Sweeney's sliding catch saves game

Sweeney's sliding catch saves game

ST. PETERSBURG -- When B.J. Upton launched a pitch to left-center field in the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday, the frenzied fans at Tropicana Field clearly assumed their Rays were about to tie the game.

Perhaps they haven't been watching many baseball highlight shows, suggested A's reliever Brad Zielger. If they had, they'd have expected what the A's have come to expect:

Ridiculous game-saving catches from center fielder Ryan Sweeney.

Sweeney, who had turned in two fine sliding catches earlier in the game and earlier in the season made virtually every highlight show in the country on three consecutive days with a variety of sensational snags, did it again.

With an all-out dive that left him in desperate need of a massive ice wrap around his right rib cage after the game, Sweeney saved the day by robbing Upton of what surely would have been at least an RBI double, closing the book on Oakland's 7-6 win in the third game of a four-game series.

"I knew it was going to be close," Upton said of the play. "That was real close. That would've been a triple."

"Unbelievable," said Ziegler, who picked up his fifth save of the season. "But it's almost routine for him now. We're used to going home, turning the TV on, and watching his [highlights]."

Prior to Wednesday, Sweeney's most memorable grab came on April 30 in Texas, where he robbed Ian Kinsler of a go-ahead three-run homer to end the eighth inning of a 4-2 win.

Asked which was better, Sweeney hemmed and hawed a little before choosing Wednesday's. Not only did it secure the first Major League win for A's lefty Brett Anderson, but it did so in the most dramatic fashion possible -- on the final play of the game.

"I've only done that one other time," Sweeney said, "but I was 12 years old, so that doesn't count. ... That one [tonight] was harder."

Ziegler said the ball carried a little more than he thought it would. A's catcher Kurt Suzuki said he was praying for it to carry, so Sweeney would have time to get to it.

"That's the first time I think I've every said, as a catcher, 'Get up, ball! Get up!'" Suzuki said. "Ryan's unbelievable out there."

Sweeney said he was positioned to shade toward the opposite gap just before the play, increasing the degree of difficulty.

"I knew it was going to be close," he said. "I got it just before it hit the ground."

"One of the better catches I've seen," A's manager Bob Geren said. "I'm looking forward to seeing it again."

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.