Khris Davis chooses his words wisely. And it was with brief conviction following his walk-off walk that secured the A’s (60-47) 6-5 win over the Texas Rangers that he made a bold declaration.
“I like where we’re at,” he said “We’re going to the playoffs this year.”
The statement fit the sentiment that settled on the home team’s clubhouse. The win split the series 2-2, the two-win streak indicative of how this A’s team battles back. Sunday’s finale, too.
“That whole game felt like a fist fight,” manager Bob Melvin said.
Down a run in the bottom of the ninth, Oakland turned up the competitive at-bat jets. After Chris Herrmann jutted a single the other way, Marcus Semien worked Texas’ Jesus Leclerc for a 10-pitch walk. Matt Chapman saw another seven pitches in an out, giving Matt Olson plenty of space to see what he’d be facing.
Olson blooped a single just shy of the shift to tie things up and, after Mark Canha was intentionally walked, Davis let the tired Leclerc walk in the win.
After that 13-game sprint, the A’s were more than happy to take a walk. With that, the A’s reclaimed the second wild card spot (pending the Red Sox game against the Yankees on Sunday night) with the Cleveland Indians three games ahead for the first spot.
This series against the Rangers saw a lot: a walk-off, a 20th blown save (tied for second in the majors), cleared benches, revenge, Laureano’s tongue-in-cheek nihilism, lost leads and embarrassing losses. But the A’s appeared at the end just a little winded.
“Anything in our division we have to go out and play hard, it’s not just the Astros in our division,” Chad Pinder said. “We’ve showed the last few games a lot of resiliency.”
And, if Davis’ prediction comes true, the A’s will have traversed a tough road. The Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals are on deck with both Chicago teams on the road to follow. A long home stand will feature back-to-back series against the Astros and New York Yankees.
“Winning close ballgames, that tells you a lot about teams, winning one run ball games,” Davis said “And we got it done today.”
Blake Treinen’s improvement
All that aside, Davis still hasn’t hit a home run in 29 games. He’s contributing in his own way. He’s had the big offensive play in a handful of the A’s comeback victories of late.
“If we can get Treinen and KD back to where they were… my feeling is we’ll get these guys back right pretty soon, and there’s going to be big payoffs for us,” Melvin said.
Treinen pitched the ninth inning on Sunday and looked a whole lot more like the Treinen of old. The velocity on his sinker ticked up and he was throwing it, along with his slider, for strikes. He also found his cutter again.
“It was really good, we’ve been looking for a springboard for him and that’s what it felt like,” Melvin said.
The bullpen collapsed a bit, again, Sunday when Joakim Soria and Liam Hendriks couldn’t hold a two-run lead in the eighth inning. The Rangers created enough traffic on the base paths with a few key hits to take the lead late. Soria had a 2.08 ERA over his previous 17 innings, but a true playoff contender will need more than this duo to compete.
Granted, Jake Diekman is on his way from Kansas City in a matter of hours, but the bullpen can truly contend once Treinen returns to form. Sunday, he struck out two with one hard-fought walk in a clean inning.
Pinder fills the gaps
Plug Pinder anywhere on the field and he can execute. He’s done a pretty good Matt Chapman impression at third, at times, and filled in nicely at second.
Saturday night he prevented a game-tying run from scoring on a perfectly executed 9-2 putout.
“I’m going to be honest with you, I got lucky, I got a great hop right to my chest,” he said. “Momentum going, didn’t have to move left or right, it was kind of the perfect play.”
Pinder has also moved seamlessly in and out of lineups, coming up with big hits despite inconsistent playing time. Pinder hasn’t faced too many right-handers in weeks prior, but this week was able to regain his feel for it again.
Against Rangers’ right-hander Jesse Chavez, down 2-1, Pinder hit what was the go-ahead double.
“He’s seeing the ball, hitting the ball the other way, he was key in both of these games and probably as a foul tip away from being a catcher at some point,” Melvin said.
There is still one role he has yet to play: that of emergency catcher. Josh Phegley left the game with a left thumb contusion (his X-rays came back negative, and he is day-to-day), and, at one point, Chris Herrmann took a foul pitch to the knee. Pinder was relieved to see Herrmann stay in the game.
“I have Marcus (Semien) staring at me, Oly (Olson) staring at me, people in the crowd saying get ready,” Pinder said. “I wasn’t looking forward to that, thankfully he was fine.”