Walk. It. Off: A's secure much-needed win

April 8th, 2021

OAKLAND -- Six days of frustration for the A’s. Six days of tension mounting from constant reminders about their undesirable beginning to the 2021 campaign. All of it was alleviated with one swing of the bat from .

The sense of urgency was at an all-time high for the A’s. Entering Wednesday’s game against the Dodgers winless through six games to match their worst start to a season in franchise history, a win felt like a necessity. It required 10 innings, but Moreland’s walk-off single against Jimmy Nelson to clinch the 4-3 victory provided a huge sigh of relief.

Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration,” the A’s traditional postgame victory song, echoed throughout the Coliseum, to the delight of the Oakland faithful, for the first time this season immediately after Mark Canha crossed home plate for the game-winning run. A few minutes later, Tony Kemp provided Moreland with a Gatorade shower during an on-field interview while “Under Pressure” by Queen played over the speakers, a fitting song selection for how the A’s had felt leading up to Wednesday’s climactic finish.

“We’ve been needing that win, and waiting on it,” Moreland said. “That was a hard-fought game. We can take that one into the road trip and carry the momentum over.”

Moreland was one of a few newcomers who entered the day struggling in the early goings, with just two hits through six games. On Wednesday, he and new A’s shortstop Elvis Andrus were both catalysts in stopping Oakland’s six-game losing skid, with Andrus plating home the game-tying run in the ninth on a sacrifice fly.

“I’ve always said when new guys come up with a big hit in a game like this, it just makes you feel that much more part of the team,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “These guys are going to do plenty of good stuff for us.”

Getting Matt Chapman into a groove at the plate could go a long way in getting the A’s back on track. Mired in a 2-for-19 slump with no extra-base hits through his first six games, signs of a turnaround for the 2019 All-Star were evident on Wednesday.

Chapman narrowed the A’s deficit to one run in the seventh, when he finally got on the board with his first homer of the season. It was a booming solo shot off Trevor Bauer on a 3-1 fastball that was drilled 108.9 mph off the bat and traveled well up the bleachers in left-center a projected 426 feet, according to Statcast, providing a reminder of the power the star third baseman possesses when he’s at his best.

Chapman provided a spark again in the ninth by leading off with a single against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, and eventually scoring on the sacrifice fly by Andrus.

“When Chappy is right, I feel like everyone else is right,” A’s starting pitcher said. “He’s a huge part of this team. To see him take off, I feel like he’s having fun. When he plays like that, he’s at his best.”

Luzardo grinded out a gutty performance in what turned out to be the best outing by an A’s starter this season. After allowing a run as he worked through a 35-pitch opening frame, the left-hander settled in and retired 12 of 13 batters at one point, before exiting with two on and one out in the sixth. He allowed two runs on five hits and issued four walks with six strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings.

Though the 23-year-old lefty has turned in much flashier performances in the past, with plenty more strikeouts produced by his electric arm, Melvin ranked Wednesday’s start among the best of Luzardo’s young career, considering the losing streak and exhaustion from the taxing first inning.

“That outing, after having to deal with what he did in the first inning, to get us as far as he did was fantastic,” Melvin said. “That’s really taking it to another gear, with the fact that he had such a rough first. Next thing you know, he’s pitching close to six innings.”

Moreland’s heroics ensured the A’s a happy flight. They’ll travel to Houston for a rematch with the Astros, the team at the root of Oakland’s early struggles, after completing a four-game sweep at the Coliseum to kick off the regular season. The A’s can now enter that three-game series opener on Thursday with some positive vibes.

“Believe it or not, I feel like the slow start has made our chemistry even better,” Moreland said. “Everybody knew we would get on the board and win some games to get back to normal. We couldn’t really think of a time in anybody’s career that we had started like this.

“Now we can grow for the rest of the year and win some ballgames while we’re at it.”