Oroville Mercury-Register

A’s sweep the Angels in extras

- By Shayna Rubin

After a brief hiatus, the Oakland A’s bad habit of blowing leads late reared its ugly head again. Instead of folding, though, some stepped up in the clutch to help hand the A’s a 3-2 extra-inning, sweep-clinching win over the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday afternoon at Angel Stadium.

First, the win is the A’s fifth straight and keeps them two games back of the Toronto Blue Jays for a second wild card spot. With the New York Yankees tumbling after a loss, Oakland could be in position to challenge. All 13 of the A’s remaining games will come against the Seattle Mariners — also vying for a wild card spot — and first-place Houston Astros on the road and at home.

“These are the games, we come and know what we need to do,” A’s catcher Yan Gomes said. “These are series we need to take full advantage of. This next stretch is going to be very competitiv­e and it’ll be a fun last two weeks.”

Finishing this road trip 5-1 instead of 4-2 came down to a dramatic ninth inning. Sergio Romo hung a few too many sliders to an Angels lineup that had collected just two hits and no runs up until then. Romo put the game-tying run in scoring position, then allpwed a first-pitch double to Jose Rojas.

Though Jared Walsh, the gametying run, held up at third initially, Romo didn’t back up right fielder Seth Brown’s throw, which sailed to the backstop to allow Walsh to score and tie the game.

Romo was immediatel­y pulled for Lou Trivino, who has been quietly sliding back up into a late-inning role after blowing two saves and taking a costly loss in consecutiv­e games in late August. Trivino looked at his best, utilizing his breaking pitches to pump strikes while striking out the final two batters to send the game to extra innings.

The A’s took the lead in the top of the 10th when Mark Canha singled to advance designated runner Matt Olson to third. Then Jed Lowrie launched a sacrifice fly to score Olson from third.

Trivino retired the side in order in the 10th inning to seal the victory.

What’s helped get Trivino back to his more dominant self?

“He’s pumping strikes,” Gomes said. “Lou is figuring out his stuff is good. Whether he was going through that hiccup or not, his stuff plays. He kept pumping strikes. And when doing that, not giving guys pitches to hit and get back in the zone, he does a good job. That’s what he did today. He stepped up big time in a spot where we really needed him.” Added manager Bob Melvin: “It’s huge not only for us to win a game we needed to win, but huge for him getting back to what he’d been doing for the better half of the season. Great for us, great for his confidence and the timeliness of it was huge.”

If the A’s can get Trivino’s highveloci­ty stuff back into the closer’s spot, or at least close, the bullpen could be far more effective at the

most crucial point in the regular season.

OHTANI VS. MONTAS QUITE A DUEL » In the thick of a contentiou­s postseason race, Shohei Ohtani surely wasn’t the guy the A’s wanted to see on the mound Sunday afternoon.

Questions surrounded Ohtani’s availabili­ty to pitch over the weekend as he dealt with arm soreness, but he got Sunday’s start at the last minute and was every bit a frustratio­n for A’s hitters. Fortunatel­y for Oakland, though, their starter Frankie Montas was able to match him nearly inning-for-inning in a battle of two pitchers with some of baseball’s best split-finger fastballs.

Montas held the Angels to one hit — a Brandon Marsh double in the third inning — in seven scoreless innings. Montas struck out seven Angels and got them to whiff on his splitter eight times.

Montas did issue four walks despite throwing 67 of his 87 pitches total for strikes.

“It’s going to take him a little bit to realize what good walks are,” Gomes said. “There are times when he doesn’t need to give into guys. He’s made good strikes and good pitches that sometimes turn into walks. Once we realize they aren’t waiting around on him, we got some early outs and good double plays.”

A low pitch count didn’t lead to an eighth inning appearance for Montas — Jake Diekman pitched a scoreless eighth. Melvin said they considered sending Montas back out for the eighth, but Montas was tired and his legs started to go more than his arm — and that they felt the bullpen was teed up to handle the eighth and ninth. “There are certain games that you’re a little more gassed than others,” Melvin said.

“When you go up against Ohtani, you know you have to be really good. And he was,” Melvin said. “Matched him until both were out of the game and outpitched him, really.”

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