Oakland’s One-Hit Wonder

Something wacky happened in Tampa Bay on Wednesday night. When something wacky happens in baseball, @cantpredictball is usually on the case. I’ll let them (him? her?) begin the storytelling:

You don’t need me, or cantpredictball, to tell you that’s rare. According to the Baseball-Reference Play Index, teams that get one-hit have won just 62 baseball games in 100 years. That’s just the ninth time it’s happened in the last decade. Oakland had never done it in its 45-year tenure as a franchise.

What’s funny about the game, besides the Athletics being victorious with one hit, is that if you look at the win expectancy chart, you really can’t even tell when that hit came. Go ahead, see if you can tell:

Source: FanGraphs

In fact, let’s use that win expectancy chart to see just how this game unfolded. Follow along on the interactive chart, if you wish.

Tommy Milone took the mound for the Athletics. Erik Bedard got the start for the Rays. The game, as all do according to the win expectancy model, started out with each team having a 50% chance to win. Once Bedard struck Craig Gentry out looking to lead off the game, the Rays, obviously, became the slimmest of favorites. Bedard retired the Athletics in order and then Wil Myers led off the bottom of the first with a single for the Rays.

At this point the Rays’ win expectancy, in the first inning of a game in which they allowed one hit, was the highest it would ever reach at 58.1%. After Milone retired the next three batters and neither team had done any damage in the first, the win expectancy again became a break-even 50/50. The Athletics, then, were favorites for the next seven innings and went on to win, despite being no-hit until the fourth.

Here’s how the top of the second started off and what gave the Athletics their first edge in the ballgame:


Yunel Escobar has earned a reputation for, among other things, being one of the better defensive shortstops in baseball. This was already his eighth error of the season after committing just seven all of last year. The Rays television broadcasters mentioned that the Rays have been playing him deeper in the hole this season, and that he has struggled with this very throw, moving to his right and planting off his back foot. Whether or not there’s any evidence to support that, Escobar certainly struggled with it here and Yoenis Cespedes reached base to start the inning.

Bedard walked the next two batters to load the bases with no outs, bringing the Athletics win expectancy to 68% without a hit or a run. Alberto Callaspo struck out swinging for the first out of the inning, but then this happened to give the A’s the lead:


Sean Rodriguez has also earned a reputation as a pretty solid defender, but made a pretty costly mistake here. Josh Reddick was batting. Rodriguez had time to plant his feet and deliver a good throw to Escobar to turn an inning-ending double play. Instead, Rodriguez quickly turned and fired off his front foot while fading away and threw it into left field. Cespedes and Derek Norris each scored, and the Athletics took a 2-0 lead, increasing their probability of winning to 74.5%. The Athletics still did not have a hit. Rodriguez’s error was about a 14% swing.

The next batter, Nick Punto, actually did ground into a double play to end the inning, but the A’s already had their lead. The next inning, the Rays got a couple guys in scoring position with one out and looked like they were in a prime position to respond. But Josh Donaldson did at third base what the Rays defenders couldn’t up the middle:


Logan Forsythe smoked a ball down the third base line, but Josh Donaldson made a great snag and saved at least one, if not both runs, from scoring. Milone got the next batter to pop out and the Athletics escaped the inning without surrendering a run.

Nothing much to see in the next couple innings, until this happened in the top of the fourth:


If you’re only going to get one hit in a baseball game, it’s probably best if you can make that hit be a home run. Bedard badly missed his spot with a curveball, leaving it out over the middle of the plate and Brandon Moss hit his team-leading 10th home run of the season. Just like that, the no-hit A’s with a win expectancy of 72.4% became the one-hit A’s with a win expectancy of 81.8%.

Bedard went back to not allowing any hits for the Rays and Milone pitched well for the Athletics until he scuffled a bit in the sixth inning. RBI singles by Escobar and James Loney scored two for the Rays, and closed the deficit to 3-2. A couple innings later in the bottom of the eighth, something interesting happened. Loney and Matt Joyce each got one-out singles and David DeJesus walked to load the bases, the Rays still trailing 3-2. With the bases loaded and Escobar up to bat, the Rays actually retook the title of favorites in the game, with a 54% chance to win. A sacrifice fly would tie the game. A hit would probably give them the lead. Instead, this happened:


Again, the Athletics defense did what the Rays defense earlier could not and turned the inning-ending double play. It almost didn’t happen with that throw to first, but it did. This was the single biggest change in win expectancy throughout the game, as the Rays went from 54% favorites to 15% underdogs with the swing of a bat.

Sean Doolittle then came on to close things out for the A’s in the ninth and did so, earning his fourth save of the season.

The Rays defenders didn’t execute, the Athletics defenders did, Erik Bedard walked a few guys and Brandon Moss hit a dinger. Add it all up and that’s how the Oakland Athletics beat the Tampa Bay Rays by a final score of 3-2 while getting just one hit. You can’t predict baseball.

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August used to cover the Indians for MLB and ohio.com, but now he's here and thinks writing these in the third person is weird. So you can reach me on Twitter @AugustFG_ or e-mail at august.fagerstrom@fangraphs.com.

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I can’t help but wonder what Jed Lowrie’s line drive rate was during this game and how many of his hits did not drop.