The Oakland A’s live to see another day, avoiding an American League Divisional Series sweep behind five home runs for a 9-7 win against the Houston Astros on Wednesday.
The Astros came back from trailing 4-2 when they batted around the order in the fifth and scored five runs. But four solo Oakland homers and two sacrifice flies bookended a Chad Pinder three-run shot in the seventh to tie things at 7-7. A Pinder sacrifice fly in the eighth was the ninth and final insurance run needed to seal Game 3 and keep the A’s in this series, two games to one.
The Astros came back from trailing 4-2 when they batted around the order in the fifth and scored five runs. Liam Hendriks then shut down the Astros in the final three innings, keeping the Astros to just one hit.
The A’s were the first on the board again after a Tommy La Stella solo homer 415 feet to center gave the A’s a 1-0 lead.
The Astros quickly doubled the A’s runs in the bottom of the first. Jose Altuve also got his team on the board with a solo home run to center to tie it 1-1. Back-to-back singles followed from Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman to put runners on the corners before Carlos Correa hit a routine grounder and was safe at first on the A’s attempt at a double play. The Astros led 2-1 after the first.
Hendriks explained when the team starts chirping in the dugout, special things happen:
“It’s been special obviously when we start getting a little chirpy in the dugout or in the bullpen or anything like that, thats when things happen. I think there are too many times where we sometimes take it a little too harshly and then kinda go back into our shell a little bit but if we start hyping up from the dugout or the bench or anywhere else, that tends to be when we do our special things.”
Ramon Laureano was the soul of the team and gave a motivational pep talk between innings right before the A’s came back to tie it. Pinder spoke on what Laureano said, and explained he got the chills just thinking about it:
“I knew I hit it good enough for a sac fly and it just kept going. It was awesome. Right before that inning, Ramon got everybody up and got everybody fired up saying this wasn’t it. We kinda talked yesterday about how the momentum when we scored, it seemed like they scored back and punched us back and we hadn’t been able to respond and Ramon kinda nipped that in the butt and had an incredible at-bat by Simy and another great at by Tommy and just put us in that position. It was awesome.”
Astros starter Jose Urquidy reached 58 pitches after his first perfect inning in the third. Pitch No. 59 wasn’t so perfect, as Olson led off the fourth inning with a solo blast to center field to give the A’s a 3-2 lead. Urquidy’s 79th and final pitch resulted in the A’s fourth solo homer of the game to Marcus Semien, who made it a 4-2 ballgame.
Pinder explained the Laureano speech further without giving too much away:
“You could kind of just feel like when we got into the dugout, the energy was just down again… and Ramon was having no part of that. He was having absolute no part of that… Along the lines of: ‘This ain’t it. This ain’t over. This isn’t our last game. Were not gonna let it be our last game. We have gone through too much and had too many good things happen throughout this season to leave here getting swept and we just have to keep getting to the next day’ and that’s kinda what I got from it with Ramon’s intensity tangled in there a little bit.”
Urquidy lasted 4-1/3 innings and all four of his runs came on solo home runs. His day finished with one walk, three strikeouts before he was relieved by Blake Taylor down 4-2.
Luzardo’s first perfect inning was the second and he only faced three batters in every inning after. He kept the Astros scoreless after the first up until the fifth inning when he was pulled after DH Aledmys Diaz blasted Luzardo’s 79th pitch of the day to left field to tied it 4-4.
Luzardo on his day:
“We are definitely aware of [balls carrying] especially after the first day, we saw how the ball was carrying but just still trying to pitch our game, not trying to really pitch any different. Keep the ball down as much as possible and hope guys don’t hit it out but I felt pretty good throughout my whole outing. I made two mistakes which were pretty costly but I am glad we were able to pull it out.”
=Hendriks was warming up in the bullpen when Pinder hit his dinger but explained how the bullpen celebrated:
“The reaction from the bullpen was exaltation you could say. Obviously everything was happy but it’s a whole new ballgame takes the game back to 0-0 and were going out there with the guys and we trust our bullpen with everything.”
