Story by Brian Brownfield (Martinez News-Gazette)
Photos by Tod Fierner (Martinez News=Gazette)
OAKLAND, Calif. – Tuesday’s dismal performance in the first game of the 2020 American League Wild Card Series is officially behind the Oakland Athletics. Coming back with early offense and a dominant pitching performance, the A’s were able to live another and force a Game 3 of the Wild Card Series, beating the Chicago White Sox 5-3.
The ninth inning was extremely dicey. With the A’s up 5-2, Liam Hendriks was on after escaping trouble in the ninth. With two down, he allowed singles to both Nick Madrigal and Tim Anderson, bringing up the tying run in the form of Yoan Moncada. After taking the count full, Moncada worked a walk, loading the bases for Yasmani Grandal, who homered in the eighth. Jake Diekman was summoned in the biggest spot of the year for the Athletics, and he walked Grandal to make it 5-3. AL-MVP candidate Jose Abreu smacked a ball to second, but it hugged the ground and resulted in the final out of the game on a groundout.
After Tuesday’s Game 1 loss, multiple A’s players said they would come out angry and determined in Game 2. The offense responded right away, putting up crooked numbers in both of the first two innings.
In the first, Tommy La Stella broke up the perfect game like he did in Game 1, though he was the second batter and not the 19th batter when he singled on Wednesday. The A’s loaded the bases on singles from Ramon Laureano and Chad Pinder before Matt Olson got a chance to hit. He sent a bouncing ball to second, where rookie Nick Madrigal booted the ball in the shift, allowing both La Stella and Laureano to score, putting the A’s in front 2-0.
With one out in the second, Sean Murphy obliterated a ball down the left field line into the second deck. However, the ball was ruled foul by the umpire crew, despite the fact that it appeared to sail over the foul ball, which would make it a home run. Murphy responded by singling, and Marcus Semien followed one pitch later with a home run to center, igniting the A’s dugout and staking them to a 4-0 lead.
Chris Bassitt looked like every bit of the American League Pitcher of the Month. He was dealing from the start, and got stronger as the game rolled along. After allowing back-to-back singles to open up the third, Bassitt responded by retiring the next 12 batters he faced. No White Sox crossed the plate while he was in the game, pitching into the eighth inning before being pulled after a Tim Anderson single. The final line was indicative of his performance: 7-plus innings, six hits, one run, one walk, five strikeouts.
Things got interesting when Bob Melvin opted to bring in closer Liam Hendriks to pitch in the eighth after Bassitt allowed the single to Anderson. After striking out Yoan Moncada, Hendriks served up a two-run home run to Yasmani Grandal, scoring the inherited run for Bassitt, and making it 5-2. He then allowed a single to Jose Abreu to further complicate things, but struck out the next two batters to avoid further chaos.
Another good sign for the Athletics was the performance of Khris Davis, who got the start at designated hitter. After flying out to the warning track in right field during his first at bat, he tagged White Sox starter Dallas Keuchel for a long home run to left-center, upping the A’s lead to 5-0 in the fourth inning. If Khris Davis can provide a boost offensively for the A’s, they could be a tough out in this postseason bracket.
With the series knotted at 1-1, Thursday’s Game 3 will be the winner-take-all game of the Wild Card round. Pitching probables will be announced over the course of the evening, with the A’s likely to throw either Mike Fiers or Sean Manaea to keep their season alive. The winner will take on the Houston Astros in the American League Division Series, set to begin on Monday, October 5, in Los Angeles.