A's use big innings to take series opener
Seven-run and four-run frames bring Oakland back to life
TORONTO -- Athletics left fielder Bobby Kielty had already done more than his part in Oakland's 12-10 comeback win over the Blue Jays on Monday night at the Rogers Centre, but he had one more contribution to make: The perfect summation of the team's attitude after the game.
"That was awesome, wasn't it?" he said.
Those five words basically said it all from the A's perspective. The game equaled the largest winning comeback in the franchise's Oakland history, thanks in large part to a seven-run third inning that nearly erased an early 8-0 Toronto lead. Oakland (71-54) sent 11 men to the plate and banged out seven hits in the A's highest-scoring inning since they plated eight runs against Boston on July 14.
For all of the offense in the inning, it was a walk that started things off. Third baseman Eric Chavez fell behind 0-2 in the count, but ended up working Toronto starter Ted Lilly for 10 pitches and the eventual free pass.
"I was trying to see some pitches since I didn't want to get Ted [Lilly] some easy at-bats," Chavez said. "I was trying to work the count and make him throw some pitches."
Seven Athletics players collected hits in the inning, but it was Kielty who delivered the biggest blast. After Toronto starter Lilly was visited on the mound by Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, Kielty guessed right on the first pitch he saw from the lefty and sent it over the left-field wall for a two-run homer.
"I see his ball pretty good," Kielty said. "He was having a little bit of trouble throwing strikes in that one at-bat, and they had a meeting on the mound. I figured they were going to try a first pitch heater for strike one. ... It was kind of up in the zone, a good pitch to hit."
Right fielder Milton Bradley followed it up with a 406-foot blast to center field for the seventh set of consecutive home runs hit by the A's this season. After he allowed two more runs, Lilly was pulled from the game after a heated argument with Jays manager John Gibbons. After the hurler's removal, the two had an altercation in the tunnel leading to the Toronto clubhouse.
If any pitcher could've been expected to be frustrated after the first two innings of the game, it would've been Oakland starter Dan Haren (12-9). The right-hander was rocked for eight runs in the opening two frames, but after his team made the game close, he held the Jays (66-59) to just one run in his next 3 2/3 innings to pick up an unlikely win.
Oakland manager Ken Macha said that his starter's resilience was necessary, since the comeback was not yet complete.
"Sometimes you catch up and get one run behind, then they add on a couple and that kind of puts the air out of your balloon," Macha said. "But we held them right where they were until we got the lead."
The A's completed the comeback with a four-run sixth inning, with the key hit coming off Kielty's bat. With the bases loaded, Kielty hit a soft liner off Jays reliever Brandon League (0-1) down the left-field line that just landed in fair territory before bouncing into the stands for a ground-rule double. Even Kielty was surprised the ball stayed fair.
"For some reason, I though it didn't go too deep," he said. "I thought it was going to be a foul ball when I hit it. Then I looked up and it looked like it was right down the line, so I thought I had a shot."
Kielty finished the game with three hits and four RBIs, but he was far from the only Oakland hero on the night. Catcher Jason Kendall went 4-for-5 for his first four-hit game since June 22, 2004. Center fielder Jay Payton's solo home run in the ninth gave the A's an insurance run. Relievers Chad Gaudin, Kiko Calero and Justin Duchscherer threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings to preserve the A's lead.
Even Chavez, whose walk got the comeback started, had a big night. It was something of a vindicating performance for the Oakland third baseman, who was batting in the No. 8 position in the lineup for just the second time in five seasons due to his struggles at the plate. Chavez entered the game hitting just .236, but delivered three hits.
Chavez was fine with the one-game demotion because Macha had discussed it with him first, but he laughingly suggested that his performance had earned him a permanent spot higher in the batting order.
"I don't forsee hitting eight-hole at all," Chavez joked. "Ever again."
The win gained Oakland a half-game over idle Los Angeles in the American League West standings, and they now hold a five-game lead over the Angels and a 6 1/2-game lead over the third-place Rangers. After winning 20 of their last 25 games and completing a monumental comeback, the momentum seems to be entirely with the Athletics.
"These guys don't give up," Macha said. "I've said that all along. You can go back to last year, when we were [15 games under .500] and coming back, they don't give up."
For the A's, that feeling must be awesome.
Mark Polishuk is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.