(OAKLAND) — With one crack of the bat, there was pie to be served and hope rekindled once again for the 2014 Oakland Athletics.
After starting pitcher Scott Kazmir blew three different leads in before the end of the sixth inning today, third baseman Josh Donaldson—and really, perhaps, the true American League MVP since everyone else on this team has all but disappeared in the last six weeks—delivered a walk-off, two-run home run in the bottom of the tenth inning to deliver the A’s from another loss.
The 8-6 win keeps the Oakland club one half game ahead of the Kansas City Royals (84-70) for the top wild-card spot in the AL, and even better, it helped the A’s (85-70) extend their lead over the Seattle Mariners (83-72) for the second wild-card spot to a full two games with just seven to play.
But it wasn’t easy: it just was pretty ugly … again.
Kazmir was just terrible, coughing up 11 hits in just 5.1 innings. Even though he struck out nine batters, the lefty gave two-out RBI to both Marlon Byrd and Carlos Ruiz in the process of blowing—in succession—a 3-1 lead, a 4-3 lead and a 6-4 lead before he was mercifully yanked from the game.
The A’s aren’t scoring six runs all that often any more, and for Kazmir to repeatedly give away leads? You could just feel the crowd groaning.
But today, the bullpen came through, delivering 4.2 innings of scoreless ball, and even though the Oakland hitters themselves struggled at the plate all day—the A’s drew nine walks but left 12 men on base—Donaldson saved the day in the end.
With stellar defense, 28 home runs and 97 RBI, why not Donaldson for the MVP Award? Sure, Mike Trout will win it—mostly because he didn’t win it in 2012 and 2013 when his Los Angeles squad missed the postseason—but it’s easy to argue that the Angels would still be good without Trout this year.
The A’s without Donaldson? This six-week slide has been ugly and revealing as to just how much Oakland needs its third baseman.
And if you want to go the sabermetric route, Donaldson’s WAR this season—that’s Wins Above Replacement—is second best in the majors to Trout.
The Oakland third baseman finished fourth in the MVP balloting last year, but if the A’s make the postseason, he should finish no worse than second this time around. He’s been that good for this sagging ball club.
Now, the Angels (96-60) come to town to take on the Oakland club for three games that once looked important. Los Angeles doesn’t really need these games, and the A’s really do.
It should be fun to watch, and with the Angels starting three lefties this week—C.J. Wilson, Wade LeBlanc and Hector Santiago—Oakland hitters might be able to get the edge they need against the less-than-stellar L.A. rotation.
Today was just one moment they needed, of course: there now needs to be a lot more of them.