Petit Continues as Athletics' Go-To Guy With RISP When the Game is on the Line

Oakland Athletics reliever Yusmeiro Petit's ability to shut down MLB RBI leader José Abreu with the bases loaded was key to getting the A's over the hump and into the ALDS against Houston beginning Monday.
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The fact that the Oakland Athletics will be flying to Los Angeles Saturday afternoon ahead of Monday’s American League Division Series against the Houston Astros in Dodger Stadium may be due as much as a pitch thrown by Yusmeiro Petit.

In the drama of the four-hour, nine-minute 6-4 A’s win over the White Sox that catapulted the A’s into the ALDS, it was easy to overlook.

In the moment, however, it was game defining. The White Sox already had a 1-0 lead, the bases were loaded the Major League RBI leader, José Abreu, was at the plate. Abreu had already delivered a homer as the White Sox won Game 1. Now, in Game 3, the man who drove in 60 runs in 60 games had a chance to break the game open.

He didn’t. Instead, he went after an 85-mph slider from Petit, hitting a sharp grounder to third baseman Jake Lamb, who threw to first for the out. Oakland would eventually fall behind 3-0, but came back to take the lead for good on Chad Pinder’s bases-loaded single in the fifth.

That kind of performance, all two pitches of it, has been the hallmark of Petit’s three seasons with the A’s. He made the jump from the Angels to the A’s as a free agent after the 2017 season. As often as not, when there are men on base in a winnable game, Petit will get the call to mute the damage, and to do it as efficiently as possible.

Back in the spring of 2018, pitching coach Scott Emerson got his first up-close-and-personal look at the right-hander.

“I laugh sometimes because I remember when were first got Petit in spring training,” Emerson said Friday. “We warmed him up to pitch in the next inning. But the guy (on the mound) was kind of deep in pitch count, and we brought (Petit) in and he got the next two guys on six pitches. Then it happened in his next spring training outing; we ended up bringing him in because the starter was running out of bullets. And he got out of that jam again.

“He’s just kind of been thrusted into that role.”

Petit pitched in almost half of the A’s 2020 games, 26 of 30, and finished with a 1.86 ERA. He allowed four runs, three of those on solo homers. He wound up giving up a two-run homer Thursday, but that didn’t hurt nearly as much as a big hit from Abreu would have, and the A’s came back for the win.

“That wasn’t a spot we wanted to put ourselves in, obviously,” catcher Sean Murphy said of the second-inning showdown with Abreu. “Yusmeiro just went out there and made his best pitch and he got a great hitter out. He’s a good pitcher against a good hitter, and he just made his pitch.

“That’s all you can ask. And he got the rollover.”

Petit figures to be a big player in the five-game series against the Astros. Oakland won seven of 10 from Houston this season, and he’s faced the Astros in three of those games, and hasn’t allowed a run.

Emerson said Petit, nicknamed The Rock by his teammates, has a way of pumping up confidence in those around him.

“I go back to the cool, calm and collected guy he is, and the ability to slow the game down and make pitches,” Emerson said. “When you do have a scouting report, and you got a guy who can execute the scouting report and put the ball in the locations, that’s in our advantage. He's one of those guys. He goes out there and he executes the plan and puts pitches in the positions that give him the best chance of success.

“Now obviously, you know, not all the time do we get everybody out but when you’ve got a guy like Petit out there – you know we call him the rock – and he can make these pitches and he can execute these pitches in clutch situations.

“You know, it's fun to have that guy and he's turned out to be that guy over the last couple years.”

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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