Sunday, September 22, 2013
Kernels: Saving the best for last
By Doug Kern
As we head into the final week of the regular season, we look back on a week where a few teams did big things in their final inning.
• The Oakland Athletics were scoreboard-watching the Texas Rangers' game in Kansas City on Sunday, but there wasn't much to watch. Those two teams put up 19 straight zeroes, going scoreless into the bottom of the 10th before the Royals loaded the bases and Justin Maxwell unloaded them. That "0" on Oakland's out-of-town scoreboard changed to a "4" and clinched the AL West for the A's.
Maxwell's blast was the fifth walk-off slam this year, but the first for the Royals since Joe Randa hit one off Esteban Yan of the Rays on May 16, 2001. The other two in franchise history belong to Rey Palacios (1990) and Cookie Rojas (1974). The Rangers hadn't surrendered one since Franklin Stubbs of the Brewers went deep off Kenny Rogers on May 15, 1992.
Maxwell has only two career walk-off homers, and they're both with the bases loaded. The other was with the Nationals in 2009.
The last walk-off slam to break a scoreless tie was by the Braves' Dwight Smith against the Marlins on May 19, 1995, and the last one in extras belongs to Don Buford of the White Sox on September 14, 1967. Carroll Hardy of the Red Sox, in 1962, has the only other extra-inning one in history.
• The Washington Nationals put together a three-run ninth to walk off against the Atlanta Braves. Denard Span's ground ball was already destined to tie the game, but it got past Andrelton Simmons and also allowed the winning run to score. It was the 10th "walk-off error" this season, but the first in favor of the franchise in Washington. The last for the franchise was on June 20, 2002 in Montreal Jose Macias, attempting a sacrifice, reached base (and the winning run scored) when pitcher Scott Mullen of the Royals overthrew first base.
• The Detroit Tigers tied for the biggest "B9" of the season with a six-run outburst to send their game with the Chicago White Sox to extra innings. They eventually won in the 12th on Omar Infante's deflected single.
The Red Sox had the only other six-run B9 this season. The Tigers did have a seven-run 9th earlier this year, but it was in a road game. They hadn't scored six in the bottom of the 9th since June 21, 1994, when another walk-off slam (by Lou Whitaker) gave them a 7-5 win over the Indians. According to Elias, it was the Tigers' first victory in a game where they trailed by six in the 9th since August 22, 1947, when Hoot Evers' single completed a seven-run frame for a win over the Senators.
• The Colorado Rockies had been the only team not to play at least 13 innings yet this season. That changed on Thursday when they walked off against the St. Louis Cardinals on a Corey Dickerson triple in the 15th. It was the third 15-inning game at Coors Field and only the second walk-off triple in franchise history. Dexter Fowler had the other one last year.
Walk-off triples are rare because the batter is supposedly required to run out all three bases. There have been only five all year, and that's the most in a season since 1993. No active player has more than one. The Cardinals last allowed one on September 7, 1993, when Reggie Sanders of the Reds drove in two runs against Todd Burns.
• The Milwaukee Brewers won their game with the Chicago Cubs when Logan Schafer successfully executed a suicide squeeze in the bottom of the 9th. Jeff Bianchi dove home with the winning run.
There's been only one other game-ending bunt this season, and the runner in that game started on second and scored on a throwing error. There was also only one last season (by Wilson Valdez of the Reds). The only other walk-off suicide squeeze in Brewers history came on September 4, 2005, when Brady Clark laid one down against the Padres and Corey Hart raced home from third for the win.