OAKLAND, Calif. — Walkoff grand slams are becoming such old hat for the Oakland Athletics this season that they have learned to celebrate in a more socially distant manner.
Stephen Piscotty hit Oakland’s second game-ending slam of the year and the A’s beat the Texas Rangers 5-1 Tuesday night for their fourth straight win.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Piscotty said. “Pretty unique for that to happen in such a short amount of time. It’s a lot of fun celebrating like that.”
The A’s even toned down their celebration after getting some heat for failing to socially distance when mobbing Matt Olson after his opening night slam against the Angels.
Piscotty got some high-fives and a Gatorade shower but his teammates mostly kept their distance.
“I think we’d all seen a few walkoff homers and the way other teams were doing it,” Piscotty said. “Trying to be a little more distant there. Hard to control the emotions but we did a decent job I think.”
The late-game theatrics helped the A’s win on a night when prized pitching prospect Jesus Luzardo pitched five scoreless innings in his first career start for Oakland and Texas starter Lance Lynn allowed first run of the season.
Edinson Volquez (0-1) got into trouble quickly in the ninth inning when he walked two batters and gave up a hit to load the bases with nobody out.
Volquez retired Robbie Grossman on a popup before Piscotty hit a first-pitch drive off Jesse Chavez over the wall in centre to help the A’s become the 17th team with two walkoff slams in the same season.
Liam Hendriks (1-0) pitched a perfect ninth for the win.
Lynn had allowed just five hits in 18 scoreless innings to begin the season before finally faltering in the seventh against the A’s. Matt Chapman led off the frame with a drive to right-centre for his second homer of the season to tie the game at 1.
“It stings a lot,” manager Chris Woodward said. “We had a lot of our best pitchers pitching, obviously Lance threw a heck of a game. … Unfortunately we didn’t get it done in the ninth inning.”
The Rangers had taken the lead an inning earlier on an RBI double by Todd Frazier.
The ending helped make it a celebratory night for Luzardo. The 22-year-old lefty was the youngest A’s pitcher to start a game since Brett Anderson in 2010 and lived up to the hype.
He provided a late-season spark last year out of the bullpen but had his quest to start delayed this summer when he tested positive for the coronavirus before the start of camp last month despite dealing with no symptoms and not having any family members or friends who were sick.
The wait was worth it as he was dazzling in his debut. He overpowered the Rangers at times, striking out Joey Gallo on a 96 mph to end the first.
“He was terrific,” manager Bob Melvin said. “He certainly did his job. Comes as advertised. Three plus plus pitches. Terrific velocity and terrific movement.”
Luzardo also showed off his athleticism in the field with a nifty play on a high-hopper to retire Scott Heineman to end the second.
Luzardo allowed just two hits and two walks with five strikeouts.
Rangers: LHP Joely Rodriguez was activated off the injured list and 1B Greg Bird was placed on the IL with a strained right calf muscle. … 2B Rougned Odor remains sidelined after leaving Saturday’s game with tightness in the oblique area on his right side. Woodward said he hopes Odor is back later this week.
Athletics: The A’s placed RHP Jordan Weems on the 10-day injured list retroactive to Aug. 1 with a strained right lat muscle and recalled RHP James Kaprielian from the club’s San Jose alternate site. Melvin said he hopes Weems will be back as soon as the 10 days are up.
The Rangers opened the scoring in the sixth with a bit of an unconventional strategy. With two outs and nobody on, No. 3 hitter Gallo bunted away from the shift for a single off Yusmeiro Petit. The move paid off when Todd Frazier followed with an RBI double.
Bird ended up making a nice play even after going on the injured list. He caught a foul pop in his hat while sitting in the stands during an at-bat by Frazier in the sixth inning.
Rangers RHP Kyle Gibson (0-1, 0.00 ERA) took a tough loss last Tuesday in his first start of the year as the Diamondbacks scored three unearned runs in a 4-1 victory. The A’s oppose with lefty Sean Manaea (0-2, 7.00), who tries again for his first victory of the season.
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Josh Dubow, The Associated Press