Oakland – A bit over zealous with perfection today, led to the Chicago White Sox using seven different pitchers through six frames. The A’s took advantage and scored six runs over two frames. Oakland’s manager Bob Melvin used a more patient approach with his bullpen.
The results, the A’s are moving on to the American League Division Series after defeating the White Sox 6-4 in a crucial Game 3. Oakland ended their Major League postseason record nine-game losing streak with their victory today. It’s the A’s first win since Game 7 of the 1973 World Series.
“The goal this year was to win the division and try to get to a series,” said Melvin. “We got to a series, lost the first game and really responded well. It was rewarding.
I woke up this morning feeling like this was going to be a hard game, and it was a hard game. They’re having a good time right now, as they should.”
Chicago put up a good fight, Luis Robert homered in the second, drove in a run in the third. Nomar Mazara also had a RBI double and tied the game 4-4 in the fifth with RBI single. But that wasn’t enough against a dominant offense. The White Sox pitchers walked nine batters, which tied for the second highest in a postseason game.
Chicago used a total of nine pitchers since the first inning. The bullpen tossed 7.1 frames, which are the most by the Sox pen in the postseason since they had 8.2 in Game 8 of the 1919 World Series against Cincinnati. Nothing was good enough for Chicago’s manager Rick Renteria and in the end it proved costly.
By the fourth Oakland’s bats came alive with some assistance from the Sox bullpen. Robbie Grossman got a free pass. Sean Murphy followed with a two-run blast to left field making it a 3-2 game. Tommy La Stella walked then Marcus Semien doubled and Carlos Rondon intentionally walked Chad Pinder to load the bases.
After two pitching changes, Matt Foster walked Mark Canha and La Stella scored. Then Matt Olson walked and Semien scored. The A’s were ahead 4-3. And at this point Chicago’s bullpen had been emptied. Pinder who pinched hit in the third went 2-for-3 with a walk and two RBIs.
“That was huge, closer Liam Hendriks said. “We were cheering and screaming, doing whatever we could. It felt like Sean rewarded us for that cheering. Getting those first two runs on the board was a game-changer. You never know how it’s going to go, but having a one-run deficit makes it a lot easier to pull off.”
By the fifth another heroic defensive play was recorded by Oakland. Yoan Moncada singled and stole second. Mazara knocked one in the alley and drove in Moncada to tie the game 4-4. Then Adam Engel popped up to a running La Stella who made a backwards catch that led to him bobbling the ball before securing it in his glove.
“Those types of plays are the type of plays that rally’s start off of,” said Pinder. “That is such a hard play for a second baseman and he is not turning around the entire time when he is running. He is running looking over his shoulder trying to tack a ball and it’s in his glove and he is still running around, then it pops up. To be able to follow it and the type of hand eye coordination that takes, I mean we all know Tommy’s hand-eye is pretty good but that was awesome, that was impressive.”
Bottom of the frame Oakland scored two more runs. Murphy walked, La Stella reached first on a catchers interference by Yasmani Grandal. Semien walked and Pinder’s RBI single drove in both Murphy and La Stella making it a 6-4 game.
“Guys really responded,” Melvin said. “Murphy homers, and now we feel like we’re really back in the game. Pinder had a terrific game playing on a bad hamstring. You want your best, toughest players in games like that. Those guys showed up today.”
By the seventh the A’s defense was extraordinary. Jose Abreu reached first on a throwing error and James McCann was hit by a pitch.
Jake Diekman replaced Lou Trivino and walked Mazara to load the bases. Diekman forced Engel to ground out leaving all three stranded. Oakland used eight pitchers, which is an Athletics record for a postseason game. They had never used more than six but keeping pace with Renteria, Melvin had the better hand.
Hendriks was brilliant in the ninth with a scoreless inning. He allowed a single to McCann and then struck out the next three batters for the save. The A’s won a postseason series for just the second time in their last 14 series dating back to the 1990 World Series. The other win was the 2006 ALDS against Minnesota.
Oakland will face the Houston Astros in the American League Division Series beginning Monday at a neutral site which is at Dodger Stadium. This will be the A’s ninth appearance in the ALDS, their first since 2013 against the Detroit Tigers. Facing the Astros brings a plethora of emotions after their cheating scandal last season that rocked Major League Baseball.
“I think there’s a little bit of us wanting to make sue they know what they’ve done, and we can prove they weren’t the top team in the AL West,” said Hendriks. “But we also don’t want to be petty and let our emotions get the best of us. We payed then enough times this year and had a good record. Now, we’ll go into that series and hopefully take care of business.