It took one inning longer than expected, but the Oakland A’s finished off the sweep in Anaheim.
The A’s beat the Los Angeles Angels by a 3-2 margin on Sunday, but not without some late drama. Oakland blew yet another save in the 9th inning, then came through in the 10th to retake the lead and earn the victory in extras.
There were three distinct acts to this game. The first act was what we’re hoping to see more of, with A’s starter Frankie Montas outdueling a top opponent in Shohei Ohtani. The second act was our recently recurring nightmare, as the bullpen coughed up the late lead. The third act was what we need right now, as the lineup scratched out a run in the 10th inning to grab a win any way possible. The go-ahead RBI came on a sac fly by Jed Lowrie.
Montas outduels Ohtani
Most of the afternoon revolved around Montas and Ohtani. Both pitchers were excellent, combining for 15 innings with 17 strikeouts and only six hits between them.
The difference was Montas kept the ball in the park, and Ohtani didn’t. The A’s hit a pair of solo homers, which was enough for an early lead. In the 3rd inning it was Yan Gomes going deep.
And in the 4th inning it was Matt Chapman.
Oakland loaded the bases against Ohtani in the 8th but stranded them, and he was otherwise sharp beyond those two long balls.
But Montas was better. He allowed just one hit all day, and while the box score says four walks, one of them was a missed Strike 3 call (on Ohtani) and another was intentional (also to Ohtani). The Angels never got to third base against him, and only reached second once.
- Montas: 7 ip, 0 runs, 7 Ks, 4 BB, 1 hit, 87 pitches, 78.2 mph EV
Another brilliant outing from the hottest pitcher in the rotation. The Halos barely even made any hard contact against him.
MontACE— Oakland A's (@Athletics) September 19, 2021
7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 7 K pic.twitter.com/89eYVbcfRb
With Montas dealing, the A’s slim two runs were holding up so far. But despite his dominance and low pitch count, the bullpen was called in for the 8th inning.
Oakland had blown nine saves in their previous 25 games, but this week they’d won four in a row and converted three saves along the way. They needed two innings today.
It began well. Jake Diekman took the 8th and retired the side in order.
But it unraveled in the 9th. Sergio Romo allowed a leadoff double, and then an infield single put runners on the corners with nobody out. He induced a grounder for the first out, without anybody scoring, so now the runners were on second and third.
The next batter lined a single to right, and on its own it would have only plated one run. But Seth Brown bobbled the ball for a moment and then rushed a throw home, airmailing it over the catcher. Still, through the bobble and the bad throw, the tying runner was holding at third. But when Romo failed to back up the play, and the ball bounced around to the backstop, the tying run came home.
THE ANAHEIM NATIVE TIES IT UP pic.twitter.com/N4Eeq6VyhS— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) September 19, 2021
That’s 10 blown saves in 26 games.
Fortunately there was no further damage. Lou Trivino came in and struck out a pair of batters to preserve the tie, and the game headed to extras.
That old sinking feeling was creeping back in. The A’s had a win in front of them and let it slip away, like we’ve been watching over and over the past couple months.
But this one wasn’t over. They still had a chance in the 10th inning, and they wasted no time taking advantage. With the automatic free runner on second base, Mark Canha singled to send him to third. Up next was Lowrie, needing only to make productive contact to push across the go-ahead run, and the Professional Hitter did his job. A simple fly ball to left field was all it took.
Lowrie sac fly for the lead pic.twitter.com/M0evMAxRIO— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) September 19, 2021
Nothing flashy, just businesslike fundamental play from the dependable veteran.
Trivino came back out for the bottom of the 10th, and got the pesky David Fletcher to hit a groundout that eliminated the free runner on second. Trivino retired the next two batters to end the game and finally seal the victory, one inning later than expected.
A sweep is a sweep is a sweep
Is there such a thing as an ugly sweep?
Oakland won the first game on a go-ahead passed ball, after spotting the opponent three unearned runs. They won the second game despite never scoring after the 1st inning, and they nearly blew that but for a highlight catch at the end. And they won the third game despite blowing the save in the 9th. They only scored 11 runs all weekend.
But a win is a win is a win, and in the small-sample territory of a late-September postseason race, the important thing is getting the victory. The A’s have now strung together five in a row, somehow, someway, and they’re only two back of the Second Wild Card with 13 to go.
A’s go 15-4 vs LAA in 2021— Brodie Brazil (@BrodieNBCS) September 19, 2021