OAKLAND — Ryon Healy received the postgame shower and proudly wore a crown on his head in the form of an upside down Dubble Bubble bucket.
It was well deserved, after his towering two-run homer off Francisco Rodriguez in the ninth Sunday gave the A’s an 8-6 victory over Detroit. But what stood out most about Oakland’s second walk-off win in a row was how many people it took to bring it to fruition.
The A’s didn’t play a perfect game on a sun-drenched afternoon at the Coliseum, but they had an ensemble of contributors come through and override their missteps. The result was a series victory over the Tigers, and a seemingly drastic shift in mood over a less-than-24-hour span.
“It was fun that we got the ‘W’,” Healy said. “It’s a lot of fun and I think everybody really feeds off that. Hopefully it continues to snowball positively for us.”
After losing Friday’s series opener — their ninth loss in the previous 11 games — the A’s walked off on Rodriguez on Saturday night in a 6-5 victory. On Sunday, they found themselves trailing 6-5 entering the bottom of the ninth with Rodriguez again trying to nail down a save. Like the game before, the A’s got multiple clutch at-bats when they needed them most. Rajai Davis worked a leadoff walk and Jed Lowrie doubled him home to tie the game.
After Khris Davis lined out, Healy got hold of a 1-0 fastball and sent a deep fly ball to left that seemed it might never come down. Justin Upton went back like he thought he had a play on the ball until he ran out of room and the ball barely cleared the out-of-town scoreboard.
“I thought it might hit a seagull to tell you the truth,” said A’s manager Bob Melvin, referring to the large flock of birds that eerily circled the Coliseum for much of the game.
The A’s wouldn’t have been in that position if not for a stellar relief effort from Bobby Wahl in just his third big league appearance. Sonny Gray worked just 4 2/3 innings as Detroit erased a 4-1 Oakland lead, and with a depleted bullpen at his disposal, Melvin called on Wahl to begin the seventh with the A’s trailing 6-5.
The rookie responded with two scoreless innings and two strikeouts. After a shaky debut in Minnesota where he gave up two hits and plunked a batter in one-third inning of work, Wahl steadied himself with a scoreless inning Friday that included a couple of strikeouts, then ate up two innings Sunday to get the ball to Santiago Casilla for the ninth.
“After that first one, for sure, I started feeling more comfortable,” Wahl said. “I got the nerves out a bit. It’s starting to feel like baseball again.”
The A’s (14-17) have won back-to-back games when they trailed after the seventh inning or later. They had lost 28 such games in a row leading into this weekend, the longest active streak in the majors.
It actually had not been that long, relatively speaking, since they’d last posted back-to-back walk-off victories. It happened July 22-23 of last season against Tampa Bay. In the second of those, Healy won the game with his first career walk-off blast.
It hasn’t been smooth sailing in his first full major league season. But Healy has shown some resiliency since having a two-error inning at third base early in Saturday’s game. He rebounded by homering in his next at-bat in that game. On Sunday, he singled and drew two walks among his four plate appearances before hitting the game winner.
He said he had no idea it was going out when it left his bat.
“I was kind of reading Justin Upton’s body language out there, whether he was running out of room or not,” Healy said. “I didn’t know it was gone until I was almost touching second base.”
That’s when his teammates began forming a mob at home plate. Healy threw his helmet high in the air after rounding third, he was doused with water as he conducted a TV interview, and Khris Davis crowned him with the Dubble Bubble bucket.
On Thursday, Healy homered against the Twins but was ejected later in the game for arguing a strike call. Melvin said after that game that his young infielder needs to know how to best channel his passion, but that he never wants to take away the fire that Healy plays the game with.
“That makes him who he is, because in those (pressure) situations, he’s afraid of nothing,” Melvin said. “He wants to be up in that situation.”