A week ago, Oakland closer Liam Hendriks was joking when he said he’d be willing to throw 60 pitches if that meant the A’s would get a win.
It very nearly came to that Wednesday. Hendricks was asked to collect the final nine outs, and while there was some drama, Hendriks did his part in keeping the A’s alive for at least one more day as Oakland pulled out a season-saving 9-7 win over Houston in Dodger Stadium.
The A’s were down 7-4 after blowing leads of 1-0 and 4-2, and manager Bob Melvin got Hendriks, who hadn’t pitched in the first two games of the series, up in an effort to keep the game close.
Before Hendriks could get into the game, however, Chad Pinder hit a game-tying three-run homer in the top of the seventh, so the game was even when Hendricks took over. He got a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh, and the A’s gave him the lead with a pair of sacrifice flies in the eighth from Sean Murphy and Pinder.
Hendriks had into thrown more than 29 pitches in a regular season game, but in the AL wild card Game 2, he threw 49 pitches against the White Sox, so he wasn’t in completely undiscovered country in closing this one out.
The A’s still have to win two more games against the Astros to advance, but for once their offense suggested that things might be changing. For the first time since Sept. 14 they score more than six runs. And Pinder gave them their first hit with a runner in scoring position this series with his seventh-inning homer.
More than that, they played small ball with the eighth-inning sacrifice flies.
For the first six innings, however, every missed Oakland opportunity and every A’s mistake was wrapped in ribbon for the Astros, a good team that didn’t need gifting from the A’s to make this a tough series.
The A’s hit four homers in the first five innings. A first-inning homer by Tommy La Stella gave the A’s a 1-0 lead was followed by a Chad Pinder double. He never advanced past second base. A fourth inning homer by Marcus Semien was followed by the A’s getting a walk and a single, but Khris Davis popped out to center. Matt Olson walked to load the bases, but Mark Canha popped out to center.
And then the Astros erupted against A’s lefty Jesús Luzardo, whose first walk of the game was followed by Aledmys Díaz homer to left that tied the game. One out later, Yusmeiro Petit took over and hit George Springer with a hit. Consecutive hits from Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman brought in two more runs, and after Petit was excused from further competition, Kyle Tucker’s single off Jake Diekman made it 7-4.
Then came Pinder and Hendriks, and for this one day at least, the A’s were back busy being the A’s.
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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