OAKLAND, Calif -- The Oakland A's took another step closer to the American League West title Tuesday when Josh Donaldson delivered a two-out bases-loaded single off the Angels' Michael Kohn, good for a 2-1 win, the A's 89th of the year.
Oakland's magic number to win the West is down to six, with any combination of six A's wins or Rangers losses getting the A's into the playoffs as the best in the West.
The win was an encapsulation of what the A's have done well all year: pitch, pitch, pitch, then strike when offensive opportunity knocks.
And while it was Donaldson who delivered his third walkoff hit of the season, the plate appearance that dropped the most jaws in the Oakland clubhouse was the walk worked by Coco Crisp that loaded the bases.
"That was the at-bat of the season," Jed Lowrie said. The shortstop served as a pinch-hitter in the ninth, was intentionally walked with pinch-runner Jemile Weeks already on second base, and had a front-row seat to the 10-pitch battle between Kohn and Crisp.
Kohn got two quick strikes, then Crisp began fouling off anything that was close and letting anything that wasn't close go by.
"I don't know what that was, 10, 11 pitches," Josh Reddick said, "but to lay off all those pitches and to foul off all those pitches and not strike out, that was impressive. It set up J.D. for the hit."
Crisp took it as just another day's work.
"I'm just trying to have a good at-bat there," Crisp said.
Once he did, the Angels employed a five-man infield with Daric Barton batting with the bases loaded. It's not something you see often, and it wasn't something that was actually needed. Barton struck out, bringing up Donaldson, who was 7-for-10 with the bases loaded.
Those numbers were no help when he fell behind early in the count, as did Crisp, and had to fight his way back.
""I was just trying not to do too much," he said. I was just trying to drive the ball up the middle."
That he did, a line drive that easily cleared the infield and landed where no outfielder was within 20 feet of it. It was his third career walkoff, and he was mobbed at the plate, then later hit by pies "" one in each hand "" from Reddick. Later still he was doused by the contents of the Gatorade cooler.
The A's ran into a tough customer in Angels' starting pitcher Garrett Richards, who dueled A's rookie starter Sonny Gray to a standoff, each allowing just one run.
Gray was supposed to have started Monday, but he got pushed back a day when Jarrod Parker got Monday's start after a bout with a stomach problem that attacked him Sunday in Texas.
Two outs in to the game Gray was behind when Mike Trout clubbed his 25th homer, a blast out over the center field wall.
From that point on, Gray just kept evading difficulty. Leadoff men reached base in the third (walk) and fourth (error) innings, but in neither case did the Angels score.
Gray's only 1-2-3 inning came in the sixth, an inning augmented by a marvelous diving catch in right-center by Reddick. The right fielder ran down a ball hit by Trumbo, a ball on which Reddick seemed to have no chance to close ground. But he did, and Gray recovered to close out the inning quickly.
Richards threw five scoreless innings in his first start of the year on July 27 in the Coliseum, left with a 1-0 lead but got no decision when the A's rallied for a 3-1 win.
He was pretty much just as smooth this time around. Brandon Moss's RBI double to right scored Coco Crisp, who'd walked and taken second on a grounder, in the first inning, then settled in to force the A's to try and grind it out against him.
--The MRI of Yoenis Cespedes's right shoulder was mostly good news for the A's. Cespedes does have tendinitis, but he doesn't have anything worse, so he can serve as the DH while giving the shoulder some time to heal. There's no timetable to get him back in left field, where Brandon Moss was playing Tuesday.
--Shortstop Jed Lowrie had a regular workout before the game Tuesday and could be in the lineup for the A's series finale with the Angels Wednesday. Lowrie came out of Sunday's game in Texas early because of some right hamstring tightness and now has mossed back-to-back starts. "We'll see tonight," manager Bob Melvin said. "He's potentially an option off the bench tonight."
--Catcher John Jaso, who has been out of action for almost two months because of a concussion, took batting practice on the field before Tuesday's game. It's not at all clear that there will be enough time for Jaso to hone his game to be able to return from the disabled list this month, but at least he's waking up and not feeling any of the nausea and disorientation that accompanied most of his time on the DL.
--Pitcher Brett Anderson, who came down with back trouble midway through the just-completed road trip, has gotten better every day. On Tuesday Melvin said the left-hander was ready to resume work in the bullpen without restrictions.
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