OAKLAND -- The A’s have been playing their best ball over the past month, but even in the strong stretch, sweeps have been an elusive target. Ramón Laureano made sure not to let their latest opportunity slip away.
Just two innings after tying the game with a solo homer off White Sox reliever Evan Marshall, Laureano came up in the ninth and ended it after his grounder hit deep in the hole to shortstop Jose Rondon was misfired into the right-field bullpen, allowing Chad Pinder to score for a walk-off 3-2 victory. The win kept the A’s in control of the second American League Wild Card spot, and it completed their first sweep since June 17-19 against the Orioles.
The key to ending the game before extras came when Pinder pinch-hit for Robbie Grossman to lead off the bottom of the ninth and slapped a single to right. With Laureano’s grounder looking like a potential double-play ball, Pinder actually slid into second base looking to give White Sox second baseman Yolmer Sanchez a tough angle. Once Pinder watched the throw sail into the spacious Coliseum foul ground, it was off to the races.
“Anytime there’s a backhand like that in the hole, there’s a chance you can get in at second base,” said Pinder, who secured the A’s sixth walk-off win of the season. “I was just trying to beat the throw, and as I’m sliding, I saw the second baseman lunge a bit. And from there, I was trying to get ahold of [third-base coach] Matt [Williams] and see what he sees. He sent me, so I went home.”
A’s manager Bob Melvin said the general prediction inside the dugout to start out the ninth was that Pinder would end it with one swing. It wasn’t exactly a home run, but getting on base was essential.
“Everybody in the dugout had a call for Pinder hitting a walk-off,” Melvin said. “He did it a little differently. But it takes a good at-bat to get it started, and once it gets started, you feel like you have a good chance.”
As important as Pinder’s hustle was in securing the win, it would not have been possible without Laureano’s seventh-inning homer. The A’s offense was stagnant to that point, with just three hits through the first six frames. Once Laureano connected on the 1-2 slider from Marshall that sailed over the wall in center, a jolt of energy shot through the home dugout.
“Typically late in these games when both pitchers are pitching well, the way the ball is flying these days, a home run is going to be the difference,” Melvin said. “To be able to follow up right after we had just gone down was key.”
The A’s have homered in a season-high 15 consecutive games, with Laureano’s home run his 18th of the season. The 25-year-old has already surpassed his season-high total for big flies, both in the Majors and Minors, and has the second most among Major League center fielders behind Mike Trout.
“At some point in time, we felt like he had a chance to be a 30-homer guy,” Melvin said. “Maybe he’s on pace a little sooner than we expected, but it’s not a surprise. He’s a strong guy all around. He’s understanding the league and making adjustments.”
Anderson picks up where he left off
Brett Anderson carried over his strong run from the first half, allowing just two runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out three batters over 6 2/3 innings.
Given his style as a pitcher who relies more on his pinpoint control, Anderson had some trepidation over how he might fare in his first game back from the All-Star break. Though he dealt with some issues early on, including a stumble over the bat of Sanchez’s dropped bat in the second that developed a bruise on his foot, the left-hander pitched through it and allowed three earned runs or fewer for the ninth time in his last 10 starts.
Anderson's only blemish on Sunday came in the seventh, when he surrendered a go-ahead home run to Eloy Jimenez on a 1-1 changeup left up in the zone.
“I made a terrible pitch to Jimenez and felt terrible because I thought I cost us the game, but Ramon came up with the big hit,” Anderson said. “Usually for command guys, coming back from the break is tough because it takes a little longer. But for my first start after the break, I felt pretty good. I’ll take it.”
New guy in town
“It shows they’re trying to do things to make us better and trying to go further than we went last year,” Anderson said. “It’s always nice to have a veteran presence who has been around and knows what he’s doing. I’m sure he’ll fit right in.”
The streak lives
Liam Hendriks continued his dominant ways on Sunday, as he turned in a scoreless ninth to keep the game tied. The 1-2-3 frame extended his career-high and A’s season-high scoreless innings streak to 18.