Game 37 // Ninth Inning, Oakland // Khris Davis for Three

BOTTOM OF THE NINTH: ATHLETICS 8 (4) – 5 RANGERS

 

Not that Chris Davis. The other one. Crush Khrush Davis. The ex-Brewer, the Oakland Athletic. Khris Davis.

He hit three home-runs on one balmy Oakland night, one for the win, two for the early lead and then the tie. He brought back an A’s team fighting to keep pace in the AL West, over a Texas team mixed up in controversy, comebacks, bruises, brawls, an unbroken claim to first place.

In the ninth, the A’s were up, and then down. Ahead 4-3, with two outs, and one swing of Ian Desmond’s bat put them down 5-4.

“A drive to left,” said one of the A’s TV guys. “That is not good, folks, not good, not good at all.”

A two-run home run, into the green, high-up seats well over the left-center wall, Desmond trotting home—the icing on a red-hot cake of a season so far, slapping forearms with each teammate lingering outside the dugout.

But then, Adrian Beltre hit a single to center. Billy Burns picked it up off the grass, sprinting in stride toward the infield. A throw toward home. Cut off by Yonder Alonso, and relayed to the catcher. Nomar Mazara tagged out as he slid into the plate. One of those momentum-giving feats of defense, transferable energy into the Oakland bats.

In the bottom of the inning, hope. Chance. Belief. Some sense of the unlikely meandering its way toward the possible. Texas closer Shawn Tolleson comes in from the bullpen, lugging a 7.07 ERA alongside him. The nervous potential of a lucky break.

And Stephen Vogt, to lead off the ninth, hits a slow, soft, bouncing-ground ball down the first-base line, a bunt-like accident he sprints past toward the bag. Tolleson snags it. Vogt runs past, too far to tag. He fields it, throws it, and Vogt screams out, in his best Forrest Gump: It felt like something just jumped up and bit me!

Vogt’s hit in the butt, Tolleson’s throwing path to first blocked, too late to loop it over his head, and he’s safe. A hit. Vogt ruled legally within the base path.

And now, the crowd—drums, chants, whistles—all come awake at once: “Let’s gooo Oak-laaand…”

Coco Crisp, former cereal brand, current Athletic, comes to the plate–36 years old and coming off an injury-marred 2015 season.

The crowd gets louder.

A low fastball from Tolleson brings the count to 3-1.

Crisp is the best Coco in history, by the way, an inch ahead of runner-up Coco Laboy, of the early 70’s Expos. And just ahead, also, of other two pieces of baseball trivia, cursed and/or blessed with ‘Cocoa’ their nickname: Dan Woodman, from the 1914-15 Buffalo Blues of the short-lived Federal League; Cesar Gutierrez, of the 60’s-70’s Giants.

So the Coco we know, the Coco of all Cocos, steps up with a man on, down a run, and rips a sharp, hard-hit line-drive to right. Vogt ducks under it, Moreland jumps up for it.

And he rounds first in an all-out sprint, legs it to second, and slides in safely, fooling Mazara—who’d thrown the ball back to the mound. The Rangers’ infield huddles up on the mound around Tolleson, as the Coliseum pumps out the “Y’all ready for this??” theme nostalgic for all Space Jam fanatics, and the crowd meanwhile gets louder still.

No outs. Two men in scoring position. Down by one. The Texas infield creeps in, to prevent the winning run.

Josh Reddick walks. Danny Valencia pops out to shallow right-field for the second out. Rangers’ manager Jeff Banister sits in the dugout, shaking his knees—nothing he can do from here on out, but wait. Hope, that he made the best call.

“High drama here tonight at the Coliseum…”

Now it’s Khris Davis striding up to the plate. Two outs, two home-runs on today’s resume, and no more room for sacrifice winners—here, now, he needs a hit.

The first pitch comes inside, ball one. Davis sweeps his cleats in the batters box dirt, and steps back in. He’s got ten home runs on the year, looking for number eleven. A fastball comes whipped in from Tolleson, high, Davis holds back on a check swing and the count’s 2-0.

On the next pitch, he rips one—a powerful swing, but just barely under it. It’s fouled back hard off the backstop netting. And another fastball, fouled off hard.

And this could be it: a 2-2 count, a squandered lead, a nervous pair of team dugouts, a Khris Davis stepping in against Tolleson, for the last pitch of the night.

A fastball comes right down the middle.

“BELTED. LEFT FIELD. AND. THAT. BABY. IS. GONE!!”

Davis rounds the bases, the Coliseum goes wild, and the team gathers around home, spraying water bottles, waiting to hug Davis, going mad, Adrian Beltre’s hands are on his hips—too ticked off to leave the field, and on the stadium loudspeakers it’s Kool & The Gang, “Celebration.”

“Celllll-uh-braaaaate good times, come on!”

The Golden State Warriors lost Game 1 against the Thunder a night earlier, out in Oakland, with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson missing on a string of late-game three-point attempts.

So it was down to Khris Davis, taking the sharp-shooting, three-ball reins himself—as he rounds third base, puts his helmet into his palm, winds up into a jump-shot and strokes a perfect three into to the beaming scrum of teammates. Nothing but net.

Three home runs. His first career grand slam. The winner. A Sammy Sosa hop as it rocketed off the bat. It flies through evening California air, into the half-empty seats of a bleachers going wild with joy. Celebrating, as the whole stadium calls out, the good times.

 

 

Previously:

8th Inning: TEX vs. DET

7th Inning: TEX vs. BAL

8th Inning: SFG vs. LAD

5th Inning: HOU vs. BOS

7th Inning: BAL vs. BOS

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