OAKLAND -- Stephen Vogt walked slowly to his locker in the A’s clubhouse dragging what appeared to be several pounds of ice on various areas of his body, including a foot and his right hand, where he’d taken a foul ball late in Saturday night’s game. In a way, the catcher, who had just delivered a walk-off hit in a 3-2, 10-inning win over the Twins, seemed to personify the current A’s -- bruised and battered, but still kicking.
Vogt’s game-winning single off Minnesota right-hander Casey Fein capped a back-and-forth night that ended in just the A’s second walk-off win of the season, and saved them from a potentially devastating loss after starter Scott Kazmir took a shutout into the ninth only to watch the Twins rally to take the lead in a span of four batters.
The A’s tied the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth to force extras, handing Twins closer Glen Perkins his first blown save of the season, and ultimately recorded just their second extra-innings win this season in eight games. They are 4-11 in games decided during the last at-bat, with Saturday’s win at home giving Josh Reddick a chance to -- as he has seldom done this year -- deliver a celebratory whipped cream pie to Vogt’s head.
"That’s huge for a team," Kazmir said of the walk-off win. "Especially for us, because we haven’t done that recently. There’s been times we had the opportunity, and we just couldn’t get it done."
Doing so Saturday required a series of contributions in the final two innings:
* Brett Lawrie’s was of the redemptive type. With one out and Kazmir still carrying his shutout in the top of the ninth, Lawrie made a whirling, wild throw on Brian Dozier’s sharp grounder, allowing Dozier to take second base on the error and leading manager Bob Melvin to replace Kazmir -- who was at 112 pitches -- with closer Tyler Clippard.
Clippard hit Torii Hunter in a two-strike count and gave up a game-tying double to Joe Mauer on a full-count changeup. Miguel Sano then lofted a sacrifice fly to right, giving the Twins a 2-1 lead.
"He just makes so many good plays for us that if he makes a good throw (on Dozier), he probably has him," Melvin said of Lawrie. "It’s our job, the rest of the team’s job, if somebody makes an error, to pick him up."
This time, Lawrie picked himself up. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Lawrie hit a sharp one-hopper off Perkins that Twins shortstop Eduardo Escobar gloved on a back-hand dive. Sprinting down the line, Lawrie beat Escobar’s throw by a half-step to keep the inning alive.
"That ends up being enormous," Melvin said. "It’s easy to get frustrated and not run down the line hard, and then the game’s over. But that effort right there kept it going, and that’s what he’s all about is effort every game."
After taking second on a wild pitch, Lawrie scored when pinch-hitter Jake Smolinski blooped a single into left field, handing Perkins -- who had converted his first 28 save opportunities this season -- his first blown save.
"I just yanked it, that was all it was," Lawrie said of the throwing error. "It’s on me. But nah, I kept the faith."
* Smolinski could hardly have chosen a better time for his first hit at the Coliseum in an A’s uniform. Though jammed by a 92 mile per hour fastball from Perkins, Smolinski got enough of the pitch to dump it into shallow left field, taking Clippard off the hook for a loss and giving the A’s new life.
"That’s why we got him, is for some production against left-handed pitching," Melvin said. "It’s not an easy situation to sit there for nine innings like that and be called upon for the biggest at-bat of the game. But it was huge."
The A’s claimed Smolinski off waivers from the Texas Rangers on June 21, and called him up from Triple-A Nashville shortly before the All-Star Break. Saturday’s was only his fifth plate appearance in the majors since June 18. He said afterward he was glad to contribute to a clubhouse that has quickly taken him in.
"I can’t say enough about the guys we’ve got here, and the coaches," Smolinski said. "From day one, they’ve welcomed me."
* After Drew Pomeranz pitched a scoreless top of the 10th, Billy Burns led off the bottom of the inning with a double. After falling behind 0-2, Burns extended the at-bat to seven pitches, looping the final one from Fein into right-center.
That already put Burns in scoring position with nobody out. But on the second pitch to Vogt, Burns took off for third base, diving in head-first a split second before the tag. It forced the Twins to bring their infield in, and Vogt then lined the game-winning hit into left field, through the pulled-in infield, to touch off the celebration.
