The Oakland Athletics (95-63) persevered through a seemingly endless series of missed chances at the plate to come back in the top of the ninth on third baseman Matt Chapman’s 35th home run of the season and defeat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (71-87) by a score of 3-2 at Angel Stadium. The dramatic comeback enabled the A’s to narrowly avert what would have been their first three game losing streak since July and a potentially disastrous setback in a very tight AL Wild Card race. Starting pitcher Frankie Montas, just back from an 80 game PED suspension, resumed dominating on the mound to keep the A’s in the game despite the team’s repeated failures to get runners to the plate.
The A’s squandered multiple scoring opportunities early in the game. Shortstop Marcus Semien hit a leadoff ground rule double in the first inning, but Matt Chapman and center fielder Mark Canha both struck out as the A’s stranded two in the frame. Left fielder Chad Pinder and designated hitter Jurickson Profar singled in succession to begin the second inning, but second baseman Sheldon Neuse and catcher Josh Phegley struck out and Semien popped out to leave the A’s empty handed once again. The A’s threatened in the third with two outs, as first baseman Matt Olson singled and Mark Canha got on via his 18th HBP of the season, but a hard grounder from Pinder found the glove of third baseman Kaleb Cowart, who threw Pinder out to end yet another inning with two runners left on base.
Frankie Montas pitched around a pair of baserunners in the first, but gave the Angels the go ahead run in the second when left fielder Taylor Ward homered to center field for his first long ball of the season. Montas escaped another jam in the third, leaving designated hitter Albert Pujols and second baseman David Fletcher on second and third, respectively, when shortstop Andrelton Simmons grounded out to Semien. Frankie was pitching well, considering that tonight’s start was his first after an extended absence, but fortune had blessed the Angels with a solo home run that made the difference after three innings.
Mid-game, right fielder Ramon Laureano played the equalizer. In the fourth inning, both Montas and Angels starter Andrew Heaney faced the minimum number of batters for the first time in the contest. Heaney retired Profar, Neuse, and Phegley, 1-2-3, while Frankie saw a Taylor Ward single erased by some poor baserunning and a laser from Ramon to Oly.
Then, in the top of the fifth, Number 22 hit his 23rd home run of the season to even the score.
Montas appeared to settle in and dominate as he did earlier in the season. He retired the Angels 1-2-3 in both the fifth and sixth innings to en route to sitting seven consecutive Halos batters. Frankie finished strong with six strikeouts and just one run allowed on four hits and two walks; he threw a total of 87 pitches, 52 of which were strikes.
The A’s bats issued more empty threats in a protracted top of the sixth that featured three Angels pitchers. Mark Canha led off with a walk, Chad Pinder scorched one to center field that was brilliantly played by Brian Goodwin to deny a double, and Profar singled, resulting in A’s on the corners. The Angels sent righty Luke Bard out to relieve Heaney, who completed five and a third innings on 103 pitches with six hits allowed, one run, two walks, and seven strikeouts. Profar stole second to eliminate the double play threat, and Seth Brown came to the plate, pinch hitting for Sheldon Neuse. Brown flew out to center with too shallow a drive to plate Canha, who held at third. The A’s sent Robbie Grossman to pinch hit for Phegley, but then Angels lefty reliever Adalberto Mejia came in for Bard, prompting Oakland to pivot with a right-handed hitter in rookie catcher Sean Murphy, who grounded out softly to end the frame without scoring.
Heartbreak ensued in a misfortune-laden seventh inning, wherein the A’s once again fell just short of scoring and the Angels recaptured the lead. Laureano walked with one out and Matt Chapman singled on a close 6-3 play that was called an out but overturned on review. Olson singled to load the bases, but Canha hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end yet another noisy but ultimately fruitless series of A’s at-bats. Yusmeiro Petit relieved Montas in the bottom of the seventh and gave up hard contact to the Angels. Jared Walsh led off with a double to center field that Mark Canha suffered an injury in attempting to field; Canha was ushered off the field as Pinder took over in center and Franklin Barreto came in to play second base. Kaleb Cowart hit an RBI double, good for a 2-1 Angels advantage, before lefty Jake Diekman replaced Petit to get the last two outs and end the inning.
After a relatively tranquil eighth inning, the A’s finally got their big, timely hit to turn the tables. The Angels sent Hansel Robles out to close the game and Semien quickly sparked a rally with a sharp line drive to center field. Then Matt Chapman, in the midst of a September doldrum at the plate, saved the A’s from near-disaster with a two-run, go-ahead home run over the center field wall.
Liam Hendricks sealed the deal with a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth as the rejoicing Oakland A’s averted a sweep and held their narrow lead in the AL Wild Card race; they remain up by just a half game on the Tampa Bay Rays and are now two games up on the Cleveland Indians, who lost to the Chicago White Sox tonight. The A’s are headed to Seattle for their last four games of the regular season in a series against the Mariners at T-Mobile Park that begins on Thursday with lefty Sean Manaea (3-0, 1.14 ERA) versus Felix Hernandez (1-7, 6.51 ERA).
Notes for the Northward Night Flight
- Canha get back soon? Mark Canha left the game in the seventh inning but his spirits appear to be high. Fingers crossed that he’ll help power the A’s to a deep postseason run.
Mark Canha left tonight's game with a left groin strain.— AthleticsPR (@AthleticsPR) September 26, 2019
Canha says he is hopeful he’ll be playing by Friday and says he will write his name in the lineup himself if he has to.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) September 26, 2019
- You Better, You Barreto, You Bet! Franklin’s struggles this year are well documented and much lamented, but it was nice to see him come in and contribute tonight with a ripping double and the game ending assist in the ninth inning.
Franklin Barreto goes to second base. Pinder goes to center.— Martín Gallegos (@MartinJGallegos) September 26, 2019
- Slusser interviews Chapman. I know what I’m reading before bedtime!