In front of packed crowd, A's veterans fuel win in Bay Bridge Series

August 6th, 2023

OAKLAND -- The A's severed one of their few remaining ties to the not-so-distant past by parting ways with Ramón Laureano on Saturday, designating the veteran outfielder for assignment to clear the way for Oakland's up-and-comers to get extended opportunities.

Though they entered the day with their sights set on the future, the A's reveled in a Coliseum atmosphere that evoked memories of years past later that evening.

With the Coliseum packed with a season-high 37,553 fans -- almost 10,000 more than the previous high set on June 13 against the Rays -- the A's beat the Giants, 2-1, buying themselves a chance to hoist the Bridge Trophy after being swept in two games at Oracle Park in late July.

Just as in the San Francisco leg of this year's Bay Bridge Series, the two Bay Area fan bases united in chants to protest the A's planned relocation to Las Vegas.

"There's not many places louder than Oakland when there's a lot of people in there," said Seth Brown, who drove in the winning run on a two-out, bases-loaded RBI single in the eighth inning. "The fans out there today were just fantastic.

"... Especially for these young guys, being able to come into Oakland and hear what this place is like when there's fans out there. It's special."

Brown, Tony Kemp and Paul Blackburn are the only active A's who were on the roster in 2020, the last time Oakland appeared in the playoffs. And fittingly, all three of them played a role in Saturday's win, which snapped a four-game losing streak.

Blackburn put together one of his finest starts of the season, twirling six scoreless innings and striking out seven while scattering two hits and three walks. He left the game with a slim 1-0 lead -- thanks to rookie Jordan Diaz's fifth-inning solo shot off Ross Stripling -- but eventually had to settle for a no-decision when the Giants rallied to tie the game in the top of the eighth.

When the inning flipped, the A's quickly mounted their own rally. Aledmys Díaz led off the frame with a pinch-hit single, and Kemp followed suit by coming off the bench to work a walk after falling behind 0-2 in the count.

The Giants got two quick outs and seemed poised to put the threat to bed, intentionally walking Zack Gelof to set up a left-on-left matchup between Scott Alexander and Brown. But Brown got the best of the encounter, jumping on a first-pitch sinker to send the A's ahead for good.

"The whole inning was fundamental baseball at its best," manager Mark Kotsay said. "I mean, it was a team effort. We used everybody on the bench. Everybody contributed, and it seems like we do real well when that happens."

With the youth movement in full swing, Oakland's veterans have begun to see diminished playing time -- but they're willing to fill any role the team needs.

"That's part of being in the big leagues," Brown said. "You're doing whatever you can to help the team win, and I think we've got a group of guys that do a really good job of that. … When the goal is to win, you don't care where you're at and you don't care about where you come up in the lineup."

Trevor May, who sealed the win by recording the final five outs for the A's, appeared to take a spell to look around and absorb the gravity of the moment in the ninth inning. Even for a nine-year veteran of the big leagues, games like Saturday's are special, just as he recalled telling past teammates who had never experienced a playoff-like atmosphere.

"I would just keep telling them, 'Just make sure you take it in,' because it's like what you imagine when you're in your backyard when you're a kid, the game being like that," May said. "It's very easy to kind of try to downplay it in your head to make yourself less nervous somehow, but that doesn't work. There's no such thing.

"Instead of shying away from that, maybe just lean in and enjoy it. Anytime you can get those moments, they're things you'll remember for the rest of your life."