OAKLAND -- Entering their final home series of the regular season, manager Bob Melvin said the A’s needed to play every game like it was their last. Two games in, they’ve responded by playing with the type of desire needed to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
Starling Marte roped a walk-off double off Astros closer Ryan Pressly in the ninth at the Coliseum to cap a 2-1 victory over Houston on Saturday afternoon. The win was Oakland’s second straight over their division rivals, though the Yankees' win over Boston meant the A's were unable to gain a game in the AL Wild Card standings, remaining four off New York's pace for the second spot.
“There’s an element of desperation,” said Melvin of the victory. “You have to win. You don’t think any further out than today’s game, but we know that each and every game we take the field, we have to win. That’s certainly what permeates in our dugout right now.”
Though the initial reaction by the A’s players racing out of the home dugout was celebratory for what was Oakland’s 11th walk-off win of the year and first since Marte’s walk-off homer against Texas on Aug. 6, the elation quickly turned to concern. Elvis Andrus, who scored from first on Marte’s double, injured himself during his high-speed trek around the bases. Down at home plate for a few minutes, Andrus had to be carried off the field and into the clubhouse with the help of Matt Chapman and a trainer.
An immediate diagnosis following the game was unavailable, though Melvin said Andrus felt a pop in his left ankle while rounding third base and will undergo X-rays to determine the severity. The shortstop, who has played in 146 of Oakland 155 games this season, could be out for the rest of the season.
“Look, we won a game. That’s good. But we may lose one of our toughest guys,” Melvin said. “This is one tough [player]. We got our fingers crossed that it’s not something significant. But for him to be in that much pain, like I said, he’s one of the tougher guys we have.”
Following up a brilliant performance from Frankie Montas on Friday night, when he held Houston to one run in seven innings with eight strikeouts, left-hander Sean Manaea matched his rotation mate with a nearly identical final line. Like Montas, Manaea also notched eight punchouts as he allowed just one earned run on three hits across seven impressive frames.
Setting the tone with a five-pitch first inning, Manaea took advantage of an aggressive Astros lineup. His only run allowed came on Kyle Tucker’s solo homer in the seventh. Aside from that, the lefty limited Houston to just two hits after the opening frame.
“They were coming out of the gate swinging,” Manaea said. “Being able to throw my fastball to both sides of the plate, get it in on guys and throw it away to righties was huge. It set everything up from there.”
True to the “Ride The Wave” motto adopted by the A’s this season, Manaea has gone through some highs and lows over his 2021 campaign. He showed up big on a day the A’s badly needed a quality start from him, though, with a performance that pushed his ERA into the sub-4.00 range for the season at 3.94.
“Another day going through this lineup and giving us seven innings,” Melvin said. “Just the one pitch that ends up being a run. He was absolutely fantastic. Big performance on a day we needed him.”
Trailing by a run at the time of Manaea’s exit, the A’s late comeback was sparked in the bottom of the seventh, when Josh Harrison plated the game-tying run on a bloop single that sailed just over the glove of shortstop Carlos Correa in shallow left field.
That late rally set the stage for Marte’s game-winner in the ninth. After receiving advice in the dugout from A’s catcher Yan Gomes about handling the movement of Pressly’s pitches, Marte swung through a curveball on the first pitch he saw. Stepping out of the box to reload, Marte dug in and belted an 0-1 slider that caught the middle of the zone, sending it to deep right-center.
“I told myself to look for a good pitch,” Marte said through a translator. “I had a conversation with Gomes where he told me various things about Pressly’s movement on his pitches. I was able to make adjustments and drive the ball.”
The A’s entered Friday’s series opener just one loss away from officially being eliminated from AL West contention. It’s still a long shot for them to repeat as division champions, but for at least one more day, that goal remains in the picture.
“It’s been emotional to win these two games against the team in first place,” Marte said. “We have a chance to sweep them tomorrow and get more comfortable. Every day, every game counts. Just try to win every game. That’s the goal.”