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Chapman’s 9th-inning HR keeps A’s atop AL WC

Montas doesn’t miss a beat in return from suspension
@MartinJGallegos
September 26, 2019

ANAHEIM -- In a year that has them battling for a second consecutive postseason berth, the A’s have shown a penchant of providing late-inning drama. It doesn’t get much more dramatic than what transpired on Wednesday night at Angel Stadium. On the brink of falling to second in the American

ANAHEIM -- In a year that has them battling for a second consecutive postseason berth, the A’s have shown a penchant of providing late-inning drama. It doesn’t get much more dramatic than what transpired on Wednesday night at Angel Stadium.

On the brink of falling to second in the American League Wild Card race and dropping three games in a row for the first time since mid-July, the A’s were in need of a hero as they entered the top of the ninth inning trailing by one run. Matt Chapman delivered.

Box score

Stepping to the plate with one out and Marcus Semien at second, Chapman unloaded on a first-pitch slider from Angels closer Hansel Robles, sending it over the wall in center for a clutch go-ahead two-run blast in a 3-2 win that kept the A’s a half-game ahead of the Rays.

“It feels great. I haven’t been playing as well as I’d like to and to my capabilities, but that doesn’t matter,” said Chapman, who entered the night hitting .123 for the month of September. “That’s the great thing about our team. No matter how guys are feeling, it’s about winning baseball games. That’s all we care about. To get that win and keep the lead in the Wild Card, everybody was pretty excited, and hopefully we carry that momentum into these last four games.”

With Oakland’s home run leader Matt Olson on deck, Chapman’s objective was to find a way to get on base for the slugger. Instead, Chapman tied Olson for the team lead in homers (35) with a ball everyone in the ballpark knew was heading out, as it was smoked 108.7 mph off the bat and traveled an estimated 436 feet, according to Statcast. A large contingent sitting behind the A’s dugout exploded in excitement, as did each of Chapman’s teammates, who greeted him with a hero’s welcome upon returning from his trot around the bases.

Chapman’s homer erased the frustrations of an A’s offense that had collected 10 hits to that point of the game, yet only had one run to show for after going 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position through eight innings.

“Big-time players show up like that,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Some of the stuff he’s been doing shows up in the score of the game, but not necessarily on the stat pack. That was a big one for us, obviously. We weren’t having trouble getting guys on base, just having trouble getting them in. Sometimes you start to press a little bit as a group and a lot of times, one swing of the bat ends up loosening everybody up.”

Three outs were still needed after the hoopla died down, and Liam Hendriks came through in the bottom half of the ninth with a 1-2-3 inning to notch his 24th save. The right-hander let out a roar and fist pump upon completion of the final out, but it may have been more a sigh of relief after knowing early on that a win was necessary to keep Oakland’s hopes of potentially hosting the Wild Card Game afloat.

“It was a pretty good reaction in the dugout,” Melvin said. “That’s the non-benefit of being on the West Coast, knowing the scores of the games as you’re playing. It’s tough not to notice, but our objective is to take care of ourselves and win our games.”

Montas finds success in return

Frankie Montas took the mound in Anaheim well aware of what was at stake.

With news of the Rays defeating the Yankees reaching the A’s dugout by the top of the first inning, Wednesday’s night’s game against the Angels suddenly became the biggest game of the season to that point. Returning from an 80-game suspension for a performance-enhancing substance, Montas turned in a performance about as good as Oakland could have hoped for.

Montas kept the Angels in check through six innings, with his only blemish a solo homer surrendered to Taylor Ward in the second. The outing exceeded the expectations of Melvin, who went into the game just hoping to get five innings out of the right-hander.

“He was terrific,” Melvin said of Montas. “Looked a little bit quick early in the game, coming open and leaving balls up with maybe not his best command, but he worked it out and got better as the game went along. I did not expect six [innings] today, and it was a needed six.”

There were some expected butterflies for Montas, who was making his first big league start since June 20. Thrust into a playoff race, he found ways to escape danger early on. Ramón Laureano provided a major assist in the fourth, making a terrific running catch in right field and then throwing to Olson at first to nab Ward for an inning-ending double play.

“It feels good to be back and on the mound actually pitching in real games,” Montas said. “I was a little nervous. A lot of anxiety. But I got through it.”

Overall, Montas threw 52 of his 87 pitches for strikes, generating 10 swings and misses in what likely was his final start of the year as he’s ineligible for postseason play.

“Seems like he pretty much picked up right where he left off," Chapman said. "He gave us a chance to win the game. That was huge.”

Martin Gallegos covers the A's for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MartinJGallegos.