LOS ANGELES — The Oakland Athletics had to red-line the engine a bit to earn another game in the American League Division Series against the Houston Astros, but they won’t be in complete survival mode in Game 4 on Thursday at Dodger Stadium.
Closer Liam Hendriks went three shutout innings to finish a wild 9-7 victory in Game 3 on Wednesday, and his status for Thursday is questionable. He threw 37 pitches, gave up one hit and no walks, struck out four and picked up the win.
However, the A’s are confident with right-hander Frankie Montas on the mound to open Game 4. As with Wednesday’s back-and-forth affair, Montas’ season has delivered its highs and lows. He was 2-1 with a 1.57 ERA over his first four starts but then he experienced upper back tightness, causing him to miss nine days.
After Montas returned, he was 1-4 with a 10.88 ERA over his next six outings. He is finally starting to look more as he did in the early season, not giving up an earned run in six innings of his final regular-season start while fanning 12. Montas then went two innings in relief and got the victory in the deciding Game 3 of the wild-card round against his former club, the Chicago White Sox.
“The stuff’s always there, and he had a little bit of a rough patch … but at the start he was fantastic,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “He was our Opening Day guy and deserved to be. He had to go through (health issues) and fight through that … and then found it at the end, so we have a lot of confidence in him.”
The Astros had not named a starter for Game 4, but manager Dusty Baker seemed to be leaning toward a bullpen game.
It would appear to be as good a plan as any after his relievers went seven scoreless innings in the first two games, only to give up five runs in Game 3. Right-hander Josh James allowed three runs in one inning Wednesday before lefty Brooks Raley gave up two in two innings to take the loss.
The Astros are without Zack Greinke, who was placed on the ALDS roster but was scratched for Game 3 due to right arm soreness. He is not expected to pitch in the series.
“We’re a little thin,” Baker said of his pitching staff moving forward. “Whoever starts tomorrow, we need some innings out of him, as many innings as possible to limit our bullpen action. We keep scoring the way we are, we’re in pretty good shape.”
Scoring has been the theme of the series. The teams combined for seven home runs in Game 3, with the A’s hitting five of them. In the three games, all in the sunshine at Dodger Stadium, the A’s and Astros have hit 18 home runs. Thursday is another day game.
The record for home runs in an ALDS is 22 by the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners in 1995.
Chad Pinder hit a game-tying, three-run home run for the A’s in the seventh inning Wednesday. It was the only one of the team’s five homers that wasn’t a solo shot.
Pinder said he was inspired after a teammate Ramon Laureano implored the team to keep pushing after the Astros took the lead with a five-run fifth inning.
“You can kind of feel when we got into the dugout, energy was down again and we were getting that same flat-line feeling,” Pinder said. “Ramon was having absolutely no part of that. I won’t go into too much depth with what he said, but it was along the lines of, ‘This ain’t over. This is not our last game.'”
–By Doug Padilla, Field Level Media