OAKLAND, Calif. — Jimmy Rollins did something at the Oakland Coliseum on Tuesday night that he hadn’t done for 20 years.
Similar to then, Rollins and his team walked away victorious.
The Oakland native blasted a game-winning home run in the ninth inning off Oakland A’s reliever Sean Doolittle and the White Sox overcame a blown save for a 5-4 victory in front of 10,478. The White Sox are 2-0 for the fourth time in five seasons courtesy of the 386-foot drive by Rollins, who was a second-round pick out Encinal High School (Alameda, Calif.) in the 1996 amateur draft.
[BOX SCORE: White Sox 5, A's 4]
“I’ve had a couple of big games here in high school,” Rollins said. “Found a way to win those also. So hopefully we keep that up for a couple of more days before we get out of town.”
The White Sox were mere minutes removed from their first big downer of 2016.
Yonder Alonso’s two-run single with two outs in the eighth inning made it a 4-all contest and produced the 53rd career no-decision for Jose Quintana, who struck out seven and allowed two runs in 5 2/3 innings.
But Rollins fired up the dugout, Quintana included, when he ripped into a 94-mph fastball from Doolittle.
“The thing that is most important here is that we take the W,” Quintana said. “We got the W is the most important.
Rollins’ fourth trip to the Coliseum as a player has been the most fruitful. He grew up rooting for the A’s and all-time leadoff great Rickey Henderson, who attended Monday’s season opener. After Sunday’s workout, Rollins said he always tries to make sure to get a big hit out of the way early. He did that on Monday with an RBI single in the team’s four-run, third-inning rally.
Perhaps the season-opening hit (though it was more likely his early work in the cage on Tuesday) allowed Rollins to look for something to drive against Doolittle. He fouled off Doolittle’s first pitch, a 94-mph fastball, and swung and missed at another to even the count at 2-2 before the homer.
“(Rollins) took some swings earlier in the at-bat,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He doesn’t always do it, but a veteran guy can kind of lay in the weeds a little and get something.”
Rollins’ previous heroics at the Coliseum came against Cal High School (San Ramon, Calif.).
In that instance, Rollins crushed a two-run, game-winning homer on a 3-0 pitch.
Rollins said fouling off the first pitch against Doolittle had him in the right frame of mind as he was confident in his timing. The homer was Rollins’ first against a left-handed pitcher since last July 8.
“I felt pretty good earlier during batting practice,” Rollins said. “And I was able to execute the move I was working for and I got a good pitch to hit. I hit it pretty good.”
Rollins wasn’t the only new player to get into one for the White Sox on Tuesday.
Todd Frazier appeared to have the White Sox in position for a nice victory when he went low and got out in front of an 0-2 curveball from Chris Bassitt and crushed it for a three-run homer in the fifth inning.
The 399-foot drive gave the White Sox a 3-1 lead and also snapped a 10-inning scoreless streak for the offense.
An inning later, the White Sox added some cushion with three straight singles from the bottom of the lineup. Brett Lawrie, Alex Avila and Austin Jackson all singled to make it a 4-2 game. Adam Eaton, who went 3-for-5, also singled to load the bases. But Rollins grounded into an inning-ending double play.
The offense’s late production appeared to have Quintana in line for a hard-earned victory. He wasn’t great, but Quintana was plenty effective. He and Matt Albers pitched out of a sixth-inning jam to preserve a 3-2 lead.
Albers pitched 1 1/3 scoreless and handed the ball to Zach Duke and Jones. Duke gave up an infield single to Josh Reddick and Jones hits Khris Davis and Stephen Vogt to load the bases with two outs. Jones stranded a pair with a strikeout of pinch-hitter Chris Coghlan after Alonso’s first-pitch single to right.
But Rollins made up for the hiccup with his piercing drive.
“We’ve got something special, man,” Frazier said. “It’s a good team. We’re coming together as a nucleus. You see Jimmy ground into a double play, next thing you know, he doesn’t think about nothing, goes up and hits a home run. That’s just the way baseball is. He’s been doing it for a long time, and its real fun to see a guy of his caliber still dominating the game.”