The A’s swatted away a decade and a half of bad memories and inconsistent postseason performances Thursday afternoon, but it wasn’t easy.
Liam Hendriks had to face the tying run three batters in a row after giving up a leadoff single in the ninth, but he struck out the side to close down a 6-4 win over the Chicago White Sox
And the A’s win over the Sox was one of those games where it wasn’t over until it was over, and even then it was difficult to be sure.
In the end, it was a two-run, bases loaded single from Chad Pinder, who hadn’t started the game, that broke a 4-all tie and put Oakland ahead to stay.
The A’s will advance to the American League Divisional Series in Southern California against the Houston Astros, a series that will begin Monday
Early on, it was tough sledding for the A’s. The Sox broke out to a 3-0 lead against starter Mike Fiers and reliever Yusmeiro Petit, and it would have been worse had not Petit come out of the bullpen to get Major League RBI champ Jose Abreu to pop out with the bases loaded to end the second.
The A’s went through their usual paces, coming up short with men in scoring position in the first – men at the corners – and in the third – bases loaded – before a two-run homer from Sean Murphy in the fourth injected some life into Oakland.
It didn’t hurt that the White Sox, throwing every able-bodied man they could find in the bullpen, couldn’t throw strikes. After the Murphy homer, the A’s loaded the bases, the got a tying run on a walk from Mark Canha and a go-ahead RBI walk from Matt Olson.
Frankie Montas, coming out of the bullpen three days after throwing a season-high 113 pitches, was dominant in the fourth inning, but after the A’s took that 4-3 lead, he had it slip away on Nomar Mazara’s two-out single in the fifth.
The A’s showed resilience, however, loading the bases with two out for Pinder, who had entered the game in the third inning and singled as a pinch-hitter. He’d walked in the fourth, and this time he slapped a single to left, scoring Murphy and Tommy La Stella with the two runs that gave the A’s a little breathing room.
Easy breathing wouldn’t come for a while, though. With Lou Trivino pitching in the seventh, an error and a hit batter gave the Sox life, and Jake Diekman walked the first man he faced out of the bullpen, loading the bases. But Adam Engel was induced to ground out, and the Sox were turned away.
In the eighth, Joakim Soria issued a single to Tim Anderson and a walk, bringing up RBI champ Abreu again. This time Soria got the better end of the deal, getting Abreu to bounced to Marcus Semien to begin a double play.
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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