This time it was Oakland hitting the late two-run homer to win
In a game full of All-Star sluggers on both sides, it was Tony Kemp who hit the go-ahead homer at the Coliseum on Sunday.
Kemp’s long ball in the 8th inning put the Oakland A’s on top in a 3-1 victory over the New York Yankees, salvaging a split for Oakland in the finale of their four-game series together.
Several times over the past couple weeks, we’ve seen the A’s serve up a two-run homer in the late innings of a close game, but today it was Oakland coming up with the clutch dinger.
With the score tied 1-1 in the bottom of the 8th, and two outs on the board, Mark Canha ripped a double for the first extra-base hit of the day by either club. Up next was Kemp, and he jumped all over a first-pitch fastball down the middle and lined it into the right field corner. The ball only had an estimated distance of 348 feet, but that was enough to sneak over the wall just above the 330 mark.
— Oakland A’s (@Athletics) August 30, 2021
The A’s pitching staff also had a big day. They limited a powerful Yankees lineup to just one run, and even that was unearned and required errors by two excellent Oakland defenders. Leading the way was Paul Blackburn, making just his third start in the majors this season and delivering five shutout innings. Four different relievers combined to take it the rest of the way, with Andrew Chafin sealing the 9th on nine pitches to earn his second save of the year.
Both teams had their share of chances with runners on base, but through the first seven innings they only had one unearned run apiece, each thanks to uncharacteristic errors by excellent defensive third basemen.
The A’s got their run in the 4th. With two on and one out, they hit a grounder toward New York third baseman Gio Urshela that could have been an inning-ending double play, but he booted it to load the bases. Next up was Canha, who grounded into what was initially ruled a 6-4-3 double play, but on replay review the call was overturned — he’d beaten the throw to first, and the runner from third scored on the play.
The A’s actually won a replay review pic.twitter.com/mdUBEW4aGc
— A’s on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) August 30, 2021
Oakland rallied again in the 5th with two more baserunners, but this time Urshela helped stop it with a nice leaping catch. In the 7th he made another error, helping the A’s load the bases, but they weren’t able to cash in again.
For a while, it looked like that one run amazingly might be enough. The Yankees have one of the hottest and most stacked lineups in the majors, but they couldn’t find the plate at all against Blackburn. He put at least one runner on base in every inning, but each time he navigated his way through it, including double plays in the 1st and 4th and a caught stealing in the 3rd by catcher Yan Gomes.
- Blackburn: 5 ip, 0 runs, 1 K, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 5 hits, 74 pitches, 89.0 mph EV
Perhaps his key stat was a 75% groundball rate, with 12 of his 16 batted balls staying on the ground. Not only did that help Blackburn keep the mighty Yankees in the park on a day when he only struck out one batter, it also resulted in a pair of double plays when runners did get on base.
The right-hander joined the rotation earlier this month as an injury replacement, and he’s stepping up in a big way, keeping the team in the game all three times he’s pitched. Last time out, against the Mariners, he tossed five scoreless before giving up a homer in the 6th, and today he backed that up with five more zeroes and then a perfectly timed hook after two turns through New York’s lineup.
Unfortunately, the lead was later lost, in the weirdest way.
After Yusmeiro Petit made it through the 6th, Jake Diekman came in for the 7th and did a better job than the box score will ever give him credit for. Against his first batter he delivered a perfect 3-2 pitch on the bottom edge of the zone but didn’t get the call, for a leadoff walk. He struck out the next two batters, with an escape job clearly in sight, but at the last minute Oakland’s defense slipped.
First it was a wild pitch by Diekman himself to advance the runner to second. Then came an error by Gomes, who had a chance to catch a foul popup but clanked it. Given another opportunity, the batter hit a grounder toward third baseman Matt Chapman, but a funky hop ate up the Platinum Glover and it scooted between his legs. The runner scored from second, and the game was tied.
Borderline walk, wild pitch, missed popup, and then error by the best defender in the majors. In a summer full of heartbreak in close games, that was as frustrating of a sequence as any, especially after it erased the A’s own good fortune after scoring on a single, single, error on a GIDP ball, and then a GIDP overturned on replay.
At the end of the 7th, the score was tied. Who would come up clutch in the late innings to grab the win?
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