Wild walk-off cuts A's magic number to 1

September 23rd, 2018

OAKLAND -- The A's magic number is down to one.

They practiced celebrating ahead of time following yet another walk-off victory over the Twins on Saturday evening, a 3-2 affair that ended when a bases-loaded wild pitch skipped past with two outs in the ninth inning, allowing to score under the watch of right-hander .

Credit with an assist: Stepping to the plate with one out in the inning, after Piscotty doubled and reached on an error ahead of an intentional walk to pinch-hitter Matt Joyce, Canha worked an 11-pitch at-bat, ultimately striking out but only after fouling off six pitches.

"Obviously made a good pitch with the breaking ball to strike him out," A's manager Bob Melvin said, "but he had to work hard and the first pitch [to Chapman] gets away from him, so Mark probably had a little something to do with that."

Now, an Oakland win or a Rays loss Sunday would ensure the A's a trip to the American League Wild Card Game for their first postseason berth since 2014.

The A's, a remarkable 60-25 since June 16, have strung together four consecutive victories but remain 1 1/2 games behind the Yankees for the top AL Wild Card spot. New York also holds the tiebreaker for home-field advantage in the winner-takes-all game -- something the A's, who played in front of 36,731, want badly for themselves.

"It was really loud," Semien said. "That at-bat with Canha up there was really loud. The place when it's packed, it can be one of the loudest. Puts pressure on the other team and gets us going. That's why it would be great to host. If we make the playoffs, that's the kind of atmosphere that can get us a win."

Semien, who has endured three consecutive last-place finishes with this team, supported the postseason cause with a go-ahead, two-run homer opposite Twins right-hander Chase De Jong in the fifth.

One of the newest members, meanwhile, did his part on the mound: Mike Fiers, who latched on in August through a trade with Detroit, held the Twins to one run and four hits over six innings. The right-hander has unequivocally been one of their most vital pieces down the stretch, pitching to a 2.90 ERA in nine starts.

"I'm going out there every start giving it everything I got just like every other guy in this clubhouse," Fiers said. "Everyone leans on each other every night, and I feel like it's always someone different to get it done, big hit, big pitch.

"We played team baseball today, and in a tight game like this where it's tough. These are the type of games that are going to happen in the playoffs, so it's good to see that we can play in these one-run ballgames and close things out and put pressure on 'em."

After Fiers delivered a shutdown sixth inning, capping a strong 79-pitch showing with his fifth strikeout, the A's watched a member of their bullpen lose grip of a lead for the second straight night. Right-hander surrendered a one-out double to and a run-scoring single to to even the score -- temporarily.

Closer picked up his second win in as many days with a scoreless ninth, setting the stage for the first walk-off wild pitch in franchise history since April 26, 1997, against Kansas City.


Semien also starred on defense, ranging back and to his right for a remarkable catch in shallow left field for the second out of the seventh to hold Astudillo at second base -- a critical juncture in the inning. That's when lefty entered and got Joe Mauer to fly out to center to keep the game tied.

"Off the bat, it didn't look like he was going to get to it, and he got a great read on it, a great jump and ended up getting to it fairly easily for a huge play," Melvin said.


Buchter has not allowed an inherited runner to score since July 21, leaving 19 of them out to dry in that span.


"We're going to go after it. I'm sure we'll have that game on in the morning just like we always have baseball on. Maybe one TV for NFL. Tampa will be on one of these TVs, and we'll be getting ready." -- Semien, on watching the Rays' 10 a.m. PT matchup with Toronto on Sunday


Right-hander , who has been sidelined for two weeks with an upper back issue, is set to return to the mound in a potential clinching game against the Twins on Sunday. He's 6-3 with a 3.77 ERA, including a 1.49 ERA in 10 home starts. Minnesota, hoping to play the role of spoiler, will counter with right-hander (8-13, 3.78 ERA) in the 1:05 p.m. PT tilt.