By Morris Phillips
Yeah, yeah, the A’s bullpen… but here’s a twist: this time Lou Trivino was the hero with a warm, Southern California breeze sprinkled in.
Trivino came on to record the final five outs of the game–without allowing a hit or a walk–after the Angels scored a pair of ninth inning runs to break up a shutout authored by starter Frankie Montas and Jake Diekman, who combined to put the home team asleep for eight innings, allowing just one hit.
The A’s secured a 3-2 win in Anaheim to sweep the series–and keep their playoff hopes alive–when Mark Canha singled, and Jed Lowrie followed with a sacrifice fly to score placed runner Matt Olson in the top of the 10th.
Winners of five straight, the A’s still face daunting odds to pass the Yankees (who lost Sunday) and either the Red Sox or Blue Jays (both who won) to secure one of the two wild card spots. Among the biggest of the A’s challenges: they’re in the midst of a 16-games in 16-days stretch that won’t digest any easier after Sunday’s heart stopper.
But before all of what come’s next, the A’s have to be proud of themselves for what was accomplished in Anaheim. Not only did they complete a road sweep, they finished 15-4 in the season series against the Angels, a domination of a division rival that’s almost a prerequisite to gaining a playoff berth these days. But not only that, the A’s stood up to Shohei Ohtani, who was terrific, firing darts across the plate for eight innings.
Ohtani struck out ten, utilizing his splitter on more than half of his 108 pitches across eight innings. He was energized, showing great life on his fastball late in the game when he struck out the side in the seventh, and fanned Matt Chapman in the eighth with a couple of the pitches hitting 98 mph. But Ohtani failed to keep Yan Gomes in the ballpark in the third, and Chapman from circling bases in the fourth. The two solo shots were the difference–until the late drama–as Ohtani allowed three other hits and no walks in his the third longest outing of his career.
But Montas was just as good.
The A’s ace in the absence of the miraculously healing Chris Bassitt took full advantage of an Anaheim lineup that was absent of the normal big names with the exception of Ohtani, who he smartly walked twice. Beyond that, Montas struck out seven, walked two others for a total of four, and allowed a double to Brandon Marsh in the third inning with two outs. Montas then shut that down, by issuing a pass to Ohtani, and striking out Phil Gosselin to end the inning.
“When you go up against Ohtani, you know you have to be really good, and he was,” manager Bob Melvin said. “He matched him all the way until both were out of the game and out-pitched him really.”
But as so many baseball games go, the pitching gems didn’t decide it, instead the follies almost did.
Romo, hardly an ideal closer given the lack of velocity on his pitches, was called upon in the ninth, a role he’s assumed following Trivino’s well-chronicled struggles. Almost immediately, Romo fell into straights allowing a double to Gosselin, and an infield single to Jared Walsh after throwing just six pitches. After Luis Rengifo grounded out, but advanced the runners, Jose Rojas delivered a single to left that plated Gosselin. But Seth Brown’s throw to the plate–with Walsh held at third–sailed over Gomes at the plate and to the backstop. That pinned an error on Brown, freed up Walsh, and allowed the Angels to tie the game.
Just that quick–after 10 pitches–Romo was done, and Trivino was summoned. On six pitches, Trivino struck out Max Stassi and Jack Mayfield (both looking) to keep the Angels from grabbing a lead.
“It’s demoralizing to give up the lead,” Melvin said. “You have to go back out there and work for it again and they did. It doesn’t surprise me.”
In the tenth with the lead, Trivino did it again. He got David Fletcher to ground out, Brandon Marsh to ground into a fielder’s choice, wiping out Mayfield, the runner placed at second to start the inning. Then he got Kean Wong to fly out to end it, all done with eight pitches.
In five outings ending September 4, Trivino allowed runs in each appearance, all in games that the A’s ended up losing. That cost Trivino his closer’s role. But this week, he’s been better: despite allowing five hits combined in appearances Wednesday and Friday, he posted two holds and a win.
“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.”
The A’s open up a four-game set with Seattle at the Coliseum on Monday night. Sean Manaea will be opposed by the Mariners’ Tyler Anderson, who’s allowed three home runs and five walks in his two most recent starts and has a 6-9 record on the season.