Baseball's century-plus long history is littered with feel-good stories of individuals fighting from relative obscurity, and late-inning heroics. But even as many times as I have risen from my seat (at home or at the park) in sheer adulation over a 9th inning comeback and shocking victory, I'm never truly prepared to see it happen. Today, it happened twice, and the deal was sealed off the bat of a man who has gone from being buried in the minor leagues just a week ago to overnight sensation in Oakland.
After splitting Friday and Saturday's games against Cleveland (with us in attendance), the A's got off to a slow start in today's contest, falling behind to the tune of 7-4 midway through the game. A home run by Eric Chavez closed the gap to 7-5, with the ninth inning awaiting, with 24,000 in attendance at Oakland hoping they wouldn't be sent home on Mothers' Day with back to back losses.
With 2 outs in the 9th, Chavez battled his way through an at bat, eventually poking a single into right field. Following him, Milton Bradley strode to the plate, representing what could be the tying run. Improbably, Milton lashed out at a two-strike pitch, launching the ball into the right-field seats, much to the fans' delight. Bradley, after standing in awe of his monstrous blast, trotted home and tied the game up, 7-7.
But the A's were not done. Not by a long shot.
Following Bradley, Dan Johnson singled, as did Bobby Crosby, setting up runners on 1st and 2nd. Cleveland, seeing the writing on the wall, switched relief pitchers, hoping Fernando Cabrera could accomplish what Joe Borowksi had not - actually close out the inning. But it was not to be.
Where a single would have won the game for the A's, the one time San Diego Padre AAA farmhand Jack Cust stepped up and just blasted a 1-0 offering over the left field wall, cinching the victory and setting off absolute bedlam in Oakland. The home run was his 6th in only 26 at bats since joining the A's less than 10 days ago, following a raft of injuries that had decimated the team's roster.
As his teammates spilled out of the dugout to greet him in a wild celebration at home plate, Cust grinned and looked like a guy "just happy to be here." In his post-game interview on Fox Sports, he glanced shyly at the ground, seemingly in awe of what he had just accomplished.
The A's had rallied back for five runs in the bottom of the 9th after two were out, to take a near-certain 7-5 loss and turn it into a 10-7 victory for the ages, featuring a pair of dramatic home runs. What a day to be an A's fan, what a day to be a baseball fan, and just... what a day. Amazing.
(Recaps: Associated Press | Athletics Nation)