By Matt Doan
Special to S.F. Examiner
The Oakland Athletics dropped the final regular season game of the season to the Angels, 5-4, on a walk-off, ninth-inning blast from Taylor Ward off of Chris Hatcher. The sting of the loss won’t last long for the A’s however, as they now head to New York to prepare for a winner-take-all Wild Card matchup against the Yankees on Wednesday.
For Bob Melvin, the goal Saturday and Sunday was to simply keep the team healthy before leaving Angel Stadium.
“We are trying to bubble wrap these guys until we get to New York,” he said. “We want to give some guys a chance (at setting numbers) and give other guys some at-bats.”
With this philosophy in mind, Melvin allowed Jed Lowrie to start and get four at-bats in his quest to get 100 RBIs. Lowrie fell just short, literally, as his third-inning drive to center just reached the warning track. Lowrie would finish with 99 RBIs for the year, easily surpassing his previous career high of 75.
Khris Davis was also given a couple of at-bats to see if he could reach 50 homers, but went 0-2, finishing the season with a batting average of .247 for the fourth consecutive season. Davis finished the regular season as the major league leader in home runs with 48, and second in the big leagues with 123 RBIs. Saturday night, Melvin joked, “K.D. has more RBIs this season that I did in my entire career.”
On Sunday, Stephen Piscotty knocked a two-run home run in the second inning, and Franklin Barreto hit a two-run homer — his fifth — in the sixth inning to account for the A’s offense.
Piscotty’s homer increased his career high in both home runs (27) and RBIs (88). Seventeen of those home runs have come on the road. Barreto, whose blast drove in Matt Olson, is expected to make the postseason roster and serve as the primary pitch runner for the A’s.
Back-up catcher Beau Taylor was the beneficiary of Melvin’s plan to get a few of the non-regulars some at-bats. Taylor took advantage of the opportunity, doubling to right for his first major league hit.
Brett Anderson started and gave up a first-inning two-run home run to Jeffrey Marte, but settled down from there, striking out five in three innings of work. Five Athletics relievers (Lou Trivino, Yusmeiro Petit, Ryan Buchter, J.B. Wendelken, Angel Pagan) followed Anderson to the hill and retired 18 of 19 hitters, allowing no hits, one walk and striking out six in five innings.
Unfortunately, the Angels had one last gift for departing Angels manager Mike Scioscia in the ninth inning. Shohei Ohtani singled off the A’s sixth reliever — Hatcher — and rode home on a Marte double.
Taylor Ward then jumped on a 2-0 fastball from Hatcher, depositing it over the left center field wall for the walk off. Overall the A’s and Angels combined to use 39 players in the final regular season game for both teams.
The A’s finish the 2018 regular season with 97 wins, a 22-win improvement over last year and the largest win total in Oakland team history since 2002.
Lowrie’s 99 RBIs as a primary second baseman are the second-most in club history behind Nap Lajoie (125 in 1901). Overall, Lowrie ranked eighth in the American League in RBIs this season.
Wendelken, threw a scoreless seventh inning and has not allowed a run in ten straight outings (13.2 ip) holding left-handers to a .080 (2-for-25) batting average. Overall, the A’s bullpen was credited with 45 wins this season, which is an Athletics record for wins by the bullpen.