"He made that inning happen," Vogt said of Burns. "What a great at-bat to battle and get the hustle double, then obviously taking third was huge.
"He’s the Rookie of the Year so far this year. He’s not getting the recognition he should be nationally. (But) he’s been probably our most consistent player all year and is doing it as a rookie."
Melvin said Burns has a green light to steal and that, "He’s got to get the right pitch to go on -- and he did. That’s a pretty gutsy move right there. It’s a close play."
Burns had also stolen second base Friday night in the later innings with the A’s down 5-0 -- not a conventional situation to run, but an illustration of his confidence when he gets a good jump. Burns said he felt he got another good jump off of Fein on Saturday night and simply ran with it.
"Sometimes I’ll shut it down, first step in, but I just felt like my momentum was carrying me forward towards third and I thought it was a pretty good jump," Burns said. "So I just carried through with it and was hoping for the best.
"The last couple nights I felt like I’ve had two decent jumps and I’ve just trusted them and carried through with them. Sometimes I’m better at my jumps, and the last two nights I’ve had two pretty good ones."
Lawrie said there was "great energy in the dugout" as soon as Burns got on base.
"It’s just fun to watch that guy go out there and do what he does," Lawrie said.
* For Vogt, it was his first career walk-off hit in the regular season, but his second with the A’s. He also ended Game 2 of the 2013 ALDS against the Tigers with a walk-off hit, and Saturday night he had a similar reaction, raising his right pointer finger to the sky as he ran to first.
This may not have been the same stage as a playoff game, but for a last-place A’s team needing wins before the trade deadline, Vogt’s hit Saturday felt almost crucial, especially given the way Kazmir had pitched in a no-decision.
"It was huge for us to come right back after kind of ruining Kazmir’s gem," Vogt said. "But we came back."
* Going into the ninth, it looked like the storyline would be Kazmir vying for his second career shutout and first since 2006. Even after Dozier reached on the single and Lawrie’s error, Melvin said it was a difficult decision to take Kazmir out.
"I wanted to let Kaz finish that game," Melvin said. "I wanted him to go out and have a chance to get the shutout. But once there was a guy on second base and one hit can tie the game, a long ball and you can end up losing it, I didn’t want to put him in that position."
That Kazmir was even pitching in the ninth, Melvin said, was "Houdini-like." That was because Kazmir had thrown 25 pitches in the first inning -- 15 before he even recorded an out. The Twins loaded the bases with nobody out on two hits and a walk. But Kazmir struck out Sano and got Trevor Plouffe to bounce into an inning-ending double play.
"I guess that’s how you draw it up," Kazmir said, grinning. "After you go through a first inning like that and come out of it with nothing, that really gives you a lot of confidence going into the rest of the game."
Kazmir faced the minimum over the next seven innings, erasing Minnesota’s only two baserunners with double plays. Particularly in the later innings, he appeared to get ahead of Twins hitters -- especially right-handers -- with off-speed pitches, then finish them off either with breaking balls or well-placed fastballs. Kazmir said his changeup, his best secondary pitch, was effective Saturday and has been in recent starts.
"Especially because he established his fastball so well early in the game, it created the opportunity to throw his changeup early in the count, which typically you don’t want to do," Vogt said. "But with the way his changeup was, and the way he established his fastball inside, he made it easy to throw it early in the count and get some quick outs."
After leaving his final start before the All-Star Break with triceps tightness, Kazmir said he had no lingering discomfort Saturday. He said he thought dehydration led to a cramp in his arm in that last start, but he felt "no problems at all" against the Twins.
Kazmir’s name has been a popular one in trade rumors, and a handful of teams had scouts at Saturday’s game. Even with his abbreviated start before the break the left-hander’s last month and a half has likely done little to hurt his value: In his last seven starts, Kazmir is 3-1 with a 1.35 ERA.
"There was never really a stressful moment after the first inning," Vogt said. "He was some kind of good."
* One out away from starting the second half with consecutive losses, the A’s now have a chance to steal this series in the finale Sunday. It’s right-hander Jesse Chavez (4-9, 3.40) opposing Twins left-hander Tommy Milone (5-1, 2.84) -- who returns to a Coliseum mound with which he’s very familiar, having pitched for the A’s from 2012-14.
First pitch at 1:05 p.m.