Delayed dash wins it for A's
04/29/2013 12:00 AM
04/29/2013 6:19 AM
OAKLAND – Standing in the A's dugout in the 10th inning, Yoenis Cespedes saw Eric Sogard dive headfirst into third base, saw Manny Machado's throw sail wide into left field – and saw Sogard lying in the dirt, looking around, not moving.
"When I saw the ball go behind him," Cespedes said, "I wanted to go over there, pick Sogard up and push him."
With the entire dugout screaming at him and third-base coach Mike Gallego standing over him frantically windmilling his arm, Sogard, suddenly embodying the end of a four-game losing streak, hopped up and sped home with the decisive run as the A's beat the Baltimore Orioles 9-8 to avoid the ignominy of a four-game sweep at home.
The A's rallied from deficits of 5-0, 6-4 and 8-6 before sealing their second walk-off win of the season. The Orioles had won 103 consecutive regular-season games when leading after seven innings.
It also marked the first celebratory pie in the face for So- gard, who got the last laugh.
"I had the eye protection," said the bespectacled second baseman. "So it didn't get in my eyes."
The wild ending came about after Sogard singled leading off the 10th against Baltimore reliever Pedro Strop. Adam Rosales dropped a sacrifice bunt that Strop fielded and threw wide to second base, leaving everyone safe. That brought up Coco Crisp, who received the option from manager Bob Melvin of bunting or swinging away.
Crisp, surveying the Orioles' defense, later said he felt he had a good chance at bunting for a hit. So he pushed a bunt toward third that Machado fielded and threw wildly past shortstop J.J. Hardy into left field.
"I was trying to read the crowd, whether I was safe or out," Sogard said. "I had a little breather there for a second, which was nice."
It was not so nice for his teammates and manager, who said the seconds Sogard lay in the dirt felt as if they were passing in "slow motion."
"Everybody was pretty frustrated with the way things have gone here recently," Melvin said. "So I would say the whole bench was giving him some encouragement."
That stopped short of anybody – Cespedes included – actually picking Sogard up, though in a sense the A's left fielder already had. In his first game back from the 15-day disabled list because of a strained left hand muscle, Cespedes hit a tying two-run homer off left-hander Brian Matusz with one out in the ninth inning to send the game into extras.
While Cespedes' value to the A's can be quantified – they are 9-2 this season when he starts and 5-10 when he doesn't – the details of the homer underscored the intangible worth of his presence in the lineup.
Consider Crisp's description of the A's dugout as Cespedes came up with a man on in an 8-6 game.
"You're in there thinking he can do it (hit a home run)," Crisp said. "He's so strong – if you touch the guy, he's a freaking rock – anything can happen."
On a 1-2 pitch, Matusz threw a low changeup that Cespedes crushed into the bleachers in left field. Cespedes said with two strikes, he was "only thinking about making contact." Before talking to reporters after the game, he ducked out of his locker to watch the replay showing on the TV in the A's clubhouse.
"I feel so happy," Cespedes said of contributing in his first game back. "The real goal for me right now is to try to keep healthy all year to help the team."
That didn't prevent a full-extension dive in left field for a Nate McLouth double in the ninth. Melvin said the A's can't expect Cespedes to play conservatively, even in the interest of staying healthy.
"We need him," said Seth Smith. "We've been in situations where good players have gone down before, but he's different. He's a different animal."
Smith hit a big two-run homer himself in the seventh, tying the score 6-6.
Seth's blast got Bartolo Colon off the hook after Colon allowed five runs – four in the fourth when the Orioles ran off five consecutive hits to start the inning. The A's scored four runs of their own in the sixth but didn't pull even until Smith's shot to center off left-hander Troy Patton.
"We just needed a win," Melvin said of his team, which had lost eight of nine. "We needed to fight, we needed to claw back, and do something good to win a game more than anything."
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