After a terrible month, the Oakland Athletics got a walk-off home run from Josh Donaldson to beat the Philadelphia Phillies 8-6, hoping to get some momentum heading into the big finish in the American League, while a 1-0 win for the Pittsburgh Pirates over the Milwaukee Brewers all but clinches their wild card spot behind an excellent pitching performance from Vance Worley.
The A’s lost a game they couldn’t afford to lose in the second out of three against the Phillies, and for a moment or two, it looked like things weren’t going their way again in the series closer. However, a huge 444 feet home run from Josh Donaldson in the 10th inning that also scored Billy Burns gave them the 8-6 victory, which means they once again open a 2 game lead over the Seattle Mariners, getting a rare offensive spark they’ve been looking for during this month.
On the remaining schedule? Three home games against the Angels and four on the road vs the Rangers. The Mariners also have seven more games to play, while the Cleveland Indians and the New York Yankees seem too far behind to catch up with either the Athletics or the Royals, although there is still a chance in theory. The A’s are obviously still worried about their pitching as well, with Scott Kazmir giving up 11 hits and six runs in his 5.1 innings. Things settled once the bullpen started working.
For the Pirates it’s still something rather surprising and refreshing to see them competing for playoff spots. With the win over the Brewers and the Giants losing to the Padres, it’s now tied at the top of the Wild Card Standings, while the Brewers fall behind to 4.5 games behind them, which means their chances of making it are getting smaller by the minute.
It wasn’t a special performance. Just one hit from Russell Martin, a single that helped Andrew McCutchen to score, gave them the narrow win over their division rivals. The Brewers are the only team that still might have a shot of unsettling the order of things in the National League, but this loss and dropping two of three in the series against the Pirates might mean it’s over for them in the chase for a playoff spot.
Vance Worley had a very good day on the mound, allowing just four hits while striking out five in a dominant eight-inning performance, improving his record to 8-4 while his ERA dropped to 2.93 this season. The ending is slightly tricky for the Pirates, playing seven games on the road: Three with Atlanta and then a four-game series to end the season in Cincinnati, hoping that in the end they’ll be in the postseason. Last year they made it past the Wild Card stage before losing to the Cardinals in the NLDS. The last time the Pirates made the postseason in consecutive seasons was back in the early 90’s, when Barry Bonds was still playing for them.