Oakland A’s win wacky opener on Matt Olson walk-off grand slam
By David Mullen
Matt Olson not only provided the Oakland A’s with the walk-off homer, but he had a smart defensive play in the top of the tenth inning as well.
The Oakland A’s and their fans love drama. But even the most creative thinker could not have written this script. A’s first baseman Matt Olson made sure that it had a happy ending.
Before an unannounced crowd of cardboard cutouts in attendance, including a corrugated Tom Hanks hawking hot dogs behind home plate, Olson hit a walk-off grand slam giving the A’s a 7-3 win in 10 innings over the Los Angeles Angels.
The new extra-inning rule, where, if no team scores, the player that made the third out in the previous inning begins the next inning at second base with no outs, was designed in part to increase strategy. The rules makers didn’t account for the prowess of Olson.
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In the top of the tenth, Shohei Ohtani became the first extra-inning automatic runner in baseball history. Prior to the inning, Ohtani seemed confused in the dugout by the new rule until his interrupter told him to get out to second base.
First baseman Jared Ward, in for Albert Pujols, hit a smash to Olson that he fielded cleanly and threw across the diamond to third baseman Matt Chapman which started a rundown. Ohtani was tagged out by Chapman with Walsh taking first. Angel Tommy La Stella followed with a sharp single, one that conceivably would have scored Ohtani had it not been for Olson’s heads-up play.
The Angels loaded the bases, but winning pitcher Burch Smith, in his first appearance with Oakland after being obtained from the cross-bay rival San Francisco Giants, got Andrelton Simmons to ground out to end the inning.
With Marcus Semien starting the bottom of the tenth at second base, Ramon Laureano, who opened Oakland’s scoring with a fourth-inning solo homer, was hit by a pitch from Angels closer Hansel Robles in his second inning of work. A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third and new Los Angeles manager Joe Maddon evoked a five-man infield. DH Khris Davis walked to load the bases before Olson hit the first pitch off recently added Angels lefty Hoby Milner well up into the right-center field stands for the walk-off grand slam and a wacky, if not historic, A’s victory.
Angels catcher Jason Castro hit a one-out, solo homer off A’s closer Liam Hendriks in the ninth to tie the game at 3-3. The teams combined to use 40 players in all (25 position players and 15 pitchers).
In the pregame ceremonies, both teams grasped a black cloth during a moment of silence and the A’s Davis and Tony Kemp held their right fists in the air during the National Anthem.
As the first automatic runner in baseball history, Shohei Ohtani made history. But Matt Olson will be the one remembered.