The Oakland A’s finished the 2020 season on a strong note after all. After losing five of their last seven games entering Sunday, they won the finale and looked good doing it.
The A’s defeated the Seattle Mariners 6-2 at the Coliseum in the 60th and final game of the regular season, before the playoffs begin on Tuesday. They did it with a formula that will work well if they can continue it into next week, combining lights-out starting pitching, nearly flawless work from their bullpen, and hitting that was both plentiful and clutch.
After entering the year as Oakland’s presumed ace, Frankie Montas may have pitched his way out of the postseason rotation over the last several weeks, but he turned in one final gem on Sunday. He struck out over half the batters he faced in six innings, and the only two runs he allowed were unearned after errors from the infielders behind him. Montas was followed by a trio of relievers, who retired nine of the 10 batters they faced the rest of the way.
On the offensive side of the ball, the A’s took advantage of their opportunities in a way they hadn’t for the first three games of this series. After going 4-for-33 with runners in scoring position in those three contests, they went 3-for-11 in this one, allowing them to cash in on their 10 hits and six walks (plus a HBP). They added in some power for good measure as well, with a homer by Jake Lamb and four doubles by four different hitters.
The only downside was the defense, but not in any way that requires worrying. Sean Murphy threw a dart to nab a runner stealing but Marcus Semien dropped the reception, letting the runner off the hook; he eventually scored on a single. Later, a smash was hit toward Lamb at third base and he clanked a somewhat tough grab, and once again the free runner helped lead to a run. Moving forward, Semien will usually catch that throw from Murphy, and we already knew Lamb wasn’t going to be Matt Chapman at the hot corner — and to his credit, he also made a tarp catch in foul territory.
Entering the day, Frankie Montas had allowed 29 runs in 24 innings over his previous six starts, including 10 homers. Sunday looked more like the ace Frankie we know.
Montas; 6 ip, 2 runs (0 earned), 13 Ks, 2 BB, 0 HR, 4 hits, 113 pitches (81 strikes)
He induced 20 swinging strikes, more than one out of every six pitches he threw. The Mariners hit the ball hard a few times but never for more than a single, and he retired 10 of the final 11 batters he faced. With better defense behind him, this performance could perhaps have yielded seven shutout frames.
Will it be enough to get Montas back into the postseason rotation? That’ll be a tough decision for the A’s to make, with Chris Bassitt, Sean Manaea, and Jesús Luzardo also making compelling cases to claim the three games of the Wild Card Round.
Oakland’s tepid offensive performance over the last few days had fans feeling nervous about the playoffs. For what it’s worth, they looked much more like their normally super selves on Sunday.
Facing an ace-level starter in Marco Gonzales, the green and gold got to work right away in the 1st inning. Tommy La Stella doubled, Khris Davis singled (but too hard to score the runner), and then Mark Canha made just enough contact to dribble a squibber in the infield — too slowly to turn an inning-ending double play, but just right to plate the runner, with an assist by Davis for distracting the second baseman on his way past.
They came through again in the 5th. Sean Murphy doubled, and Chad Pinder, fresh off the injured list this morning, singled to bring him home.
The 7th brought even more scoring. Jake Lamb led it off with a homer.
After the Lamb dinger, the A’s loaded the bases with one out. Canha did the job once again, this time with a deep drive that center fielder Kyle Lewis couldn’t quite handle. Lewis leaped and got a glove on it but didn’t squeeze it, leading to a two-run double for Canha. In the 8th inning Canha came up again with the bases loaded, and this time drew a walk to force one home.
Over his last four games, Canha is 6-for-11 with a homer, three doubles, and four walks, with just one strikeout. And, perhaps more importantly than ever for this oft-maligned stat, 6 RBI.
White Cleats vs. White Sox
The AL playoff field is set, and you can click here to see the whole thing. Oakland is the No. 2 seed, and they’ll play the No. 7 White Sox in the best-of-three Wild Card Round beginning Tuesday. It’ll be the first time the two sides have ever faced each other in the postseason, and the first time they’ve met at all in 2020.