When he entered the game, Rafael Soriano was a perfect 7 for 7 in save opportunities in 2014 and 19 for 19 overall since he last blew one back on August 17, 2013 in Atlanta. Washington's 34-year-old, $28M dollar closer took the mound in the O.co Coliseum in Oakland in the bottom of the ninth inning on Saturday night with a 3-1 lead and gave up a run that broke a streak of 25 scoreless innings, a career high. Then he blew his first save. By the time Soriano recorded the final out of the 15-pitch frame, it was a 3-3 game.
"Going into the ninth with a two-run lead," Matt Williams said after the game, "with a guy that hasn't given up a run in 25 innings and it doesn't happen for you, it's disappointing, but that's baseball. Have to come play tomorrow."
The A's rallied to tie it in the ninth then beat the Nationals for the second straight night when John Jaso doubled off the high wall in right, just out of Nate McLouth's reach. Pinch runner Nick Punto scored from first on the walk-off hit and the Athletics took the series and set themselves up with an opportunity to sweep the visiting Nats in the finale of the three-game set on Sunday afternoon.
Nationals' starter Tanner Roark surrendered just two hits in 7 2/3 IP against the Athletics. Tyler Clippard inherited and handled a runner on third, two-out situation, popping Derek Norris up to end the A's eighth.
Athletics' lefty Sean Doolittle retired the Nationals in order in the top of the ninth inning.
Jaso's ninth inning leadoff single off Soriano was the second of the A's catcher's three hits in five plate appearances Saturday night. He scored when Jed Lowrie doubled to center on a high 88 mph 1-1 fastball from Soriano in the next at bat.
Lowrie tied the game up when he scored from second on Josh Donaldson's single to left in spite of a strong, accurate throw in from by Zach Walters that Soriano unexpectedly cut in front of home plate before everyone found out if the Nats' left fielder would get an outfield assist in his first major league game as a left fielder.
Williams admitted he wasn't sure why Soriano cut the throw or why he was out in front of home plate instead of behind it.
He thought it was going to be close.
"I think we've got a chance," the first-year skipper said. "I don't know why he cut that ball off. One, he should be backing up the plate in case the ball gets by, so I don't know what he's doing there, I don't know why he cut it."
Soriano said he knew he made a mistake.
What went wrong for Soriano on the mound?
"Nothing in particular," Williams said. "Ball's up in the strike zone a little bit, but they put good swings on him. Jam shot base hit to start it off and then a double and then a base hit to tie it. So, they just put good swings on him."
"Just up in the zone," he continued. "Balls left up. The ball Donaldson hit was a hanging slider. Made a good pitch on Jaso to start the inning and he fisted one into left and the ball to Lowrie was up too. Just up in the strike zone."
The A's tied it in the ninth and walked off in the tenth and the Nationals dropped their second straight on the road in Oakland.
Rafael Soriano: "Bad day. That’s all I have to say. I cannot be perfect every time." This snapped his scoreless innings streak at 25.— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) May 11, 2014