OAKLAND – Danny Santana used either his bat or his legs three times to give the Braves a lead Saturday, and the third time they made it stand.
Dansby Swanson doubled to drive in Santana in the ninth inning, lifting the Braves to a 4-3 win against the Athletics at Oakland Coliseum and clinching their fifth series win in their past six.
It was the second time that Swanson doubled to bring in Santana, who had two hits stole three bases Saturday to make a major impact for the second consecutive game for the Braves, who pulled out the win after Arodys Vizcaino gave up a tying two-run homer to Khris Davis in the eighth.
“It’s amazing how they never get down and just keep coming back, and it’s always somebody different,” said manager Brian Snitker, whose Braves have won their past nine games that were decided by one or two runs. “It’s not just one guy carrying it, it’s everybody doing their job….
“Dansby two big hits, Danny setting him up with the stolen bases. There’s a lot of big things today in that game, guys picking each other up.”
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After R.A. Dickey pitched six strong innings and was in position for his third win in a row before Vizcaino gave up a mammoth Davis homer in the eighth that tied the score, 3-3. But the Braves came back yet again.
They are 8-1 this season in games that were tied after eight innings.
“If we can keep winning games where we have to fight it out, it’s good for the chemistry,” Dickey said. “Any time you give up a lead and you don’t give in to that and you overcome that, those are all good for us. We’ve done that quite a bit this year.”
The free-agent signing of Bartolo Colon did not work out for the Braves, to put it mildly. But the other over-40 pitcher they signed, Dickey, lately has been doing precisely what the Braves hoped he’d do.
The 42-year-old knuckleballer allowed one run, six hits, three walks and four strikeouts in six innings Saturday and was in line for the win after Dansby Swanson’s RBI double in the seventh put the Braves back in front 2-1.
They added a run in the eighth when Nick Markakis hit a two-strike leadoff double and scored on a Matt Adams sacrifice fly, and Jose Ramirez protected the lead with a perfect seventh inning including two strikeouts.
Vizcaino entered the fray in the eighth and issued a leadoff walk to Jed Lowrie. That mistake was amplified when he threw a 97-mph first-pitch fastball down the middle to Davis, who hit it off the second-deck façade beyond center field.
Dickey was denied what would’ve been a seventh win in 12 decisions. Since giving up eight runs in five innings of a June 13 loss at Washington, he’s allowed just 14 hits and two runs in 20 innings over his past three starts (0.90 ERA).
“I always evaluate my life with a club as how many times did I start a game that we won the game?” Dickey said. “That means more to me than an individual record. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s the truth. That’s been my focus — quality starts, innings pitched and does my team win the game on days I start the ballgame.”
The Braves have won seven of his past nine starts and 10 of 16 this season.
They had an unlikely offensive leader Saturday in Santana, who had an RBI double for a 1-0 lead in the second inning, then singled in the seventh inning, stole second and third and scored on Swanson’s double to Atlanta in front, 2-1.
In the ninth inning, Santana reached on a one-out error and stole second base before Swanson’s go-ahead double.
“Whenever you can get a guy on base that can put pressure on the defense and be able to create offense kind of by himself, it’s a big thing,” Swanson said. “If he can essentially put himself in scoring position without hitting a double or even with a walk or something, that pays huge dividends for a team and obviously did today.”
In Friday’s 3-1 win, Santana made a terrific running catch near the left-field line in the fourth inning Friday night to preserve Mike Foltynewicz’s no-hit bid (which lasted until the ninth inning). Santana has played left field in the first two games of the interleague series while regular left fielder Matt Kemp has served as designated hitter.
“I have to take advantage of this opportunity,” Santana said through an interpreter. “Give it my best, play hard and try to make every single play that I can.”
Dickey knew him from the past three seasons when Santana was with Minnesota and Dickey with Toronto.
“He’s one of those guys that’s just a wild card,” Dickey said. “It may be what you saw today or he could scuffle for a couple of games, then all of a sudden he’s 3-for-3 with three stolen bases. That makes for an uncomfortable guy to be in the opposing lineup for those pitchers. And the one thing that doesn’t slump is speed. He showed that today on a couple of balls that he went back on, and those three stolen bases were huge.”
Dickey didn’t allow a runner to reach second base until the fourth inning, when he gave up a run on a one-out walk and three consecutive singles before getting out of a bases-loaded jam by inducing a double-play grounder from Josh Phegley.
He got into a tight spot again in the fifth inning after a leadoff infield hit by Francisco Barreto and a one-out walk. Dickey got out unscathed by getting Lowrie on a comebacker to the mound and striking out Davis to end the inning.
The Braves mustered one unearned run in six innings against A’s starter Paul Blackburn in his major league debut. Blackburn allowed just three hits with one walk, four strikeouts and a hit batter.