Baseball / Sports

Athletics win a weird one

CLEVELAND -- There is something about the Oakland Athletics playing in Cleveland that turns this ballpark into the Winchester Mystery House.

The Athletics walked out with a 6-2 win Saturday, but a Rally Squirrel, the split-second ejection of starting pitcher Scott Kazmir and the ghost of Angel Hernandez were all in evidence in one of the weirdest games Oakland will play this season.

Kazmir was ejected by umpire Jerry Layne in the second inning to the absolute shock of the A's, who went from having a starting pitcher a little unhappy with ball-strike calls to watching him kick the garbage can as he headed for the clubhouse after getting just four outs.

Replay seemed to indicate that Kazmir, who'd let one run score on a wild pitch before walking Jesus Aguilar to ignite the ruckus, didn't start using any obscenities until after he'd been thrown out.

"It was the heat of the moment," Kazmir said. "But what I remember saying is that ball was right there. Then the next thing I know, I've gotten thrown out of the game. Jerry Layne has been a great umpire for so many years. It was a bad game for both of us."

It immediately became a bad game for Athletics manager Bob Melvin, who needed to coax 23 outs from his bullpen if Oakland was going to win this one.

Melvin, unlike Kazmir, got all the time in the world to vent. It seemed that unless the manager lit Layne's shoes on fire, he wasn't going to be ejected.

"My original idea was to get ejected," Melvin said. "But I didn't. I've known Jerry for a long time. That's why this surprised me so much."

Layne, talking to a pool reporter, spelled out his version of the Kazmir transgression.

"He was gesturing and arguing balls and strikes," Layne said. "That's automatic ejection. When I warned him, he didn't take any knowledge of that, and that's it."

Layne said he warned Kazmir after the Aguilar walk but that Kazmir continued to argue. Kazmir said if there was any warning, "it came a second before he threw me out."

With Kazmir out of the game, Melvin burned through his bullpen, the bulk of the work going to Dan Otero. The right-hander pitched a career-high 3 2/3 innings, didn't allow a run and got three inning-ending double plays. He got the win as the Athletics emerged with their eighth victory in the last nine games.

"It was great the way everybody pulled together after Scott got ejected," Otero said. "It seems like weird things happen every time this team plays here."

The squirrel made its entrance in the top of the third with one out and one on and John Jaso at the plate. This squirrel, or a cousin, made its way onto the field during a game in April and was dubbed the Rally Squirrel as the Indians came from behind for a win. This time, the rallying was all done by Oakland once the stadium P.A. system played the sounds of dogs barking. That sent the probably terrified squirrel scurrying for the relative safety of the left field tarp and stands.

Jaso struck out, but Josh Donaldson tied the score with a single. Moments later, Brandon Moss homered to left-center on a 3-2 pitch, giving the A's a 3-1 lead.

The final whackadoodle moment of the game came in the seventh. The A's were up 3-2 with two on and two outs. Donaldson, who already had two hits, thought he'd clubbed his 11th homer of the season to left-center. The ball came crashing back onto the field after hitting the top of the wall, rolling most of the way to right-center.

It was originally ruled a triple, and even after a review, the call stood. It brought to mind umpire Angel Hernandez's denial of what seemed to be a sure Adam Rosales homer in this park last year.

"I wasn't thinking of that at the time," Donaldson said. "The thing is, the umpires aren't allowed to use common sense when watching replays. I don't mean that in a derogatory sense. But when the ball bounces 60 feet back onto the field, that means it didn't hit the padding. It hit the rail above the padding."

As it turned out, the A's didn't lose the run, because Moss doubled home Donaldson moments later en route to Oakland's 27th and weirdest win against 16 losses.

--Moss' homer was the 30th hit by the A's with at least one runner on base. That's the best in the majors this year. Moss finished with three RBIs and a team-best 36 for the season.

--First baseman Daric Barton, designated for assignment Thursday, cleared waivers Saturday and will rejoin Triple-A Sacramento. The left-hander, whose spot on the Oakland roster was deemed expendable after the A's dealt for right-handed-hitting first baseman Kyle Blanks.

(c)2014 Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

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