This was a game that Chris Bassitt had been waiting for since, well, since just about the first time he picked up a baseball a couple of decades ago
A right-handed pitcher who has always had to prove himself, Bassitt did just that in winning American League Pitcher of the Month award for September, allowing one run in four starts.
Nice, but nothing like Wednesday when Bassitt threw seven scoreless innings against one of the best=hitting teams in baseball and an organization Bassitt used to be a part of, the Chicago White Sox. The result was a 5-3 win that will go to the top of Bassitt’s personal leaderboard of great moments on the baseball field.
It was a game the A’s had to win. Or else. Else got put off for at least a day with Bassitt, who got defensive help from Mark Canha in the fourth inning, muzzling the White Sox for inning after inning as the A’s built up a 5-0 lead. It was still 5-0 when Bassitt turned the ball over to Liam Hendriks in the eighth, although one run would eventually be charged to Bassitt.
“He was motivated the whole game,” manager Bob Melvin said. “Not only when he was pitching, but when he was on the bench when we were scoring runs in a game we had to win. IT brings out the best in guys that compete. He’s one of our best competitors.
”He gave us a lot today in a game when he had to. That was probably the game of his life. He’s been waiting for that game his entire life. And he responded really well.”
Bassitt, who doesn’t dance around questions much, suggested he’d had the time of his life when it mattered most.
“I went for years kind of trying to prove myself, and now there are kind of expectations on my head,” Bassitt said. “I’m not overdoing anything by trying to move myself any more. I don’t mind the big expectations. I could care less about that. But when I was trying to prove myself, and when I was trying to stick in the big leagues I was overdoing everything. I was overthrowing. I was walking a ton of guys. I was overthrowing offspeed.
“The confidence that everyone has in me had let me kind of do this, to take a deep breath and just relax and just pitch. And that’s basically it.”
When Hendriks entered, it was the first time he’d come into a game this year with six outs to go. He was dinged for a homer, but got through the eighth with a 5-2 lead. Then he struck out the first two batters of the ninth, and everything seemed back in order.
It wasn’t. In order, Hendriks gave up two singles and two walks, the second of which drove in a run. Eventually Diekman had to come out of the bullpen. He only had to face José Abreu, the big leagues RBI champ. Diekman got the last out, Bassitt’s win was preserved, and the A’s are free to get by until Thursday.
“Six outs is a lot, but he’s our best pitcher,” Melvin said of Hendriks. “The homer made it a different game and they made him work in that last inning. So Jake came and finished it off.”
And what about Thursday with the A’s closer and, arguably, most valuable player, Hendriks having thrown 49 pitches?
For the record, that’s 20 pitches more than he threw in any game this year. The last time he threw as many as 40 pitches was back when he was a middle reliever in April of last year. It’s been a while.
“Even going through what, 50 pitches, today,” Melvin said. “I guarantee he’s available for tomorrow, at least for an innings.”
Hey, it’s the playoffs.
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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