OAKLAND – The Oakland A’s were booed heartily in both the fifth and ninth innings Saturday – mainly by spectators wearing red — when manager Mark Kotsay elected to intentionally walk Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani.
Kotsay and the A’s didn’t necessarily care. Knowing how dangerous Ohtani is with a bat in his hands, their decision to walk Ohtani was an easy one.
“The one guy in their lineup that can really beat you is Shohei,” Kotsay said, “and at that point, both instances with first base open, we’re not gonna let him beat us.”
The decision worked out both times.
After the A’s walked Ohtani in the fifth inning to put runners on first and second with one out, starting pitcher Paul Blackburn got Brandon Drury to ground into a 5-4-3 double play. Then in the ninth, with Michael Stefanic on third base and two outs, the A’s again put Ohtani aboard, and closer Trevor May got Drury to fly out to center field and end the game as Oakland held onto a 2-1 win.
“We were fortunate today to be successful with that theory and method,” Kotsay said of walking Ohtani, who entered Saturday with an MLB-leading 44 homers.
Kotsay noted, somewhat jokingly, that he didn’t hear anything from Angels fans Friday after A’s reliever Sean Newcomb was charged with a clock violation, resulting in a ball four and a walk for Ohtani.
“I know that everyone comes to see Shohei hit, and I didn’t understand why they didn’t boo last night when the umpire put him on for us,” Kotsay said. “But yeah, in that situation, he can easily pop one out of the ballpark and we could be down 3-2 very easily.”
Blackburn didn’t feel great about the way he pitched Saturday but allowed just one run and four hits over five innings to improve to 4-4 on the season.
“It was one of those outings where nothing could go right as far as pitches for me,” Blackburn said. “I didn’t have a feel for anything out there.”
Blackburn wouldn’t have minded challenging Ohtani in the fifth but didn’t disagree with Kotsay’s decision.
“It’s the right move with how my stuff was today,” Blackburn said. “The guy’s unbelievable. He can obviously change the game with one swing and making someone else beat us in that lineup, I feel like that’s the right move in that situation.”
The A’s offense came courtesy of Brent Rooker’s two-run homer in the fourth inning, as Oakland (41-95) won for the seventh time in 12 games. The only time the A’s have played better was from June 7-13 when they won seven straight.
Rooker’s homer Griffin Canning in the fourth inning, was his eighth in 56 games at home.
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“It was a solid game all around, both sides,” Kotsay said. “This streak right now that we’re on, the consistency that we’re showing night in and night out with how we’re playing the game, it’s probably the best stretch outside of that seven-game winning streak.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.