The Oakland A’s advanced beyond the first round of playoffs for the first time since 2006 after a 6-4 comeback win over the Chicago White Sox Thursday.
A total of 17 pitchers took the mound, and this season’s new three-batter minimum rule for pitchers bit the White Sox and cost them the game in the fourth when the A’s batted around the order to rally for a comeback win.
A two-run homer from Sean Murphy, two walked-in runs and a Chad Pinder two-run single lifted the A’s after they fell behind 3-0 after three innings. The A’s have made it through the first round for the first time since 2013 and earned their first playoff series win since ’06. They snapped a nine-game losing streak in winner-take-all elimination games.
Bob Melvin said his team’s goal was to get to a division series, and they did. He spoke about coming out on top after a Game 1 loss:
“We lost the first game but really responded well so it was rewarding. Obviously we had to do a lot. I woke up this morning feeling like this was going to be a hard game and it was a hard game. We had to use a lot of guys and we had to make some uncomfortable decisions at times, but man, some guys really responded so they are having a really good time in there, as they should.”
No champagne was popped but nude golf putting went down in the clubhouse to celebrate. Last season they had a basketball hoop; this year, a putting green.
Mike Fiers (6-3, 4.58 ERA) gave up a single to Tim Anderson and a double to Jose Abreu but was able to get out of the first inning scoreless. Rookie center fielder Luis Robert led off the second inning with a 487-foot bomb that kept the outfielders standing as they waited for the the longest home run in Statcast history at the Oakland Coliseum to land in the seats to make it 1-0.
Fiers was able to strike out the next two batters but gave up a single Nick Madrigal to keep the inning going with top of the order up. Anderson doubled down the right-field line to put runners in scoring position for the second inning in a row, this time Fiers just needed to record one more out, but he walked Yasmani Grandal on four straight balls to load the bases and that was all for Fiers. He lasted 1-2/3 innings where he gave up five hits, a homer, struck out two and walked a batter. Yusmiero Petit relieved Fiers and got out of the inning without any more damage.
It was common knowledge the White Sox were going to use their bullpen to get through the third game, but maybe not as early as they did. Dane Dunning (2-0, 3.90 ERA) was pulled after 2/3 of an inning when he put runners on the corners in the first. Rookie pitcher Garrett Crochett, the White Sox first pick of the 2020 draft — the first player to ever make his major league debut without playing a single minor league game — also lasted 2/3 of an inning, striking out both batters he faced on nine total pitches. The White Sox trainer came out and Crochet didn’t have to deal with the three-batter minimum rule due to injury.
Aaron Bummer relieved Crochet in the second inning and recorded the final two outs. It took three pitchers to keep the A’s scoreless in the first two innings.
Eloy Jimenez led off the third inning with a standing double to left center, his first hit after being out of the lineup since Sept. 24 due to a foot injury. Jimenez re-injured himself on the run, and James McCann pinch ran for him at second. Luis Robert singled on the first pitch from Petit up the middle to make it 2-0 in the third. Nomar Mazara followed with an RBI double to left-center to make it 3-0. Petit was able to retire the next two batters and finished the day going 1-1/3 innings where he gave up two runs off three hits with a strikeout.
The A’s loaded the bases with one out and walked away without a single run in the third. Sean Murphy led off the third with a walk. Marcus Semien singled to center to put runners on first and second with one out. Bummer was relieved by Codi Heuer before Chad Pinder pinch hit for Jake Lamb and hit a grounder up the middle that Anderson dove for and stopped. He kept a run from scoring but the bases were loaded with one out after the no throw play. Mark Canha hit an infield fly rule on a ball not deep enough for a sacrifice and Matt Olson struck out only to leave three men stranded down 3-0 after three.
The A’s batted around the order in the fourth when they came back to take the first lead of the game, and it all started with Sean Murphy. Murphy hit his first non-solo homer of the season, a two-run shot with Robbie Grossman aboard to put the A’s back in the game 3-2.
Murphy’s fiancée in center field cheered with all the other A’s family members rooting on their loved ones in the suites above center field. Heuer’s day came to an end after the two-run homer and the White Sox put in their fifth pitcher of the game in the fourth inning to try to record the final out but they would use two more before finally earning it.
Murphy on the fourth inning:
“I was glad to get those two runs, that was big…. hit the home run and then put together some good at bats and ended up scoring four that inning.”
LHP Carlos Rodon had to face top of the order and walked Tommy La Stella on a full-count battle to keep the inning alive. Semien followed with a hard line drive intothe left field corner for a standing double and La Stella was held at third. Pinder was intentionally walked to load the bases for Rodon’s third batter so the Sox could relieve him due to the new three-batter minimum rule.
