The A’s have lived and [mostly] died by the home run in this AL Division Series. They scored six of seven runs via the long ball through two games, mostly solo shots that haven’t contributed to major offensive outbursts.
That trend continued early in Wednesday’s win-or-go-home Game 3 clash with the Houston Astros at Dodger Stadium, with four solo homers to start their scoring. That wasn’t good enough to sustain leads. They fell behind and needed Chad Pinder’s three-run shot down the right-field line in the seventh inning to tie it.
That alone couldn’t keep this best-of-five series alive. Not after losing the first two contests.
They had to win it, and did so in a most peculiar way. For the A’s in this series, anyway.
They moved guys over and got guys home. In other words, with a little small ball.
The A’s pulled ahead for good with two sacrifice flies, and Liam Hendriks made a 9-7 lead stand with a three-inning outing in a dramatic affair.
Sean Murphy launched a perfectly-placed fly out to right field that allowed Robbie Grossman to break the tie and sent Ramon Laureano to third. Pinder mimicked Murphy a few batters later with a shot to right that brought Laureano home and sent Marcus Semien to third. The A’s scoring ended after that, but it was enough to get the win and produce just their third multi-run inning of this series.
“It was impressive the way they went about them,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “They weren’t trying to pull the ball. They stayed the other way and, with the ball carrying in the air, you don’t have to get a ton of it to get it far enough for a sacrifice fly."
After a series largely spent waiting for home runs, the A’s created lasting separation in a do-or-die affair with productive outs.
The A’s vital eighth inning went like this: Walk. Seeing-eye double. Sacrifice fly. Walk. Hit by pitch. Sacrifice fly. Strikeout.
Two runs on one hit that never left the yard. Go freaking figure.
“We were just fighting tooth and nail to come back,” Melvin said. “That game had, I don’t know how many swings to it and the sacrifice flies ended up being huge for us after the tie. It’s the little things. It’s not just homers some times. Though, if you look at this game, it kind of felt like it.”
That’s how this series feels, that it’s all about the long ball. That’s what was so interesting about how the A’s eighth played out, especially after struggling to produce with runners in scoring position. They were 0-for-6 with a sacrifice fly in Game 1. They didn’t have a runner in scoring position in Game 2. They were 0-fer in those situations Wednesday until Pinder’s three-run bomb.
It seems fitting that Pinder’s the offensive hero not just for this game-tying blast. He also tallied the final run on an out that gave Hendriks some cushion to close out another essential win.