The Oakland A’s lost the ALDS, but that doesn’t mean we can’t elect an MVP for the series. There were still heroes and memorable performances, so let’s celebrate them.
We had a community vote after the Wild Card Series, and pitcher Chris Bassitt narrowly won MVP honors over catcher Sean Murphy. Bassitt helped save the A’s season after they lost Game 1, spinning a gem in Game 2 to force a deciding rubber match, which Oakland also won. Murphy chipped in an impactful homer and also got on base more than anybody.
However, Bassitt didn’t find as much success in the ALDS, lasting only into the 5th inning in Game 1 in a Coors-like atmosphere at Dodger Stadium. In fact, none of Oakland’s pitchers had much success against the Houston Astros during a week when every fly ball seemed to leave the yard, so most of the candidates this time around will be hitters.
The role player became a superstar in October. The hard contact he’s always made finally translated into serious production, and he entered the ALDS with some highlights already in his pocket from the Wild Card Series.
Against the Astros, he hit a 453-foot homer in Game 2 to cut a two-run deficit down to one. But his biggest moment came in Game 3, when he launched a three-run blast in the 7th inning to unbelievably tie the game late en route to an epic comeback victory — and he also knocked in one of the insurance runs later that day.
Overall, he went 4-for-13 with two homers, a double, and a pair of walks, for a 1.221 OPS. The A’s still missed Matt Chapman’s unparalleled skills on defense, but at the plate Pinder filled in him for him completely, and did everything he could to carry Oakland on his back.
He didn’t have the theatrics of Pinder’s game-tying homer, but Semien was the most productive hitter in the lineup. His 1.344 OPS led the team, going 8-for-15 with three walks for a .611 OBP — though only one of his hits went for extra-bases, a homer early in Game 3. He had two hits in each game, and his streak of five straight multi-hit postseason games is now an all-time franchise record. He also tied for the team lead with four runs scored (along with Matt Olson).
Unfortunately, there’s also a point against Semien. In Game 1 the A’s had the lead in the 6th, but his fielding error with two outs extended the inning for a four-run Astros rally that Oakland never recovered from. Houston may well have come back anyway, with the way they swung the bats all week, but this is the way it went.
Still, it’s easy to argue that Semien’s hitting was more valuable than his one miscue, which itself came with nobody on base and could have been easily overcome by just retiring the next batter to end the inning.
Everyone was excited for the Laureano vs. Astros matchup. After their history, with Houston trading him to Oakland years ago and then getting in a brawl with him this summer, the CF was the center of the grudge match between the two teams.
He didn’t do anything in the first two games, but he had a crucial (if lucky) hit during the Game 3 comeback to push the go-ahead run to third base. He also gave the pep talk credited with rousing the morale leading to that comeback. And then in Game 4 he fully activated, destroying two dingers for nearly 900 feet combined — the first gave them an early three-run lead, and the second helped keep them in the game as long as possible, serving as the club’s only offense until a too-little-too-late rally in the 9th.
If the A’s had won Game 4, and especially the series, Laureano would certainly become a front-runner here with his clutch performance and leadership. As it stands, is his one big day enough to win MVP?
Let’s at least nominate one pitcher. And who else? Hendriks only appeared in one game, but it was legendary.
In Game 3, with the score freshly tied by Oakland entering the bottom of the 7th, manager Bob Melvin wasn’t messing around. With Houston battering every arm he threw at them, he turned to his lights-out closer for a nine-out save. And Hendriks delivered.
It took the right-hander only 38 pitches to mow down nine of the 11 batters he faced. There was trouble in the 8th, featuring a single and a catcher’s interference putting two on with no out, but he retired the next three in a row including a dramatic strikeout of Josh Reddick.
It was an iconic performance on its own, but even more so within the context of the series. Nearly every pitcher on both sides got smashed, but Hendriks stepped up and dominated, even going above and beyond his usual one-inning duties to slip into an old-timey fireman role. He was basically Rollie Fingers for a day.
Honorable mention: Khris Davis homered twice, early in the first two games to give the A’s a lead each time. Tommy La Stella got on base seven times, including a homer, and often found himself in the middle of rallies. Olson also went deep twice, and nearly did a third time but Reddick pulled it back to rob him.
Who’s your pick? Let’s vote in the comments! To cast your vote, look for my ballot comment at the top of the thread, and Rec your favorite player’s reply.