Athletics

Athletics

Wednesday night was shaping up to be a disastrous one for the A's.

Oakland had already left 11 runners on base through eight innings, going just 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position. The team was clearly pressing, down 2-1 in the ninth and just two outs away from losing the top wild-card spot to the Rays, who had already won their game against the Yankees.

Enter Matt Chapman.

The A's third baseman stepped to the plate with one out and Marcus Semien on second base, facing Angels closer Hansel Robles. Chapman wasted no time, demolishing the very first pitch he saw 436 feet to center field for a two-run home run, and the A's rallied for a thrilling 3-2 victory.

"Big-time players show up like that," A's manager Bob Melvin told reporters. "That was obviously a big one for us. We weren't having trouble getting guys on base. We were just having trouble getting them in the last couple of days. Sometimes you start to press a little bit as a group, and then a lot of times, one swing of the bat ends up loosening everybody up, and certainly that was a key hit."

It was an especially important homer for Chapman, who had been mired in a 3-for-28 slump entering the game. He told reporters he was just trying to keep the rally alive for Matt Olson, who was waiting on deck.

 

"I was just trying to honestly get Oly to the plate with an opportunity to win the game," Chapman said. "I mean, he's been swinging the bat a little better than me. ... I was like, 'Hey, just stay short. Don't try to do too much right now. We just need a hit or a walk, get on base and just keep the line moving.' So I was just trying to do my part and not try to do too much and was luckily able to get a good pitch and do a little more than I expected."

With that one swing of the bat, Chapman turned a potential three-game losing streak into a dramatic, morale-boosting victory. Upon returning to the dugout, he was mobbed by his teammates, who could finally release their built-up tension in a wild celebration.

"It feels great," Chapman said. "I obviously haven't been playing as well as I'd like to and playing to my capabilities, in my opinion. But that doesn't matter. I think that's the great thing about our team. No matter how guys are feeling -- good or bad -- it's about winning baseball games. Everybody's going to do whatever it takes to win and that's all we care about. So to get that win and keep the lead in the wild card, everybody was pretty excited. Hopefully, we can carry that momentum into these last four games."

With the win, the A's remain half a game ahead of the Rays for the top wild-card spot and move two games ahead of the Indians for the second spot. Oakland's magic number to clinch a playoff berth is down to three with four games remaining in Seattle.

"We do follow (the scoreboard), but we've got to take care of our own business," Chapman said. "I think we learned that a little bit yesterday. We've just got to control what we can control. To be able to have four games left and a half-game lead, we've got to just keep taking care of our business and good things will happen."

[RELATED: A's outfield takes hit, as Canha strains groin vs. Angels]

Added Melvin: "It's tough not to notice, but our objective is to take care of ourselves and just try to win our games."

On Wednesday night, the A's did just that. Now they have to do it four more times.