grand slam

A’s defeat Tiger’s on Zobrist’s grand slam & other notes

The Oakland A’s have had a rough first two months of the season. Going into June they were 20-33 and 12 games out of first place in the American League West. 

The team showed signs of life nearing the end of May, even after losing left fielder Coco Crisp for what could be the rest of the season and with closer Sean Doolittle coming off the disabled list to make one appearance before being hit with another injury.

Still the team was beginning to play a little better, committing fewer (though still too many) errors and overall playing more cohesively as a unit with contributions from a number of different players.

A's, grand slam
Billy Burns. Getty Images

The back end of the starting rotation began going deeper into games, taking pressure off of the struggling bullpen.

Their offense was coming to life with speedy rookie center fielder Billy Burns and veteran catcher Stephen Vogt leading the way, along with regular contributions from Josh Reddick, Brett Lawrie and Billy Butler.

Ben Zobrist returned at the end of the month from the disabled list to provide valuable versatility in the field and the team hired Ron Washington to help with their defensive woes which are already showing signs of improvement.

To end the month the Athletics took three games out of a four game series against the New York Yankees and had a much needed day off to start the month of June.

The A’s opened the month of June Tuesday, by winning the first game of a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers by the score of 5-3.

Rookie starter Kendall Graveman allowed all three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. To lead off the inning he gave up consecutive singles to Miguel Cabrera and Yoenis Cespedes. He retired the next two batters but then allowed a walk to Tyler Collins.

Cabrera scored on a wild pitch by Graveman with Nick Castellanos at the plate. Castellanos then plated Cespedes and Collins with a single to center for the Tigers’ only three runs of the game.

grand slam
Kendall Graveman. Getty Images.

Graveman pitched a full six innings for Oakland allowing just the three runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out one. 

At first it looked as though the A’s weren’t going anywhere against Tigers’ starter Alfredo Simon, who did not allow a hit before giving up a single to Burns with one out in the fifth inning.

In the 7th inning the A’s finally caught a break and took advantage of it. Lawrie singled to lead off the inning and advanced to second on a wild pitch by Simon. Marcus Semien then singled moving Lawrie to third.

With runners on first and third and just one out, Eric Sogard hit a ground ball to second baseman Ian Kinsler who went to get the out at home. Lawrie, however, held up and stayed at third keeping all the runners were safe on a fielder’s choice. Of the play Kinsler said later, 

“It was just a complete reaction play. I had to pick up a tough hop and turn toward the outfield, and my first look was at second base, to see if I could get an out there, and I couldn’t. And as I was continuing to move, to throw the ball to first, I saw (Lawrie) take three hard steps, and I just reacted to the play.”

Burns then plated Lawrie with his second single of the night. It also signaled the end of Simon’s night as he was replaced by Angel Nesbitt

Zobrist stepped up to the plate to face Nesbitt and smacked a line drive to right field on Nesbitt’s second pitch, an 86 mph change-up.  It landed in the glove of a young boy in the first row and was a grand slam for the A’s who now led the game 5-3. 

The reaction of the kid was priceless. It went from one of pure joy at catching the ball to one of despair as it dawned on him that it was a grand slam ball that put the opposing team ahead. He ended up being a good sport about it, but I understand how he could feel that way. He made a great catch but it was a costly one.

Either way the ball would have been out of the yard. Zobrist new he’d hit it hard but not how hard, 

“I didn’t think it was going to clear, to be honest, when I hit it, but I knew I hit it hard enough to get over his head,” Zobrist said. “So I was just happy about that.”

Evan Scribner came in and pitched two perfect innings and Tyler Clippard allowed a hit in the ninth but ended up with the save.

Finally the A’s, who lead the majors in errors, were capitalizing on the other team’s mistakes instead of the other way around.

It’s true that the team, who is 2-15 in one run games, would have a change of luck at some point. It was also inevitable that they would begin committing fewer errors as time went by.

The A’s are, for the most part, a completely new group of players from all around the league who are still getting used to playing together. They are not in the clear yet but in the last week of games they have begun to look more like a team.

It was the Tigers’ fifth straight loss.

Other Notes:

  • The A’s activated lefty reliever Eric O’Flaherty off of the disabled list and optioned RHP Angel Castro back to Triple-A Nashville. O’Flaherty had been on the DL for a month with shoulder inflammation. The A’s were waiting for him to be pain-free before activating him for this road trip.
  • Starter Scott Kazmir, who left his last start with “shoulder soreness,” threw a pain-free bullpen session on Sunday and is now scheduled to start on Friday in Boston.
  • Another pitcher, Drew Pomeranz, is scheduled to come off of the disabled list this week. He’s pitched in the rotation and also in relief. With Jesse Chavez, Jesse Hahn and Graveman all pitching well behind A’s ace Sonny Gray and Kazmir, the rotation is getting somewhat crowded. It’s likely that Pomeranz will be sent to the bullpen to help in long relief situations but A’s manager Bob Melvin said Tuesday that those decisions were “still up in the air.”
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