Entering the ninth inning trailing 4-1, the Oakland Athletics certainly didn’t inspire a lot of confidence in their chances to win their Wednesday matinee against the Chicago White Sox in the Windy City.
But when the game ended in the 10th inning, the A’s had an improbable 7-4 win under their belts — their second straight road series win and an equalizer that gets the team back to .500 on the year as they head home for a four-game series against the Detroit Tigers starting tomorrow.
Cliff Pennington delivered the game-tying hit in the ninth, while Coco Crisp and Daric Barton provided the game-winning blows in the tenth inning.
Exploding for six runs in the ninth and ten innings is always a good recipe for success, even if it flies in the face of conventional wisdom for the A’s.
But the White Sox bullpen keeps blowing save opportunities, and Oakland took advantage — again. In stealing two wins in this series after trailing in the ninth inning, the A’s have to consider themselves fortunate to get back to the Coliseum with a 6-6 record in this young 2011 season.
Once again, though, the Oakland defense made enough to mistakes to hand Chicago two free runs. After playing relatively well in the field the past few games, the A’s spotty defense put the offense in a hole it usually doesn’t recover from.
Throw in a subpar start from Brett Anderson — he gave up nine hits in only 5 2/3 innings — and Oakland didn’t look like a very good team heading into the ninth.
It’s interesting what some hits and good fortune returned can do to hide the warts on any team, though, and after Conor Jackson led off the ninth inning with a double, Josh Willingham drove him home to close the gap to 4-2. After loading the bases, however, Kurt Suzuki and Ryan Sweeney both struck out.
Yet Pennington wouldn’t wait for a full count to decide the team’s fate: swinging on the first pitch, he drove in Willingham and Crisp to tie the game before the extra-inning heroics clinched the victory and the series win for the A’s.
All’s well that ends well, of course, but Oakland should be happy to be coming home after this nine-game gauntlet of a road trip that could have truly broken their season early.
With the Texas Rangers falling to 9-3 today, the A’s only trail the American League West lead by three games now — with 150 games left in the season, there is plenty of time to erase the warts and reach the postseason for the first time since 2006.
But fortuitous wins like this one shouldn’t be considered normal or expected to occur very often.