OAKLAND — The game began with a feat not accomplished by an A's player in nearly 80 years.
It was only fitting that Sunday's 7-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels ended with an historic twist as well.
Mark Ellis delivered just the fifth walk-off grand slam in Oakland history in the bottom of the 12th, turning on a first-pitch fastball from Chris Bootcheck and lining it off the left-field foul pole. The homer salvaged a victory for the A's after two straight defeats to the American League West leaders.
Ellis was mobbed by teammates waiting for him at home plate after smacking his second walk-off homer of the season. He had none in his five previous big league seasons.
And though it's still early June, a three-game sweep at the hands of Los Angeles wouldn't have left a pleasant taste. The A's trail the Angels by 4½ games as the New York Yankees arrive Tuesday for a three-game series.
"It's a really good feeling, especially after the first two games against the Angels," Ellis said. "It's one we had to have."
Nearly four hours earlier, A's starter Rich Harden took the mound in the top of the first and struck out the side on nine pitches. No A's pitcher had accomplished that feat since Lefty Grove on Sept. 27, 1928.
Harden was the first American League pitcher to pull it off since Pedro Martinez did it for Boston on May 18, 2002.
Harden went six innings and breezed rather easily outside of the fourth, when the Angels scored all three of their runs to take a 3-1 lead. The right-hander walked three that inning and surrendered Vladimir Guerrero's two-run homer.
Harden was extremely underwhelmed by his first-inning exploits, shrugging his shoulders when told of the historical context. He said the most important part was the team won, and he was mad at himself for not pitching deeper into the game.
"I expect a lot of myself," he said. "I had that one inning where I was inconsistent and missed my spots. It's something I want to work on."
The A's tied the game 3-3 in the seventh on Eric Chavez's double to right-center that scored pinch-runner Rajai Davis.
Davis was half of an unlikely combo that jump-started the A's rally in the 12th. With one out, he and Gregorio Petit both singled off Bootcheck. After Emil Brown struck out, Travis Buck walked to set up Ellis' heroics.
Before Sunday, Davis hadn't made a plate appearance since June 1.
Petit hadn't batted since May 21 before Sunday, but he may be getting more time. He entered the game in the top of the ninth as a replacement for shortstop Bobby Crosby, who left with a slightly sprained right ankle.
Crosby is day-to-day.
"He twisted his ankle in the second inning," A's manager Bob Geren said. "It got to the point where he came up to me and didn't feel like he had any range left."
On a day when the A's learned Mike Sweeney will need arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, they'll also have another injury to monitor besides Crosby. Closer Huston Street is nursing a sore right groin and was visited by assistant trainer Walt Horn during his scoreless ninth inning.
Street, who currently looks like the A's best All-Star Game candidate, said he's been getting treated for tightness in his groin for about a week and that it's improved some.
"I'm obviously favoring it," he said. "There's not going to be any power for a while "... but it's not like I'm throwing 84 (mph). I definitely know I can get outs." Street was part of a five-man relief effort that combined for six shutout innings.
Brad Ziegler handled the final 12/3 innings and collected his first major league victory.
Contact Joe Stiglich at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yankees, 7:05 p.m.
Isn't iT Grand?
Mark Ellis hit the fifth walk-off grand slam in Oakland A's history: