For a man who never saw Rollie Fingers pitch in a Major League Baseball game, Liam Hendriks’ impression of the longtime Oakland Hall of Fame reliever is spot-on.
Hendriks collected the final nine outs of Wednesday’s 9-7 win over the Houston Astros, allowing the Astros almost nothing as the A’s rallied from a 7-4 deficit.
The three-inning relief appearance was as much a trademark of Fingers’ career as his Hall of Fame mustache. It’s not a part of Hendriks’ arsenal, but when he needed it, the pitches (37), the outs (nine) and the runs allowed (zero) were all there.
So were the grunts, the curses and the screams, not to mention the arm waving and fist pumping that some with Hendriks when he goes to the mound.
So, there were plenty of A’s players sporting their “Hercu-Liam” T-shirts, the latest fashion statement in the A’s clubhouse after Hendriks became the third reliever in Oakland history (Fingers, in 1972 and Rube Walberg in 1929) to win a game by finishing with at least three scoreless innings.
“It’s a little daunting going back out there for the third inning, just because I haven’t done it,” Hendriks said afterward. “I’ll probably feel it later tonight or early tomorrow.”
That being said, he fully expects to be able to pitch in Thursday’s Game 4, in which Frankie Montas is scheduled to start, if the call comes.
And the grunts and the gyrations will come along with him.
“People say, `You’re Australian, so you’re a little crazy,” Hendriks said. “I take offense at that. I’m a lot crazy.”
Chad Pinder, whose three-run homer tied the game in the seventh inning and who added a sacrifice fly in the eighth, had a one-word summation for Hendriks’ day, “Awesome.”
“That was incredible,” Pinder said. “You see that look in his eye and you don’t want to say anything to pull him out of that. Just let Liam do his thing.”
Wednesday’s game didn’t catch Hendriks by surprised. He threw 49 pitches in his Game 2 appearance in the AL wild card series against the Chicago White Sox. He said he didn’t much care, that he’d gladly throw 60 pitches if that meant he could contribute to a win.
Hendriks’ biggest test Wednesday came in the eighth when a Carlos Correa single and a catcher’s interference call against catcher Sean Murphy put the inning’s first two men on. Hendriks got two quick outs, including a grounder that moved the runners up a base. That brought up pinch-hitter Josh Reddick, a former A’s outfielder with great past success, 5-for-15, against Hendriks.
Reddick struck out, then broke his bat walking back to the dugout. Hendriks didn’t see it at the time – he was doing that fist-pumping, roaring thing that he likes to do – but he saw it later on video.
“I may give it a day, I may give it until after the series,” Hendriks said, “before I text him, because I feel it may be a little bit of low blow. But that’s where you want passion.”
Reddick had it. So did Hendriks. And on this day, Hendriks won. The Astros would not get another base runner as Oakland survived to fight another day.
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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