With Saturday night’s 1-0 win over the Seattle Mariners, the Oakland Athletics clinched home field for Wednesday’s American League Wild Card Game, which they’ll host at 5 p.m. against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Jesus Luzardo finished off Saturday’s game with his second career save and first of the high-leverage variety, pitching the final two innings. He made quick work of the Mariners in the eighth and handled the first two outs of the ninth with ease, getting a first-pitch popout from Kyle Seager and striking big-time prospect Kyle Lewis out swinging, but Tom Murphy singled to center field with two outs.
Pinch-runner Dee Gordon advanced to second on a wild pitch and a hit-by-pitch put pinch-hitter Dylan Moore on base as the winning run, but Tim Lopes popped out to end the game.
With the final out, combined with Tampa Bay’s 4-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays earlier in the day, the A’s guaranteed a home playoff game for the first time since 2013. They’ll have to face Rays ace Charlie Morton with an offense that hasn’t scored more than three runs in game in a week, and has just one run in 13 innings against Morton this year, but will undoubtedly have a raucous crowd at their backs. Mount Davis is being opened up to general admission seating, which means the Coliseum could welcome a crowd of more than 55,000 on Wednesday night.
“Obviously we wanted to get in, and the next objective was to get (the game) at home,” manager Bob Melvin said.
The only run on Saturday for the struggling Oakland offense came off the bat of Ramon Laureano, who hit a solo homer to left field with two outs in the top of the third off of Seattle’s Marco Gonzales. Gonzales allowed just five hits over seven innings and kept the A’s without a hit with runners in scoring position to keep the deficit at a single run, but that one run held up.
Brett Anderson pitched five shutout innings, striking out just three but allowing only four baserunners. The one real threat the Mariners had to score on him came in the fifth, when Murphy led off with a single and Domingo Santana walked. Lopes grounded into a force out to put men on the corners, and Matt Olson made a perfect play on Mallex Smith’s bunt up the first base line, throwing home to allow rookie catcher Sean Murphy to tag Tom Murphy out.
Sean Murphy also made a ridiculous play in the seventh inning to keep Seattle (67-94) from scoring, saving a would-be wild pitch from Jake Diekman with a hockey goalie-like scoop.
Yusmeiro Petit had retired all five men he faced after Anderson pitched five innings, but Diekman allowed a single to pinch-hitter Omar Narvaez. Lopes followed with a single of his own, advancing pinch-runner Keon Broxton to third, but Murphy’s scoop and Smith’s lineout to center ended the inning and the threat. Luzardo took care of the final six outs, ensuring Oakland (97-64) of a home playoff game for the first time since a rookie Sonny Gray took the hill against the Detroit Tigers.