That’s the Oakland A’s team we’d been hoping to see all summer.
The A’s outdueled the Houston Astros in a close game Saturday afternoon, winning 2-1 on a walk-off double in the 9th inning.
After a disappointing season, Oakland is trying to stave off postseason elimination as long as possible, and this was their second straight victory over division-leading Houston. Yesterday they did it in grand style with a 14-run blowout, and today they switched to a playoff-style thriller full of great pitching that went down to the final at-bat.
On the mound, Sean Manaea breezed through seven innings, with only one mistake leading to a solo homer. Oakland’s bullpen was even better, retiring all six batters they faced on 18 pitches.
The A’s lineup took a while to get going, stranding a handful of runners in the first six innings, but after the Astros homered in the 7th they responded with a run of their own off former Athletics pitcher Kendall Graveman. Later, with the score still tied in the bottom of the 9th, Elvis Andrus singled and Starling Marte doubled him home for the winning run.
Unfortunately, the celebration at the end was cut short. Andrus was hurt on his way around the bases and limped the final stretch before collapsing onto the plate. “As he was coming around third, felt a pop in his left ankle,” said manager Bob Melvin.
Most of the afternoon was a pitcher’s duel between Manaea and Astros starter Framber Valdez. Nobody scored through the first six innings.
After a double to lead off the game, Manaea retired 11 straight batters before a walk in the 4th. After getting the first out in the 7th, he’d set down 19 of the 22 batters he’d faced, with only one hit. But then he left a sinker up to Kyle Tucker, who sent it into the seats for a solo homer. It’s the fourth time Tucker has gone deep against Manaea this year, in four different games.
- Manaea: 7 ip, 1 run, 8 Ks, 1 BB, 1 HR, 3 hits, 95 pitches, 87.2 mph EV
Meanwhile, the A’s were having just as much trouble against Valdez, with a few more baserunners but nothing to show for it. Finally, after the Astros broke through in the top of the 7th, Oakland answered in the bottom half.
With one out, Khris Davis came about an inch short of homering to right, settling for a single instead. Andrus was hit by a pitch to move pinch-runner Skye Bolt up to second, and then Josh Harrison got just enough of an inside pitch to bloop it into left for an RBI single.
That tied the score, and evened up the battle between Manaea and Valdez, though Graveman had entered to face Harrison.
Now it was a race to see who could score next.
The A’s bullpen took over for Manaea, and Lou Trivino tossed a perfect 8th inning. Oakland loaded the bases against Graveman in the bottom half but he got out of it. Andrew Chafin went 1-2-3 in the top of the 9th, and then closer Ryan Pressly came in for the Astros.
It only took 10 pitches for the A’s to score off Pressly. Andrus led off with a single, Harrison struck out, and Marte hit a blast deep into the right-center gap. Andrus raced all the way around from first base for the walk-off run, though he was injured on the play.
Marte delivers the walk-off double, but Andrus injures himself scoring the winning run pic.twitter.com/5TSsf8qeGt— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) September 25, 2021
What could have been
A quality start from the rotation, some zeroes from the bullpen, and a couple clutch hits from the offense. That elusive recipe didn’t come together often enough this year.
It was also another display of Oakland’s impactful trade deadline acquisitions. Harrison drove in the first run, Marte drove in the second, and Chafin pitched a scoreless 9th to earn the win. The trades worked so well, and it still wasn’t enough to reach the postseason.
But it is what it is, and it went how it went, and at least we got to enjoy another win over the Astros this weekend. Seven games left before the long winter.