The Oakland A’s kept their postseason alive with their first playoff victory since 2013, finally breaking a six-game postseason losing streak with a 5-3 win over the White Sox Wednesday afternoon.
The do-or-die win forces a Game 3 against Chicago on Thursday. Chris Bassitt pitched a stellar seven full innings, and the A’s got it done after a promising start became full-on nerve-racking in the ninth, when the White Sox loaded the bases and got a run walked in before Jake Diekman closed the door.
Manager Bob Melvin summarized the game simply:
“We won! That is all that matters. It wasn’t comfortable but we did just enough offensively to win. Bassitt was terrific, we just gave up a few runs at the end.”
The A’s scored in the first inning after three singles loaded the bases before Matt Olson hit a grounder to shallow right field where second baseman Nick Madrigal was playing on the shift. The ball bounced off his glove to bring in Tommy La Stella and Ramon Laureano for a 2-0 A’s lead.
Mark Canha spoke on what it meant to finally score some runs early in the game:
“I think just for our offense to score some runs was just a relief. We have been having some good at-bats and we are hitting the ball hard… finally one got through for us with Olson then Marcus hit big, it’s just nice to get a bounce to go our way and put some runs on the board early there. We are a confident bunch and we are a good offense and we know it. Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way for a while so hopefully this can get us going on the right path.
Sean Murphy stepped up to the box in the second and hit a rocket to left field that flew over the left-field foul pole and the umpires called it foul. Melvin challenged the call and the call stood — but the ball doesn’t lie. Murphy hit a line drive to left for a single on the next pitch, then Marcus Semien swung at the first pitch he saw, smashing a 418-foot homer to center to make it 4-0 A’s in the second.
Semien said he learned after his first at-bat — a pop-out to right to lead off the game — that his teammates were being aggressive at the plate against Dallas Keuchel. The approach helped. Semien said:
“That is what we have always been trying to do [score early] it just hasn’t been happening lately. It seems like we have had a lot of games where it is just zeros for the first time through the lineup and then we get a hit that just kinda wakes us up and a lot of times it’s a home run. I think hits like that are contagious. Once you see one guy do it, you get a little more confidence.”
Semien’s pointed to his family in the suites above center while he rounded the bases. The A’s dugout went wild with all hands up. Semien said he always tries to make eye contact with his family when they come to the games and they were excited to be able to finally come see him play this season:
“My sons and Tarah my wife, have been at every game last year. They are really supportive and when they are sitting, usually in the family section, I make sure to make eye contact with them. Especially when I am in a tough spot or just not feeling good. They keep me grounded so I knew where they were out there in center field and I saw them cheering so it was kind of a perfect time to acknowledge them.”
Bassitt had an intense inning in the third when back-to-back singles led off the inning and Madrigal stole second when Tim Anderson made contact with a single to right. Moncada hit a ball that looked like it was going to be a home run but stayed in and Canha made a beautiful jumping catch against the left-center wall on the run. The baserunners had to head back to their bases, narrowly escaping a double-play situation. Bassitt retired the next three batters and kept the Sox scoreless.
Canha explained his thoughts on the game-changing play in left field:
“I was kinda measuring it up as I was running to it and about 3/4 of the way there i decided to go for it, decided I had a chance and just kinda instinctual and timed it well and just yeah, tough play but thank god i got it done.”
Bassitt was happy to see the catch:
“Game changer, game saver. Thats an automatic two runs if you don’t catch it. I saw TA [Tim Anderson] basically half way to third and I said, that ain’t good. He came up with kind of a ridiculous freaking catch and I mean truly saved my outing.”
Melvin on the play and what it meant for Canha and Bassitt:
“Momentum changer there, it gets off the wall, we have a lead, now all of a sudden a couple runs are in and it’s a whole different story so you could see he pitched up Bassitt a little bit and he ended up giving us a lot in a game where he had to. He [Bassitt] had to be good today or we were going to be in a little trouble so that is probably the game of his life. He has been waiting for that game his entire life and he responded really well.”
Melvin explained how motivated Bassitt was in every aspect:
“He is motivated the whole game. Not only was he motivated when he was pitching but he was motivated on the bench when we were scoring runs. This was a game we had to win so it brings out the best in guys that compete and he is one of our best competitors.”
Semien said Canha is the most underrated outfielder and can play all three outfield positions. He spoke about what was going on through his mind watching Canha make the catch:
“You put him out there in left, that ball was hit well and sometimes with day games in Oakland those left handers can hit balls to the track that carry so initially I thought it was going to hit the wall, the baserunners did as well. It would have been better if he threw the ball towards second base, we might have gotten a double play or maybe even a triple play but that was an amazing catch just to jump up there and get it.”
Khris Davis led off the fourth with a solo homer to left for a 5-0 Oakland lead. The home run hitter only had two in 2020 after leading the league in 2018 with 48 but was able to get it done on a day that matters.
Melvin spoke very highly of Davis and all that he has overcome this season:
“Home runs kinda give us our mojo. Its kinda who we have been for years now and we haven’t seen a whole lot of that recently and Khris is in the forefront and has been forever and he swung the bat recently as well as he has all year. His first at-bat was good, just a little bit in on a cutter that a lot of the times ends up off the wall for him and responds with a homer the next time so that was huge for us today and our guys really rally around him. They pull for him as hard as anybody we have.”
Keuchel was relieved after his 62nd pitch that struck out Piscotty looking. Keuchel finished his 3 1/3-inning outing with five runs, three earned, off six hits, two of them being homers. He struck out three batters and didn’t walk anyone. Jimmy Cordero relieved him and retired the next two batters in just three pitches.
