OAKLAND, Calif. - Although Marco Scutaro is far from famous outside the Coliseum, the fans inside were screaming his name when the Oakland Athletics wrapped up their first playoff series victory in 16 years.
The diminutive utility infielder swung the biggest bat in the A’s lineup Friday as they swept Minnesota out of the first round with an 8-3 victory. Scutaro hit two doubles that drove in four runs, tying the Athletics’ postseason record for RBIs and polishing his reputation as this club’s best clutch hitter.
Outfielder Nick Swisher simply calls him “Mr. Clutch,” and the rest of the baseball world can now see why.
Scutaro first came through in the second inning, driving home Jay Payton with Oakland’s second run. When he came to bat with the bases loaded in the seventh, the sellout crowd broke into loud, drum-accented chants of his name.
Scutaro replied with a double down the right-field line, driving in Payton, Eric Chavez and Swisher with the runs that put away the game. Scutaro clapped his hands at second base — and the chant only got louder.
“When I heard everyone screaming my name, I just said to myself, ’Do not strike out, please,’ “ he said. “’Just make some contact.’ And I hit it on the line, and that’s the greatest feeling ever.”
Scutaro has eight game-ending hits in the last three years, carrying on the tradition of recent A’s showstoppers Miguel Tejada and Jason Giambi. The Venezuelan carried that flair into the first playoff series of his career, providing the hits that finished off the Twins.
Three years after the Mets waived him, Scutaro has become one of the most important pieces in Oakland’s first trip to the AL championship series since 1992. His teammates are well aware of the jams they’ve avoided thanks to his steady defense and dramatic hitting.
“He’s good for ball,” left-hander Barry Zito said. “He’s who we call our ringer. He comes up in a money situation, nobody expects it, and he comes through over and over again. Scut has been our undercover guy, our game-winner all year long.”
The A’s picked up Scutaro for a $20,000 waiver fee after the 2003 season. General manager Billy Beane gave all the credit to Paul DePodesta, his former assistant who spotted Scutaro’s live bat and made the claim.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Scutaro has been the safety net on the A’s middle infield for three seasons, getting significant playing time when shortstop Bobby Crosby and second baseman Mark Ellis were sidelined. Both of those injury-prone infielders probably won’t play again in the postseason, but Scutaro and fill-in second baseman D’Angelo Jimenez took care of business in the clincher.
Scutaro went 4-for-12 in the series, driving in six runs from his spot in the bottom of the order. He hit well over .300 down the stretch in the regular season as Oakland held off the Los Angeles Angels for the AL West title.
“Marco Scutaro is unbelievable,” A’s outfielder Milton Bradley said. “Nobody expects that guy to do what he does. He came through and really made a difference.”
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