Alert Kendall scores in bizarre ending
By JEFF FLETCHER
Santa Rosa (Calif.) Press Democrat
Published: Aug. 12, 2005
OAKLAND – It was the most incredible finish that no one saw.
Well, almost no one. Jason Kendall was watching. And really, he's the only one who mattered.
The A's catcher sprinted home with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning Thursday after the Angels phenomenal closer, Francisco Rodriguez, missed the throw back from the catcher.
Yes, you read that right. He missed the throw from catcher Jose Molina, allowing Kendall to score from third to give the A's a 5-4 victory.
Not long after 31,471 Coliseum fans exploded with excitement for the A's winning the series and taking sole possession of first place, the A's clubhouse was still buzzing about the game's remarkable finish.
Thing is, many admitted that they missed part of it.
"I was looking down to the bullpen," A's manager Ken Macha said. "Then I saw (Kendall) running and I didn't know what was going on."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia also said he was looking elsewhere, as was Eric Chavez, who was standing at the plate.
"It was kind of cloudy for me," Chavez said. "Thank goodness Jason was paying attention. He could have easily been looking the other way, but he stayed alert."
Kendall, the son of a former major leaguer, later stood at his locker, almost expressionless amid a thicket of dozens of cameras and notebooks. He described his play as if were as routine as, well, throwing the ball back to the pitcher.
"My dad always taught me, you always watch the ball," Kendall said, "because you never know what could happen."
The Angels, who had already seen their outstanding bullpen blow a four-run lead in the seventh, had summoned Rodriguez to the mound with two on and one out in the ninth. They desperately needed their best reliever to make sure the rubber game of this series got to extra innings.
Rodriguez, with a mid-90s fastball and a sharp slider, has a great arm. His glove? Apparently not so good.
After Bobby Crosby grounded into a force, sending Kendall to third, Rodriguez was facing Chavez. Scioscia had opted not to walk Chavez, even with second base open, because he didn't want to load the bases for Dan Johnson. The rookie has a good enough eye to draw a walk, and he'd also lined three singles in his first four at-bats.
As Rodriguez started off Chavez with a slider for a ball, Crosby took second base uncontested. Molina groused a bit about the call, and Rodriguez also appeared to be upset.
Molina then tossed the ball back to the mound. Rodriguez had to reach down for it just a bit, and the ball ticked off the end of his glove and rolled into the grass behind the mound.
Kendall instantly took off for the plate. Johnson, who was on deck, scrambled to signal to Kendall where to slide.
"Goodness gracious," Johnson said. "I've never even heard of anything like that."
Crosby, who was pointing at the ball as soon as it got away from Rodriguez said: "I was in shock. I was like `Oh my God, you've got to be kidding me."'
Just like that, the A's had won their ninth consecutive series, and Kendall could forget about what had gone wrong earlier.
He got caught off third base on a ground ball back in the third. And a few minutes earlier in the ninth he had failed to move up Mark Ellis with a bunt.
"There are all kinds of things you should have done in a nine-inning ballgame," Kendall said. "But you just keep playing till it's done."
That might as well have been the A's battle cry for the past two games. In both they trailed at the seventh inning stretch, with the Angels giving the ball to a bullpen that has been the best in the league the past three seasons.
On Wednesday night, they scored three runs in the seventh against Scot Shields, and Thursday they erased a 4-0 deficit with four in the seventh against Brendan Donnelly.
The rally started with a Jay Payton homer and ended with Chavez's three-run homer.
Like Kendall, Chavez had made amends on a disappointing afternoon. He was hitless in his first three at-bats, stranding five baserunners.
"You've just got to be aggressive and be ready to hit a mistake," Chavez said. "He made a mistake. The first pitch was a mistake and the second pitch he came back with the same mistake."
It was the Angels' second worst mistake of the day.
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