Athletics

Healy caps another walk-off win, but A's get plenty of help

Healy caps another walk-off win, but A's get plenty of help

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.”

Five free agent starting pitchers still available for A's to target

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USATSI

Five free agent starting pitchers still available for A's to target

It's no secret the A's could use some starting pitching help.

The problem became more dire this week when the team announced talented left-hander Jesús Luzardo would be shut down for four to six weeks with a rotator cuff strain.

Though the season is already underway, there are still several starting pitchers available on the free agent market. Former Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel tops the list, but don't expect the A's to throw massive money his way.

Instead, Oakland may choose to pursue one of these five starters:

Edwin Jackson

Jackson certainly makes the most sense of anyone. The 35-year-old right-hander was the most pleasant of surprises last season. Jackson went 6-3 with a 3.33 ERA in 17 starts and was a key part of the A's clubhouse chemistry.

The two sides have been in contact for much of the offseason but have not been able to come to terms on a deal. That could change now that Jackson and the A's both figure to be a little more desperate.

James Shields 

At the age of 37, Shields is obviously nearing the end of his career, but he figures to get a shot somewhere in the league. The former All-Star went just 7-16 with a 4.53 ERA last season with the White Sox but did pitch over 200 innings.

Shields has a career ERA of 4.01 in 13 seasons. The right-hander would likely fair better on a team like Oakland, especially playing his home games at the pitcher-friendly Coliseum.

Miguel González

González is coming off season-ending rotator cuff surgery, but at just 34 years old he has a chance to bounce back. The right-hander went 8-13 with a 4.62 ERA in 2017, his last full season, but recorded a solid 3.73 ERA the year before.

González has a career ERA of 4.06 in seven major league seasons and could be another pitcher who would benefit from the Coliseum. He will be available for cheap, making him a low-risk signing.

Yovani Gallardo

Gallardo has struggled the past few seasons, but at just 33 years old, he still has time to regain his form. The right-hander has a career ERA of 4.06 in 12 big league seasons.

Gallardo's last productive season came in 2015 with the Texas Rangers. The former All-Star finished that year 13-11 with a 3.42 ERA. Like González, he should be available for a low cost.

[RELATED: A's have options at first base after Olson injury]

Bartolo Colón

Yes, Big Sexy is still going strong at the age of 45. You've got to think someone will take a flier on the former Cy Young Award winner, who will be entering his 22nd major league season.

Colón has 247 career wins and a 4.12 ERA, though he struggled to a 5.78 ERA last season in Texas. But three years ago, the right-hander went 15-8 with a 3.43 ERA and made his fourth career All-Star Game.
 

What Matt Olson injury means for A's offense, defense at first base

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AP/USATSI

What Matt Olson injury means for A's offense, defense at first base

The A's fears became a reality Friday when Gold Glove first baseman Matt Olson had to undergo surgery on his right hand.

No timetable has been provided for Olson's return, but a 2018 article in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine which studied similar procedures suggests he will likely miss three to seven weeks.

This is obviously a huge loss for Oakland. Beyond Olson's terrific defense, the 24-year-old provided tremendous power in the middle of the lineup.

Last season, Olson slashed .247/.335/.453 with 29 home runs and 84 RBI. That production won't be easy to replace, but the A's do have some reasonable options.

Platoon players Mark Canha and Chad Pinder can both play first base, and carry plenty of power in their bats. Canha clubbed 17 home runs and 22 doubles last year in just 365 at-bats. Pinder, meanwhile, hit 28 homers in 580 at-bats over the last two seasons.

Another option for the A's is to move Jurickson Profar to first base -- where he played 24 games last year -- and start Franklin Barreto at second. Barreto is coming off a terrific spring, hitting .375 (12-for-32) with a home run, four doubles, three RBI, five walks, and eight runs scored.

Barreto now has a great chance to make the 25-man roster in Olson's place. The 23-year-old has long been considered one of the A's top prospects, but has never had a chance to get consistent playing time in the big leagues. Oakland moved him from second base to the outfield this spring, but now a return to second makes sense.

[RELATED: Can A's regroup after rough beginning to season?]

The A's are fortunate to have enough offensive depth to survive the loss of Olson, but the biggest impact will likely show up on defense. Olson's height and scooping ability at first base will be incredibly hard to replace.

Nonetheless, Oakland showed the ability to overcome injury adversity last season. The A's just have to do it again this year.