The odds were stacked heavily against Nate Freiman.
A 26-year-old rookie first baseman/designated hitter for the Oakland Athletics, Freiman was 2 for 24 against righthanded pitching this season.
On Thursday night, the Wellesley High graduate stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the 18th inning to face the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera, arguably the toughest righty of all, with one out, the bases loaded, in a 2-2 game.
The future Hall of Fame closer had intentionally walked Jed Lowrie, the former Red Sox infielder, to get to the 6-foot-8 Freiman, who entered the game in the 16th inning.
Freiman spoiled the strategy with a broken bat single to left, scoring John Jaso and end the five-hour, 35-minute drama at the Coliseum in Oakland, completing a three-game sweep.
“[The pitch] was a cutter that was coming in with a lot of movement,” Freiman said in a phone interview Friday morning. “With one out, I had to keep the ball off the ground to avoid a double play. I had to get it to the outfield.
“He sawed off my bat a little. But I knew that it was going to drop in because it was toward the leftfield line (leftfielder Vernon Wells did not come close to the ball).
Freiman received the traditional pie-in-the-face treatment --- administered by former Red Sox outfielder Josh Reddick --- and a Gatorade soaking.
“Nate said he was having a hard time processing what happened. He’s been watching Rivera since he was 7,” said his father, Len.
Freiman called Rivera a legend, “the quintessential professional.”
“Even as a Red Sox fan, I cheered for him, but not against the Red Sox,” he said.
Before the game, the A’s presented the retiring Rivera with several gifts, including a bottle of Napa Valley white wine. He might have found it useful after the game.
Len Freiman admits to “being nervous” during A’s games.
“I just look at the box score later,” he said. “I knew he wasn’t starting (Thursday’s game). I didn’t know if he’d get in. My phone rang and it was the father of someone who had been Nate’s teammate at Duke. I let it ring to voice mail.”
After Nate’s hit, “my phone exploded (with calls),” he said.
His son is old for a rookie. “It was amazing that he made the team,” said his father. The Athletics claimed Freiman, the career home run leader at Duke University, off waivers from the Astros in March.
“We wondered how long he’d be there.”
Long enough to put ruin what was quite likely last appearance in Oakland.
“Nate wants (a career) so much and works hard at it. I wouldn’t bet against him,” said his mother, Majorie.
The long game wiped out Freiman’s plan to join his wife, LPGA golfer Amanda Blumenherst, for a Chinese dinner in San Francisco. They settled for a local Japanese place n Oakland.
After the win, she tweeted “Ahhh! Nate just ended the 18 inning game. Bases loaded, single! Pie in the face! Athletics win!”
“The game went a little longer than we planned,” he said.
Freiman, hitting .277 with two home runs and 16 RBIs in 94 at bats, has become somewhat of a Yankee killer. He is 5 for 6 against lefty ace CC Sabathia.
Lenny Megliola can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.