Bassitt also had to share some kind words for designated hitter Davis, who has been given a hard time all year:
“For the last month, I know he hasn’t played much but for the last month I mean I promise you, guys in the clubhouse are like ‘man the explosion in your bat is back’ and I think he is truly starting to believe it too. He has worked his butt off to kinda get back to where he was. Him running into the dang wall and messing his oblique up or ribs up effected him for quite some time but again the last month his BP and his at bats during the game, I’m like, ‘you’re there. You are back. You truly are back.’ It’s exciting to get him back and hopefully he just stays hot for us.”
Bassitt’s shutdown outing continued until the seventh, when Nomar Mazara pinch-hit for DH Edwin Encarnacion with a single up the middle to lead off the seventh. Adam Engel hit a line drive to center which put runners on first and second with one out, but Bassitt was able to strikeout Leury Garcia in three pitches then force Madrigal to ground out. Bassitt ended up completing the seventh in ten pitches giving him a total of 91 pitches without allowing a single Chicago run.
Marcus Semien has been playing with Bassitt since they were both drafted by the White Sox. Semien spoke about Bassitt’s pitching, not just on Wednesday, but all season:
“Bassitt has been the same guy all year. He didn’t let the playoff nerves get to him at all. He was the same guy and had the same stuff. First inning he comes out a little amped up, his velocity was up and then he calmed down and made sure he made his pitches, had good movement, kept them off balance with the cutter, of course the curve was there and mixes it up with his windups, he goes to the stretch, he switches it up. It is a tough matchup. We faced him in summer camp, it’s not fun. I am proud of him. I am happy for him. We have been playing together since we got drafted and just to be on that stage with him and see him do well, it’s amazing.”
Bassitt came out for the eighth already at 91 pitches and had to face the White Sox top of the order. Anderson led off with a first pitch blooper that dropped in right field and Bassitt smiled while he walked off the mound only allowing six hits, striking out five and allowing a walk in his seven shutout innings.
Bassitt spoke about the last single he gave up in the eighth:
“I wanna finish every inning I am just more mad about [Anderson’s] single. I mean, [Anderson] is gosh dang incredible but that pitch I threw was dang near perfect and he hit a single off it, which drives me insane but he has won a couple batting titles and he is world class for a reason.”
Canha also spoke about how great of a day Bassitt had:
“He has been lights out for us all year and that is what he does. He just goes out there and does his thing and he is the same guy everyday and he was the same guy today as he was the regular season, just joking around in the dugout and lighthearted and competitive.”
A’s closer Hendriks entered the eighth inning with a man on first and no outs. The Aussie almost always gets the job done in the ninth but came into the game to record the final six outs and help his team force a game three in the Wild Card series. He recorded five of the six final outs, but not easily.
Canha spoke on the bullpen:
“We are confident in our guys and Liam’s pitch count was getting up there so you are kinda thinking about that and then when you have a guy like [Diekman] to just come in and slam the door we knew he would get it done and our bullpen is nasty and they have been there for us all year and they got it done today, bottom line.”
Hendriks was able to strikeout the first batter he faced but gave up a bomb to Yasmani Grandal to put the White Sox on the board in a 5-2 ballgame. Jose Abreu followed with his first hit of the game, a line drive to right-center after the homer. Hendriks got out of the inning after 27 pitches and recorded all three outs on strikeouts.
Melvin spoke on his decision to leave in Hendriks for the ninth:
“I was going to give him out to out, but with a three-batter minimum, I could have gone to somebody else but Liam is our best guy it was the middle of their order, I was going to bring him in regardless even if I had to do something different in the ninth so he was going to pitch tonight. I wasn’t going to sit around and wait for him to potentially an even tough situation.”
Hendriks struck out the first two batters before giving up a base hits to Madrigal and then Anderson. Madrigal was on the run trying to steal and landed on third in the play. Moncada was 0-for-4 walking up to the plate as the tying runner. Down in the count 1-2, Moncada battled to a full count before walking Moncada to load the bases with two outs.
Melvin spoke about Hendriks performance:
“Six outs is a lot but he is our best pitcher. … I know what you’re thinking, it’s the middle of their order. Grandal certainly makes it a different game and they made him work in the last inning so Jake came in and finished it off but even though he threw what, like 50 pitches today, I guarantee you he is available tomorrow at least for an inning.“
Diekman relieved Hendriks with the bases loaded and had to face Grandal, who had homered in his last at-bat in the eighth. He batted right-handed against the lefty reliever, walking to bring in a run. The bases remained loaded with a 5-3 score. Abreu, one of the best batters in the league, stepped to the plate and swung at the first pitch, grounding out to La Stella at second to end the game.
Bassitt explained the mood after the game:
“The mood, I think relieved if anything. I mean we knew the numbers so I feel like the monkey is off our back a little bit and now its just play baseball from here on out. Relieved, excited obviously but relieved if anything.”
Semien shared what this win means for his team:
“It’s different without fans but that pressure of every pitch is there… but this was my first playoff win. This is Matt Olson’s first playoff win. It’s a lot of these guys first playoff win and it feels good. We are hungry for more wins, I think that tomorrow anything can happen. It’s just like Game 7, it’s Game 3, anything can happen but we wanna just play our game and have a good plan against whoever we face and see what happens.”
Tomorrow’s starters are yet to be announced for the third and final game in this AL Wild Card series.
The A’s snapped their postseason losing streak at a franchise record tying six games (Oct. 1, 2006 to Oct. 7, 2012). It was their first postseason win since defeating Detroit 6-3 at Comerica Park in Game 3 of the 2013 ALDS.