OAKLAND — Matt Olson clapped his right hand across his body and skipped a step as he ran up the first base line.
After fans in the stands had begun yelling, “We want to go home!” in the bottom of the ninth on Tuesday, the Oakland Athletics first baseman drove the first pitch he saw from Brewers closer Josh Hader with one out in the 10th over the center field wall to seal a 3-2 win.
As both Khris Davis and erstwhile closer Blake Treinen kept pulling out of their respective season-long slumps and Chris Bassitt turned in a gem, the A’s are rounding into form at the right time. The 3-2 win allowed the A’s to keep pace in the playoff race and remain the hottest team in baseball over the last two and a half months.
“We definitely have the talent in here to be a playoff team, and compete with some of the best teams out there,” Olson said, echoing Davis’ declaration on Sunday. “We might not get the same attention, but we’re all good with it. That’s a good team over there that we just beat, on a night we didn’t swing that great.”
Olson — who figured he had just one hit against Hader dating back to Low-A — had originally put the A’s up in the third with a two-out RBI double, but the rest of the Oakland offense slumbered, going 0-for-8 with men in scoring position on the night.
As the A’s offense struggled against Adrian Houser (4.19 ERA) and the ensuing trio of relievers with ERAs north of 4.00 — managing just five hits in seven innings — Bassitt kept Milwaukee down.
The A’s righty retired 13 of 14 men and eight in a row at one point, facing just one over the minimum through the first five, on just 59 pitches. Part of his success: Only 13 foul balls, and 14 balls put in play. In his last two outings, he’s seen 42 foul balls in 11 innings of work.
Bassitt got into his first (and only) real jam in the sixth, with two on and one out, but fanned MVP frontrunner Christian Yelich with an exploding, tailing fastball on the outside edge for his sixth strikeout in his six shutout frames, and his second K on Yelich.
“That might have been his best stuff of the year,” manager Bob Melvin said. “He was on tonight.”
The A’s (61-47) stranded a man at third in the seventh, and in the eighth, Yusmeiro Petit, Ryan Buchter and Liam Hendriks teamed up to blow Oakland’s 21st save of the season (second-most in MLB), allowing three hits, capped by an RBI single by Yasmani Grandal.
Davis gave Oakland a 2-1 lead in the eighth on a first-pitch homer to left off reliever Freddy Peralta, snapping a career-long 29-game homerless streak with his third hit of the day. He’s now reached base six times in the last two games after hitting .151 since the All-Star break. The good feelings didn’t last. Eric Thames — without a hit in his previous 17 at-bats, in part thanks to a diving snare by Pinder in the second — tied things up again with a solo shot to right with one out in the ninth.
Blake Treinen — who was ousted as the closer in June, having posted an ERA north of 4.00 after an All-Star 2018 — shut down the Brewers in the 10th, striking out two and retiring the side for his second impressive outing in a row.
“Our best team has him on the mound late in games,” Melvin said. “Every outing that he has like that, the confidence grows. That’s a good thing for us.”
With the walkoff and a Yankees loss, the A’s now have the best record in baseball since May 16 at 42-22, and despite a Tampa Bay win, they managed to hold onto the second AL wild card spot. They’ve now won eight games in walk-off fashion, just two away from their 10 last season.
“We’ve always seemed to do that here,” Melvin said. “We always seem to have games where we get into the dugout late, and we feel like we have the chance to do it.”