Saturday, May 6
Things looked grim for the Oakland Athletics in the fifth inning on Saturday. With the team down 5-2 against the Detroit Tigers, disappointed fans flocked to the Shibe Park Tavern to watch the Warriors take on the Utah Jazz. When the A’s put two runs on the board in the sixth, several fans appeared startled by the applause coming from below. One fan remarked “Oh. I forgot we were at a baseball game.”
Fans had good reason to try to distract themselves from the product on the field. After stringing together an exciting five-game win streak, the A’s went on to lose nine of 11 games. They led the league in errors and had the league’s worst fielding percentage. Their pitching suddenly looked like a weak point. Sonny Gray returned from the DL and did not look like an ace in his first game back. Reliever Sean Doolittle went on the DL, likely for an extended period of time, with the same shoulder injury that plagued him last season. Kendall Graveman, who looked terrific to start the season, had a 7.71 ERA since his return from the DL.
Fortunately, Oakland fans were in for a treat after the Warriors game wrapped up and they returned to their seats. Down 5-4 in the ninth with no one on base, recent call-up Bruce Maxwell worked a two-out walk. Matt Joyce followed that up with a double, and Adam Rosales smacked a two-out single to bring home both Maxwell and Joyce for the 6-5 victory. The fans woke up, the players ran onto the field, and Rosales was treated to a pie in the face and a Gatorade shower to boot.
Sunday, May 7
The following day, the A’s scored early, but Gray threw 36 pitches to start the fifth inning, going only 4.2 and surrendering seven hits. Oakland had a 4-1 lead entering the fifth inning, but that lead evaporated by the time the A’s stepped into the batter’s box in the bottom of the inning. Things were looking grim once again, but the A’s were not done. Perhaps they were still feeling emboldened by the previous night’s late-inning heroics, or perhaps it was the “hittles” (more on that later). Whatever the reason, the A’s came back for a second consecutive night.
Down 6-5 heading into the ninth, Jed Lowrie hit a double to center to bring home the game-tying run. Ryon Healy followed that up with a two-run homer to left for the win, and Kool and the Gang’s Celebration blared from the speakers for a second straight night. Healy received the requisite pie and Gatorade, and a bucket of Dubble Bubble was added for good measure. Healy wore the gum bucket on his head for the remainder of his post-game interview.
Monday, May 8
In the series opener with the Angels on Monday night, Graveman appeared to emerge from his post-DL funk. He surrendered just two runs in seven innings. Despite his strong pitching, the A’s required late inning heroics for a third consecutive game. This time, the walk-off hit didn’t come until the eleventh inning. Lowrie blasted a two-out, two-run homer to right in the eleventh to end the game and cap off an exciting three-game stretch of walk-off wins. More Gatorade, more pie, and more Kool and the Gang.
Three Consecutive Walk-Off Wins May Ignite Oakland
After the game, the press attempted to elucidate the secret to three walk-off wins in a row. There were two common themes coming from players and coaches: momentum and “hittles”. It turns out hittles are lucky Skittles, eaten at just the right moment when runs are needed late in the game. We all know what momentum means, and we know that Skittles are not in short supply.
Thus, question becomes whether the momentum and chemistry generated from three consecutive walk-off victories will be enough to ignite a run at the playoffs, or at least a .500 record. If walk-offs worked for the underdog A’s of 2012, why not for this team? Detractors may point out that the 2017 Oakland A’s don’t have Josh Donaldson or Yoenis Cespedes. That may be true, but they do have “hittles”. Stay tuned.