ANAHEIM -- The A’s have been no stranger to close calls this season, especially lately. And in the middle of a playoff race for an AL Wild Card spot, the A’s had yet another close finish on Sunday.
After Frankie Montas shouldered the load with seven scoreless innings opposite the Angels' dynamic Shohei Ohtani, the A’s series-sweeping win over the Halos was decided in extra innings. Specifically, a go-ahead sacrifice fly by Jed Lowrie in the 10th inning and a solid 1 2/3-inning performance by Lou Trivino that closed out a 3-2 win at Angel Stadium.
The A’s (82-67) stayed within two games of the Blue Jays (84-65) for the second AL Wild Card spot with the win, their fifth in a row. Oakland finished Sunday in fourth place overall in the Wild Card standings, trailing the Yankees (83-67) by a half-game.
A’s manager Bob Melvin said the strong outing from Trivino was a big step forward for the club and for Trivino, who had a 1.84 ERA in the first half of the season, but a 6.00 ERA in 24 innings in the second half -- a slide that saw him lose his previously unshakable grip on the closer role.
"It's huge not only for us to win a game that obviously we needed to win, but huge for him kind of getting back to what he's been doing here for the better part of the season,” Melvin said. “Great for us, great for his confidence and obviously the timeliness of it was huge.”
As Oakland looks to stay in pursuit of a playoff spot come October, winning a tight series finale against the Angels was another step forward. It also wrapped a 15-4 season series against the Angels, the most Oakland has won in a single season against its AL West foes, besting 14 wins in 2001.
Coming into Sunday, the A’s had 45 of their games decided by one run, which ranked second most in the AL. But Oakland had found itself mostly on the wrong side of those contests, sporting a 20-25 record -- the third-worst record in such games in the AL.
“We've had our trouble with run one-run games here for a stretch, but that's kind of been our strength for a while now whether it was earlier in the season or its the last couple years,” Melvin said. “These guys know how to play close games. Recently we've started playing like we normally do in close games like that.”
Minus a shaky ninth inning outing from Sergio Romo where he allowed the Angels to tie the game, 2-2, on three hits, the end result was exactly what the A's sought at the end of their road trip.
Before the late drama, Oakland received a another strong outing from Montas. The right-hander fired seven scoreless frames, allowing just one hit, four walks (one intentional) and recording seven strikeouts.
He needed just 87 pitches -- 62 of them strikes -- to tie a season high in innings, limiting the Halos to five hard-hit balls before Jake Diekman replaced him to start the eighth inning.
Montas said filling up the strike zone led to his sharp performance.
“I was just trying to focus on the first-pitch strike, trying to attack the hitters,” he said. “And they were swinging early. I kind of just [tried] to go out there and throw my sinker and try to execute a little more. It's crazy I walked four guys and I think I threw like 75% strikes.”
Yan Gomes, who homered off Ohtani on Sunday, said finding a way to come away with a win in close games like Sunday’s will be big for the A’s over their last 13 games of the regular season.
“These are the kind of games we come in, we know what we need to do,” Gomes said. “These are kind of series that we need to take full advantage of because the next stretch that we've got is going to be very competitive. And it's going to be a fun last two weeks.”