If you were looking for encouraging signs as the Oakland A’s tune up for the 2020 postseason next week, there were plenty to be found on Wednesday.
The A’s combined some clutch hitting with a bit of power at the plate, they got a quality start from Sean Manaea on the mound, and the bullpen did just enough to hang on despite briefly blowing the lead, all resulting in a dramatic 6-4 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
*** Revisit tonight’s Game Thread! ***
This game wasn’t particularly meaningful for either team, as both have already clinched their respective division titles and are just playing out the string at this point. The A’s might still rise or fall among the top three seeds in the AL but can’t drop further than No. 3, while the Dodgers have the No. 1 seed in the NL just about wrapped up already — and the lack of urgency showed, as L.A. used the opportunity to mess around with a bullpen opener ahead of their normal starter.
However, the two sides still managed to put on a show. The opener strategy backfired on the Dodgers, as the A’s scored three runs in the 1st inning, but L.A. homered in the 3rd to keep it close. Each team scored in the 7th, then the Dodgers scored in the 8th to tie it, and then Ramon Laureano went deep in the top of the 9th off former A’s All-Star closer Blake Treinen to give Oakland their final lead.
Liam Hendriks closed it out for his 14th save in 15 tries, and the A’s got themselves a road win against the best team in the majors. The victory bumped Oakland up from the No. 3 seed in the AL to the No. 2 seed, which might not be a good thing, but at the end of the day it’s tough to be anything but happy about a win.
The smart bet is that Sean Manaea could start Game 1 of the Wild Card Round playoff series next week. If so, this was a solid tune-up.
It wasn’t perfect. There was a ton of hard contact, to the extent that his average exit velocity was nearly hard contact (93.7 mph). But as usual he didn’t offer any extra help, walking just one batter, and several of the hard hits were popups or grounders. Even the two homers didn’t need to happen — the A’s had a chance for a double play that would have ended the inning ahead of Max Muncy’s blast but they couldn’t turn it, and then the second dinger (by Cody Bellinger) came after a 2-2 pitch that should probably have been a called Strike 3 but instead was called Ball 3.
Manaea: 6 ip, 3 runs, 4 Ks, 1 BB, 2 HR, 6 hits, 91 pitches (59 strikes)
The A’s have gotten nothing out of their starting pitching in the last two Wild Card Games, so if they got a line like that in Game 1 then you’d absolutely take it, especially with their current bullpen to shorten the final frames. In his last seven appearances, Manaea has allowed a dozen earned runs in 39 innings, for a 2.77 ERA and EIGHT strikeouts per walk.
Diekman finally cracks
It took 55 games into the 60-game campaign, but reliever Jake Diekman finally allowed a run.
Oakland re-signed the lefty last winter after declining the pricey option on his previous contract, and he has rewarded them in a big way. Entering the day, he’d pitched in 18 games, totaling 18⅓ innings, and faced 76 batters, striking out well over one-third of them. But on Wednesday, he allowed a homer to Edwin Rios, literally the only player you’ve never heard of in the Dodgers’ star-studded lineup. And Rios bats lefty, too. Baseball is so weird.
Diekman now has an 0.47 ERA on the year. What a slouch, DFA him.
The A’s lineup got to work early, scoring three runs in the 1st inning. Tommy La Stella and Robbie Grossman led off with doubles, and later Mark Canha put up a sac fly that scored two runs thanks to a throwing error.
But from there, it was the Ramon Laureano Laser Show.
Oakland didn’t get anything else going until the 7th inning, when a leadoff walk and single set the stage. Two batters later, Laureano smoked a 100.8 mph grounder through the SS-3B hole to knock in a run.
The Dodgers got the run back in the bottom of the frame, thanks to Bellinger’s homer. But Laureano prevented them from starting up another rally beyond that, making a diving catch to rob Mookie Betts of potential extra bases.
But the finishing touch came in the 9th. Los Angeles had tied it up on Rios’ surprise dinger, but the A’s had a runner on with two out, against their own former closer in Blake Treinen. Laureano got the best of his old teammate.
Laureano homers off Treinen for the lead pic.twitter.com/3Mq5vLMpA7— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) September 24, 2020
That clutch long ball put the A’s ahead for good this time, as Treinen’s successor, Liam Hendriks, locked things down in the bottom of the 9th for the A’s.
So Ramon, what pitch were you looking for in that at-bat against Treinen?
Laureano on if he was looking for Treinen's sinker in the ninth: “Nowadays I’m just trying to choke up and pray to God the barrel hits the ball. That’s it.”— Martín Gallegos (@MartinJGallegos) September 24, 2020
Oh, I see. Hey, whatever works!
Never tell me the odds
Not only did Diekman finally allow a run, to raise his ERA from 0.00 up to 0.47, but La Stella also struck out. For the third time in an A’s uniform, in 93 plate appearances. That’s still good for a 3.2% K-rate, which continues to look like a typo because of how off-the-charts low it is. Also Jake Lamb didn’t get a hit, for the first time since joining the team.
The A’s and Dodgers play one more mostly meaningless game, Thursday evening at 6:40 p.m. But, as we saw tonight, even a game that’s meaningless in the standings can still be a hell of a lot of fun to watch! Only five more left, then the postseason, and then the long winter.