Matt Foster stepped onto the mound with two outs and the bases loaded and threw nothing but balls. He walked Canha to bring in the tying run to make it 3-3 and then Olson, who had struck out with the bases loaded to end the third, walked to give the A’s their first lead of the game at 4-3. Foster threw ten pitches to the first two batters he faced and eight of them were balls. Back-to-back walks put the A’s in the lead. The White Sox couldn’t pull Foster until Khris Davis, the third batter Foster faced, flew out to right to end the comeback fourth inning.
Melvin on his team’s offense:
“There were some really big hits, big everything in that game that swung it back cause we are down early and unfortunately I had to take Mike out which was really hard to do. Petit has been a guy who has been so good in those situations and that was probably the toughest decision of the day, taking Mike out right there because its no sure thing but guys really responded to Murphy’s homer now all of a sudden it feels like we are really back in the game. Pinder had an absolutely terrific game too playing on a bad hammy so you know you want your best and toughest players in there in games like that and those guys showed up today. “
Moncada had the first hit off Montas in the fifth with one out and stole second on two outs to put himself in scoring position. Montas was ahead on the count 0-2 before a full-count RBI single by Mazara tied the game again 4-4. Engel hit a high popup to La Stella sprinting with his back to the field and the ball popped out of his glove. He kept his eye on the ball and made the catch on the ground to end the inning. That was all the damage the White Sox could do.
Pinder described the play:
“First off the importance of it, it was massive. Those type of plays are the type of plays that rally’s start off of… 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 is in his glove and he is still running around and then it pops up and to be able to follow it and the type of hand eye coordination that that takes, I mean we all know Tommy’s hand-eye is pretty good but that was awesome, that was impressive.”
Pinder is a leader on the team and a very humble player. He can play any position and can play it well. He has been playing smart to make sure he doesn’t reinsure his hamstring. He spoke about what it means to be advancing:
“Just a little bit of the weight lifted off our shoulders obviously after the past two years moving on and now getting to a five-game series, its awesome. Extremely grateful and just looking forward to it.”
Evan Marshall pitched the fifth inning as the seventh White Sox pitcher, and the A’s loaded the bases yet again. Murphy walked with two outs before La Stella landed on second after catcher interference (15th time in his career to get on base from catcher’s interference). Semien drew a walk to load the bases without a single A’s hit in the inning before Pinder had the first hit of the inning, bringing in two runs with a hard base hit through the infield left side gap for a 6-4 A’s lead. Engel’s throw home from left was close but not in time. All six A’s runs Thursday came on two outs.
Both bullpens kept the game scoreless after the fifth inning.
Melvin summarized the use of his bullpen on Thursday and how it was a true team win:
“The bullpen, starters, everybody… As [the game] went along, I did some things a little differently. I used Lou in the seventh and Dieks in a row and shut it down and had a quick conversation with Liam earlier and he said he felt good and wanted to pitch so it was easier to just throw Soria out there in the eighth and I had him hold back a little bit just to see how Liam felt warming up but as you saw there was some 97’s and 98’s right away. A lot of guys contributed today, it was a true team win.”
Montas kept the Sox to one run off two hits in his two innings. J.B Wendelken relieved him in the sixth and had a 15 pitch perfect inning. Lou Trivino threw 2/3 of the seventh inning where he allowed one hit and hit a batter before he was relieved by Jake Diekman to record the final out of the seventh inning.
Diekman walked Mazara to load the bases but got out of the inning scoreless. Joakim Soria allowed two base runners after a walk and single but a double-play ended the eighth inning scoreless.
An amped-up Liam Hendriks was the 17th and final pitcher to take the mound on Thursday and gave up a lead off single but struck out the next three batters on some of his highest-velocity pitches of the season.
Hendriks spoke about how great the Oakland bullpen was today:
“We trust our bullpen with our lives and that was one of the things that came through. Between Frankie Montas coming in on a short rest and being able to give us two solid innings, to Petit doing what he always does, to JB coming in after him then you turn it over to the other guys and Lou Trivino was able to do a job, Jake Diekman on his third day in a row came in and was able to get out of a jam and then Soria getting those huge outs, that was a big thing. There was a lot of times where this games was hanging in the balance and we were able to pull it by them and we had just enough offense to get by and this is what we are going to do.”
Hendriks after the game said he felt fine to pitch, and even if he didn’t, he wasn’t going to say otherwise:
“To be honest, I need a nap. Three 12:00 games in a row, threw them 50 pitches yesterday and then today, it was tough. It has been hot out here, it has been humid, it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions but I was happy I was able to redeem myself after yesterday not putting my best foot forward and now we have a couple days off before we head over to LA.”
The A’s will take on their division rival Houston Astros on Monday in the ALDS series at Dodgers stadium. Now it’s time to the A’s to continue to prove they are the best in the West.
Matt Chapman was unable to enter the building but was blowing up the team group chat after the game.