseball players that are willing to accept their role and go out and win a game together."
The A's were able to score, but the Orioles were able to answer back each time, except for in the ninth inning, when reliever Jerry Blevins tossed a much-needed shutdown inning for his team.
"I think it meant a lot especially for the momentum," Blevins said. "It seemed like once our offense put some runs on the board, they'd get one back or add one, so it was good to have a shutdown inning more for our offense."
The win on Sunday avoided what would have been a disastrous four-game home sweep at the hands of the Orioles. The A's have still lost eight of the last 10 games, but winning in dramatic fashion might help them turn it around.
"We know it's just one game, but it's heck of a lot better than losing," Crisp said.
The music was playing in the clubhouse after the game for the first time in a while. They have arguably their best player back, healthy and contributing. It looked like a weight had been lifted from the A's collective shoulders.