Yusmeiro Petit relieved the starter and had to face the top of the order. Usually, Petit gets his team out of a jam but on Wednesday, he put them in one. His first pitch of the day hit Springer with an 88-mph fastball, then Altuve reached on a soft grounder to Pinder to put runners on first and second.
Brantley hit a line drive to center and Springer rounded third. Ramon Laureano threw home, and Olson intercepted the throw and quickly threw to Pinder who tagged Altuve out at third on the play caught in a pickle trying to run back to second. The A’s recorded their second out but a run scored on the play and the Astros took back the lead 5-4.
Bregman followed with a line drive off the wall in left-center for an RBI double and the Astros took their biggest lead of the game 6-4.
Jake Diekman tried to get the A’s the final out of the four-run inning but before he could, he gave up a single up the middle to Kyle Tucker which made it 7-4 after the Astros batted around the order in the fifth.
The A’s had top of the order starting the seventh inning trailing by three runs, and Josh James couldn’t record an out. James gave up a line drive single to Semien to get the inning started. La Stella hit a line drive to right-center and Semien hustled to third to put runners on the corners with no outs.
Pinder stepped up and must have told himself it’s not time to go home yet because he swung at the first pitch he saw and demolished the ball to right field for a threee-run homer to tie the game 7-7. The A’s dugout went wild and banged their hands on the dugout fence as they celebrated a crucial moment.
Hendriks came in for the seventh — yes, the seventh — inning and kept the game tied dealing with the Astros heart of the order.
Brooks Raley came in for the eighth and walked Grossman to lead off the inning. Laureano’s first hit of the game came in the eighth when he hit a ball that dropped fair in right field and rolled into foul territory to put runners in scoring position on his sliding double.
Murphy hit a sacrifice fly in right center and Canha scored on the tag home and slid in the A’s eighth run. Semien followed and drew a walk to took a while to get up before Nate Orf pinch ran for him at first which loaded the bases with one out. Pinder hit a sacrifice fly deep to the tracks in right field to make it a 9-7 ballgame after the top of the eighth.
Pinder broke down the inning:
“We had the big inning there to get us back. … That is just really good baseball to close out the game there situational hitting and it was big. For him to do what he did in the dugout, to rally us all together and then come through with that double, it just shows in the big moment he is going to be there and he is going to pull us out when we are a little down.”
Melvin on the A’s first win and how they accomplished the job:
“Not trying to pull the ball, just kind of stay the other way and the ball is carrying in the air you don’t have to get a ton of it to get it far enough for a sacrifice fly so were just fighting tooth and nail to try to come back. … the sac flies ended up being huge for us after the tie so little things, it’s not just homers sometimes although if you look at this game, it felt like that.”
Hendriks gave up a lead-off single to Bregman in the eighth, then a Murphy catcher’s interference put Tucker on first with no outs. Gurriel’s infield pop up was the first out, then Diaz swung at a ball that barely left the dirt at the home plate circle. Murphy grabbed it, looked to third and knew Correa was going to be safe so he threw it to first for the second out and the Astros runners advanced to scoring position.
Josh Reddick pinch hit for veteran catcher Maldonado and struck out on a full-count to end the inning. Reddick broke his bat slamming it over his knee. Meanwhile, Hendriks celebrated with a mound roar.
Melvin on his decision to put in Hendriks for three innings:
“I just had to get him in the game. I just couldn’t let him sit out there and wait. We had to shut them down, the part of the order that was coming up. With his pitch count as manageable as it was, it really wasn’t a tough decision once I talked to him between innings.”
Pinder couldn’t have said it better when talking about the Aussie closer:
“Liam has been lights out for us the past two years. That is not easy to do. It’s not easy to do 2-ups but to go out there and do 3-ups and shut it down like that, when he is in the game there is a calming feeling because you know he wants that ball and he wants to get after it. Not to say that everybody else doesn’t want that but Liam is time and time again just close the door in big situations and that’s the guy we want out there in the ninth inning and he just happened to be the seventh, eighth and ninth today.”
Frankie Montas will start Game 4 on Thursday at 12:35 p.m. for the Oakland A’s.