DETROIT — Oakland’s recent rash of injuries nearly claimed another duo Tuesday, as a popup in shallow left-center field caused a nasty collision in the fifth inning of Game 1 of a doubleheader they split with the Tigers at Comerica Park.
Andrus became aware of Pinder’s presence as the latter was mid-dive and appeared to slide to try to avoid a crash, but it was too late. The pair collided on the grass at a high speed, and Pinder’s sunglasses and hat went flying as the initial impact stopped both players in their tracks. Andrus then barrel-rolled over the top of Pinder, who remained facedown, unmoving, for several moments.
A’s head athletic trainer Nick Paparesta and manager Mark Kotsay sprinted to the grass in order to assess the situation as the crowd fell silent. Slow-motion replays showed Andrus’ left shin connecting with the side of Pinder’s head, with his cleat catching a bit of one of the outfielder’s right knuckles.
Andrus — who fielded the ball from his hands and knees and threw it in toward third base — was soon back on his feet and shaking it off, but Pinder took much longer to roll over on his back for further evaluation. The fans cheered when Pinder eventually sat up, with Paparesta checking his head, then his right hand. By the time Pinder was helped to his feet, he’d drawn a decent crowd to the grass, including members of the Tigers’ training staff.
Then, something curious happened.
Pinder first chatted with Paparesta, then Kotsay. Whatever intel they traded — following Pinder clearing concussion protocol — seemed to satisfy all parties because Pinder broke the huddle by jogging to deep left field and remaining in the game.
“Hopefully we escaped significant injuries from both those guys, but obviously, we’ll have to wait on Chad to see how he’s doing,” said Kotsay, who confirmed Pinder never lost consciousness. “I imagine they’ll both be pretty sore.
“Any time there’s a collision with someone diving toward the infield, with the infielder running in that direction, you fear that there’s significant trauma to the face and that area. … It’s scary running out there because you do think about the worst-case scenario when you’re on your way.”
The saving grace for each? First, Andrus’ shin connected with Pinder’s left temple instead of the front of his face, where there could’ve been much more damage. Second, the shin that sustained the impact was not the one Andrus had surgically repaired on Sept. 29, 2021, after he fractured his left fibula four days prior.
All things considered, it was the best possible outcome. In fact, both men appeared largely unaffected by the incident by the time play resumed, but when Castro came back up to bat in the sixth, it was obvious that the memories were still fresh.
Castro again skied a ball in the grey area between the infield and outfield, although this time around it hedged a little closer to Andrus’ territory. The shortstop waved everyone off as he jogged backward but backtracked at the last moment, appearing to see Pinder and stepping off as the ball fell harmlessly to the earth.
Castro was awarded a single in the first instance; Andrus was charged with an error the second time around.
The third time appeared to be the charm for the A’s, though, as another Castro connected with a ball that found its way into the no-man’s land in shallow left. This one came off the bat of Harold Castro in the seventh, and Andrus threaded between Pinder and third baseman Kevin Smith — who also had an injury scare in the sixth when he slammed into the Tigers’ dugout railing while trying to field a foul ball — to catch the popup cleanly for the second out of the frame.