Young A's lead 'all-around team effort' in walk-off victory

August 21st, 2022

OAKLAND -- At the onset of a youth movement, the A’s don’t have a prototypical “star” they can turn to in key moments. Recently called up No. 1 prospect Shea Langeliers could emerge as one in the future. For now, they must play clean and fundamentally sound baseball to win games.

Saturday afternoon was a perfect example of that. Sheldon Neuse’s chopper with the bases loaded and no outs in the 10th inning was bobbled by Mariners reliever Diego Castillo, allowing Tony Kemp to score the game-winning run for a 4-3 walk-off win at the Coliseum. But there was no clear hero. Instead, this victory, which snapped a 10-game home losing streak against Seattle, was the result of important contributions from several young players.

It began with the bullpen. In relief of starter James Kaprielian, who worked five innings and allowed two runs on three hits with four walks and three strikeouts, a quartet of A’s rookie relievers -- A.J. Puk, Domingo Acevedo, Zach Jackson and Dany Jiménez -- combined to limit the Mariners to one run over five innings.

“Just an all-around team effort,” said A’s manager Mark Kotsay. “The bullpen did a fabulous job. Strong finish against that lineup to give us a chance to win that game.”

Jiménez shouldered the largest workload of the four relievers by tossing a pair of scoreless innings in a tie ballgame. He received a major assist with one out in the 10th from rookie shortstop Nick Allen, who ranged to his right on a grounder hit by Mitch Haniger and fired a strike to third base for a heads-up 6-5 putout of lead runner Ty France, who began the inning as the automatic runner at second base.

“It took away a runner in scoring position in a crucial time in the game,” Kotsay said. “Instinctual baseball that we’ve seen from Nick, and a big out for us.”

For Jiménez, the outing marked his sixth consecutive appearance without allowing an earned run since returning from the injured list on Aug. 2. Over that stretch, he’s given up just three hits and four walks with 11 strikeouts over eight innings.

“I think the velocity is back, and also his command of the fastball,” Kotsay said of Jiménez. “He’s putting it where he wants to put it. He’s setting hitters up really well. You saw the breaking ball today against the lefties getting them out front. That two-pitch mix for Dany is really effective.”

Showing off a fastball that maxed out at 95 mph and slider that generated three whiffs (swing-and-misses) to limit Seattle to just one hit Saturday, Jiménez continues to demonstrate the form that earned him the closer role earlier in the season. Still leading all Major League rookies with 11 saves on the year, this second half is an opportunity for Jiménez to re-establish himself as one of Oakland’s top relief options in high-leverage spots for 2022 and beyond.

“He looked great out there,” Kaprielian said of Jiménez. “He looked like himself attacking guys. He’s obviously a big piece in the bullpen for us, and you can see he has that trust in himself that he’s healthy and back.”

With just over a month left in the season, these rebuilding A’s don’t have much to play for in terms of the standings. The biggest question in that aspect might be whether they can avoid becoming just the second club in Oakland history to lose 100 games, which they remain on pace to do. But for the 15 rookies that currently occupy the A’s active roster and several other players with little MLB experience such as Neuse, wins like Saturday’s are important as the club evaluates which players might be able to contribute to Oakland’s success beyond this season.

“I think it’s huge,” Neuse said. “For next year, whoever’s going to be here and whoever’s not going to be here, you don’t know, but figure out what people can do. Let’s see. There’s no reason to look over each other’s shoulders. Just go play ball and figure out what we can do.

“We know that we’re going to have to pick each other up and it’s going to take more than the nine guys that start the game.”