Athletics

Kemp's walk-off sac fly masks 'worst game' of his career

Athletics

The Athletics beat the Boston Red Sox 7-6 on a walk-off in the 12th inning Saturday, and Tony Kemp delivered the game-winning sac fly, but you wouldn't have realized either of those outcomes by watching the utility player's postgame press conference.

Despite playing the role of hero for the A's in a game they desperately needed to win, Kemp was as emotional as you will see a player 15 minutes after a game.

Up until the walk-off sac fly that scored Seth Brown, Kemp was having a game to forget. And the miscues go beyond the box score. While he was 0-for-4, a popped-up bunt with the bases loaded in the 10th inning and several defensive misplays were all Kemp could think about after the game.

"That was a relief," Kemp told reporters on a video conference call after the game. "Leading up to that point in the game, that was, thinking back, I think that was, up to that point, the worst game I've played in the big leagues. Just a lot of thinking going on there, like such a long game, sometimes you help your team win, sometimes you help your team lose. Unfortunately, for a long time in that game, I was on the unfortunate end of that.

"The error right there, the bobble to turn the double play. I can't remember the last time I haven't gotten a bunt down in my career and popped up a bunt. Right there when we were getting hits in the end, it's not just me being able to come through, it's the whole team and just being able to see everybody continue to play hard and with determination, it's a long season. Lot of determination, lot of grit out there. So yeah, there were a lot of emotions. I'm glad we came out on top."

 

Manager Bob Melvin dubbed Kemp's bunt attempt in situation where you don't normally see that play a "mix-up," and Kemp made sure to let Melvin know he regretted what happened.

"Once we got into that situation, I walked on deck and I just apologized to [Melvin]," Kemp said. "I just said 'Sorry for that mishap, that pop-up bunt,' because I try not to be too hard on myself, but I think it was impossible today not to look back and look at some of the things unfortunately I couldn't get done myself.

"I just apologized to him and he patted me on the butt and said 'Go get 'em.' And obviously, that's why he's one of the best managers in the big leagues. Because no matter what happened in the past, he still had confidence in me. He knew the outcome was going to be good."

Melvin was happy Kemp was able to put several tough moments behind him and come through when the team needed him to.

"You have to relish that opportunity again," Melvin told reporters. "You want it again and he did. He didn't miss it the next time."

It would have been easy for Kemp to let the earlier plays hinder him from putting together a quality at-bat in the 12th inning, but part of being a professional athlete is having a short-term memory and moving on from failures. Even though he was tough on himself, Kemp was able to push aside the bad moments in order to end the day with a positive moment.

"He wanted to badly," Melvin said. "And he's done such good work for us this year and got off to a little bit of a slow start in that game defensively too and ends up getting the biggest at-bat of the game. So you've got to fight through some demons when you don't get off to a good start and something like that happens dramatically, and you end up coming up with the last at-bat, that's good stuff."

After his 396th career big league game, Kemp wore his emotions on his sleeve a few minutes after the A's had celebrated on the field at the Coliseum. He hadn't quite processed what had just happened over the last four-plus hours.

"When you're out there in the arena, there are so many things that ... you just want to make every play and you want to do the best you can out there. And yes, the walk-off makes it better, but I'm not trying to dwell, I'm not trying to be down on all the negatives, but being able to do this press conference 10-15 minutes after the game ended, there's still a lot of emotions running through me that I can't really explain because walking out to the outfield and seeing runs cross home plate and you know that you were a part of that unfortunately is a hard pill to swallow," Kemp said. "Usually when you are the one taking away the runs and especially a big series like this, it's tough. So to be able to end on a positive is good. I'm sorry that I'm being so negative, I just feel like it's such a real interview, these are just my emotions, this is all I have and this is how I think and it's who I am."

 
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Kemp beat himself up verbally during the entire press conference and then when he was asked one last time about the failed bunt attempt, he literally beat himself up, smacking his forehead several times with the palm of his hand.

Then, before leaving the press conference, Kemp let out a primal scream, as if he was exorcising all the frustration from the worst game of his career out of his body.