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A's find clutch hit in extras -- off the bench

Grossman's 10th-inning double snaps three-game skid
@MartinJGallegos
August 2, 2020

Baseball’s extra-innings rule change for 2020 was met with mixed reactions around the league. The A’s are starting to like the new format just fine. For the second time this season, the A’s came out on top of an extra-inning showdown on Saturday in Seattle. Robbie Grossman cashed in on

Baseball’s extra-innings rule change for 2020 was met with mixed reactions around the league. The A’s are starting to like the new format just fine.

For the second time this season, the A’s came out on top of an extra-inning showdown on Saturday in Seattle. Robbie Grossman cashed in on Oakland’s automatic runner on second base to begin the 10th, pinch-runner Tony Kemp, with a go-ahead RBI ground-rule double, then Liam Hendriks closed a 3-2 win over the Mariners at T-Mobile Park. The victory moved the A’s into a tie with Houston for first place in the American League West.

Box score

The go-ahead hit was a product of a savvy move by A’s manager Bob Melvin, who opted to pinch-hit the left-handed-hitting Grossman for Sean Murphy as right-hander Dan Altavilla had entered the game for Seattle. Grossman helped his cause by getting off to a strong start at the plate this season, having entered the game batting .400 with three RBIs over his first 15 at-bats.

“He’s been consistent all year. The thing about Robbie is he’s a weapon off the bench,” Melvin said. “We’ve seen him have such great pinch-hit at-bats for us.”

The A’s were desperately searching for a clutch hit that eluded them over a three-game losing streak, and Grossman’s double was their second of the night. The first came in the seventh, when Chad Pinder laced a game-tying two-run homer off Mariners reliever Nick Margevicius. Before Pinder’s blast, the A’s were 1-for-25 with runners in scoring position going back to Tuesday's 8-3 loss to the Rockies.

“We have not gotten big hits. We were stagnant again up until that point and all of a sudden, we’re in a tie game,” Melvin said. “The difference for us today was we didn’t get a ton of hits, but we got big hits when we needed to. That’s what wins games for you when you have the type of pitching we do.”

The home run provided an uplifting boost for Pinder, who had one hit through his first 11 at-bats prior to the blast, and it brought a collective sigh of relief to the visitors’ dugout at the time, as the A’s had been shut down by Yusei Kikuchi through six scoreless innings. Pinder’s ball sailed over the right-field wall an estimated 412 feet, per Statcast.

“We definitely needed that,” said Mike Fiers, who started Saturday for the A’s. “Everyone will tell you right now that we’re not firing on all cylinders and clicking like we usually do. That was a big hit to tie it, and we grinded it out from there.”

The A’s bullpen, which was well-rested after most of its top arms sat during the losing streak, combined to hold the Mariners scoreless over the final four innings. After perfect innings from Jake Diekman and Yusmeiro Petit in the seventh and eighth, respectively, Joakim Soria performed an impressive escape job in the ninth, recording back-to-back strikeouts of José Marmolejos and Shed Long Jr. to strand the bases loaded and keep the game tied.

“He’s got experience. He knows what he’s doing,” Melvin said of Soria. “He knew he had to try to get a strikeout and he did. It’s not the most comfortable situation, but that’s when you lean on guys that have that type of experience.”

After a rough 2020 debut, Fiers bounced back with the longest outing by an A’s starter this season. The right-hander tossed six innings and limited the Mariners to two runs on four hits and one walk. He was also able to generate more swing-and-misses than his first start, striking out three.

Of Fiers' 79 pitches, 48 were strikes. The only real trouble he faced was in the third, as a two-out blooper by Kyle Seager landed in center field and scored two runs before Ramón Laureano picked up the ball and ended the inning, firing a missile to Matt Chapman at third that nabbed Kyle Lewis, who was trying to go from first to third.

“It was good that Mike gave us six, too,” Melvin said. “Once he got into the flow of the game, he used all his pitches and was unpredictable like he could be. He got better as he went along.”

Martin Gallegos covers the A's for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MartinJGallegos.