Oakland wins on walk-off double
Bullpen surrenders big homers but A's take series opener
OAKLAND -- Friday marked the official start of summer and the longest day of the year. So perhaps, then, it was only fitting that the heat not only carried six home runs, but also the A's and Marlins into one of the longest games at McAfee Coliseum this season.
Before the first pitch had been thrown, manager Bob Geren sat in the dugout, speaking of the rare warm Oakland weather as if it deserved the attention of a hot new A's prospect.
"I love this weather," he said before the game-time temperature was announced at 91 degrees. "This will be a perfect night for the fans."
Those words came just seconds before he mentioned the heat would be friendlier toward the hitters rather than the pitchers -- a notion that eventually worked in Oakland's favor in front of a crowd of 15,035.
Boy, did the heat carry the ball -- the long ball, to be exact. The A's knocked in two home runs while the Marlins tallied four on the warm evening. However, the difference in the game was a walk-off RBI double off the bat of Kurt Suzuki that gave the A's a 7-6 victory over Florida in the 11th inning.
"I couldn't be more proud of these guys," Geren said after the game. "The team over there has a lot of power, but I can't talk enough about what Kurt did."
Oh, yes. Suzuki did plenty more than hit the game-winner in the 11th -- even if that was obviously his most memorable plate appearance of the night. The extra-inning double was the catcher's fourth hit of the game, matching a career-high four hits as well as a career-high in RBIs with five -- all this coming in the midst of being knocked around with a few foul tips off his body.
"At my position, you expect to get foul tips like that," Suzuki said. "You just gotta keep going, take care of it, and keep trying to put in good swings."
It was a night during which the phrase "keep going" kept the A's company in a game that lasted 3 hours and 32 minutes.
"It's all about fighting," Carlos Gonzalez said. "We never give up. Even if we have to play 15 or 20, we're gonna fight till the end. This is a team that never gives up."
That statement sure rang true on Friday night, as the A's watched the lead go back and forth four times, in part because of a tough night had by Oakland's bullpen. After starter Rich Harden offered a strong 5 2/3 inning performance -- giving up just one run on five hits -- he could only watch as his effort resulted in a no-decision.
The A's had led the entire game until the top of the eighth when Jeremy Hermida hit a go-ahead two-run shot to right field off Huston Street to put the Marlins on top, 5-4.
"We still felt like we had six more outs," Geren said. "There was no panic at that point."
The skipper must have been right, as Suzuki came out in the bottom half of the inning and hit a two-out double that scored Bobby Crosby and Eric Chavez to put Street back in the clear -- until the next inning, that is.
With one out, Street gave up a solo shot to Dan Uggla -- his second of the night -- as the game reached an even score once again. By the end of the game, Chad Gaudin was the lone member of the relief staff sitting in the bullpen after watching six of his teammates try their shot at a powered Marlins lineup.
"It was just one of those nights when we were ineffective in the bullpen," Geren said. "But it's a sign of how good a team is when you fight back and get the win."
Florida may have knocked out more homers, but none were as special as Oakland's second dinger of the night that came in the fourth. The scoreboard had both teams netted at zero until that frame when Suzuki hit a two-run shot. One pitch later, Gonzalez hit his first career homer, which the outfielder described as "another great feeling."
"I've been waiting for this moment," he said, "and my family has been waiting for this moment.
"I feel really happy and want to dedicate this to my brother, who worked really hard with me since I was five. I know he is really happy right now."
Gonzalez's brother, Euro, was, by far, not the only happy A's fan come the 11th inning. After Chavez reached second on an error, Suzuki came up and hit the first pitch he saw just inside the right-field line to bring his teammates running out of the dugout.
"I was just trying to hit the ball to the right side," he said. "I got a pitch and found the seam.
"The No. 1 thing is that we won. Anytime you get a win like this, it's a great feeling."
Jane Lee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.