Oakland – It’s been seven years since the Oakland A’s made their last appearance on Sunday Night Baseball. Tony Kemp made sure it would be a night to remember. He went deep with a two-run shot in the eighth to give the A’s a 3-1 victory over the New York Yankees and split the series.
“Obviously pretty big,” said Oakland’s manager Bob Melvin regarding Kemp’s home run. “So, he’s had some really dramatic stuff for us over the last couple of years and he’s gotten a much better opportunity this year. He played a number of roles today and came up huge.”
Pinch-hitter Kemp replaced Chad Pinder in the seventh and singled on a line drive to start the frame. His next hit was the biggest of the night. Mark Canha started the rally with a double, then Kemp went deep with a two-run homer to break a 1-1 tie and put the A’s up 3-1.
“I’m not usually a guy that back spins balls to right field,” Kemp said. “I was trying to hit a home run right there, I just tried to honestly put a swing on it.”
A big swing was exactly what he did for the insurance home run. The Yankees did their best to make it tough for the A’s. They came and went up 2-0 in the series. But yesterday’s win for Oakland was good but tonight’s victory was much needed.
“Just ended up being a big series for us that we were able to split,” Melvin said. “You don’t normally talk about a success when you split a series but when you’re down to a team that won 13 in a row, we’ll take it.”
After three shutout innings, the A’s got their bats going. Yan Gomes and Jed Lowrie hit back-to-back singles in the fourth. Matt Chapman reached first on a fielder’s choice on a fielding error by New York’s third baseman Gio Urshela. Gomes advanced to third. The Oakland challenged the play at first and the call was overturned.
Canha grounded into a force out and drove in Gomes to give the A’s a 1-0 lead. Pinder struck out to end the frame. By the seventh, the Oakland committed a few errors of their own that proved costly. Jake Diekman gave Gary Sanchez a leadoff walk but struck out both Brett Gardner and Urshela. Pinch-hitter Anthony Rizzo replaced Tyler Wade. Sanchez advanced to second on a wild pitch by Diekman.
A dropped foul ball by Gomes kept the runners on base instead of ending the frame. Rizzo hit a ground ball to Chapman at third and the ball bounced off his glove. Rizzo was safe at first and Sanchez scored the tying to make it a 1-1 game. DJ LeMahieu lined out to end the threat.
“There’s not a lot of room for error,” said Melvin on his bullpen. “So you have to be basically perfect. The bullpen was spotless today.”
Paul Blackburn went five innings, allowed five hits, walked one and struck out one. He kept the Yankees off balance and off the board for six frames. The A’s provided some outstanding defense before a few errors in the seventh. Blackburn talked about how he made adjustments throughout the game along with the help of his catcher, Gomes.
“I felt like my changeup was pretty good today,” Blackburn said. “We mixed it up well and there was minor stuff I was working on mechanically throughout the game. Yan and I moved the ball well today.”
Oakland will have tomorrow off then head to Detroit for a two-game series agains the Tigers.
Photo by A’s photog Kavin Mistry