Tony Kemp is coming up clutch for A’s this early season

The A’s are still figuring out each other. They’ve had a few weeks in camp, but the kinks of a newly-formed team were evident during Tuesday night’s game.

There are still plenty of unknowns, but one thing’s for sure about the 2023 season so far: Tony Kemp has been clutch for the A’s.

On Tuesday night, Oakland rallied in the bottom of the ninth against the Cleveland Guardians, as TK delivered an RBI single and the team’s first walk-off victory of the season, a 4-3 win. Expectations aren’t high around the A’s this season, but at least they’ve been playing in some entertaining games this year. And Kemp has been at the center of the game-changing rallies.

In the sixth inning of Tuesday night’s game, Kemp also scored on a wild pitch after leading off the frame with a single and then stealing second. Last Thursday on opening night, Kemp drilled a booming double to deep center field to drive home the game-tying run, before coming around to score the game-winner. For a franchise that’s lacking on star power, Kemp might be the most recognizable face on the team.

“Just feel like you gotta keep battling each day, stay positive,” Kemp told NBC Sports California after the game. Offense is gonna keep coming around, pitchers are doing a great job. It’s early in the season. We just gotta believe in ourselves. We got a great team. Obviously feels good to get the win and hopefully tomorrow we can take a series.”

Afterwards, Kemp let out some funny, guttural sounds after getting an ice bath on the air with NBC Sports California.

It’s a good thing he didn’t get wiped out by Esteury Ruiz in the fifth inning.

Kemp and the speedy outfielder nearly had a high-impact collision in shallow center, but Kemp went high and Ruiz went low, so the two acrobats were spared any injury. First baseman Ryan Noda and Carlos Pérez also bumped into each other in the ninth inning while dropping a foul ball in foul territory. The guys are still getting comfy, but 2-3 sounds a lot better than 1-4, as the A’s have a chance to win their first series of the year in Wednesday’s matinee.

“I feel like we just have a lot of energy,” Kemp said. “Especially me and Ruiz running into each other. You had Pérez and Noda down there. We’re kind of figuring each other out, and that takes some time. We continue to jell and believe in each other. We just gotta continue to have fun out here. You always gotta remember that you are a big-league player and you have to go out there and have fun.”

It might be a bit hyperbolic, but is anyone getting 2012 vibes from this A’s team? By no means am I crowning them 2023 American League West Champions in a division full of spenders and stars, but Oakland might very well surprise people this season.

That 2012 squad was projected to win 70-ish games by most outlets, before capturing the division title in Game 162 – which was a fan favorite Coliseum memory during Hal’s tailgate interviews on Episode 63. This season, PECOTA is projecting a paltry 65-97 record for the A’s, so they’d certainly shock the world with an AL West run this season.

In all likelihood, the A’s are probably closer to the team that was outscored 20-3 in the Angels series to open the year – but hey – they got a win out of those three paltry runs. 

My biggest concern is that the starting staff will walk too many batters and it will eventually deplete the bullpen, but a win on Wednesday and the A’s are .500 with their first series victory of the year. The offense has more potential than last year, almost by default, but the defense has looked shaky so far this season.

In other words – savor every win while the team is still competitive, especially if it’s a walk-off by Kemp. A contender could use a player like him at the deadline this season, and that’s the cruel reality A’s fans have to consider in this latest rebuild.