OAKLAND The last time Stephen Piscotty faced off against Trevor Hildenberger, he was at Stanford, and Hildenberger an average, overhand reliever at Cal with an ERA north of five. On April 9, 2012, Piscotty hit a three-run home run off the Bears righty in a Cardinal rout.Six years and literally hundreds of pitchers later, Piscotty hardly recognized Hildenberger. Neither did Piscotty Oakland Athletics teammates Mark Canha and Marcus Semien, who played with Hildenberger in Berkeley. In 2013 well after Canha, Semien and Piscotty had been drafted Hildenberger became a side-armer. In 2014, he set the program single-season saves record, and began his path to the big leagues.Now with the Minnesota Twins, Hildenberger who posted a 3.21 ERA in 37 games as a rookie in 2017 came on to pitch the ninth inning in a 2-2 game on Saturday against the A. All three Piscotty, Canha and Semien came to the plate in that frame, which ended with Piscotty scoring the game-winning run on a Hildenberger wild pitch, meaning that on Sunday, the A could clinch their first playoff berth since 2014 in front of a home crowd.It should be pretty rowdy, manager Bob Melvin said. I cant help but think back in 2012, when we came a long way back and swept Texas to win. Man, it was hard not to, at times, focus on the crowd, because they were so into it. My guess is, theyll be pretty spirited tomorrow.Piscotty sparked the rally with a leadoff double https://www.athleticsteamstoreonline.co ... tro_jersey
, and Semien then sent a one-out grounder to short Joe Morgan Jersey
, which was bobbled by Ehire Adrianza. Adrianza recovered, but Semien speed forced a rushed throw to first. Joe Mauer couldnt swipe-pick it. Hildenberger intentionally walked pinch hitter Matt Joyce to bring up Canha with the bases loaded, and a five-man infield loaded to the left side. Though Canha struck out, he made his former teammate work Billy Burns Jersey
, throwing nine pitches.He threw him everything, said Semien, who teamed with Hildenberger for two years, while Canha only crossed over with Hildenberger during the right-hander 2010 redshirt season. Hildenberger got the kitchen sink, so when you see that shift out there with a lot of guys in the outfield, sometimes you chase some pitches you normally wouldnt, because you want to get it out there so bad. It was a good at-bat. We all went to school together, so it was a cool moment for Cal.Hildenberger first pitch to Matt Chapman sailed outside, allowing Piscotty to score.Mark probably had a little to do with that, said manager Bob Melvin.It crazy how you win ballgames sometimes, Piscotty said. It not exactly how we drew it up https://www.athleticsteamstoreonline.co ... lia_jersey
, but well take it.The win was the 15th walk-off loss for Minnesota on the season, tying a club record set in 1964. It was also the first time Oakland had won on a wild pitch since April 26, 1997 against the Kansas City Royals. It was the 10th final-at-bat win for the A this season, and the ninth win for closer Blake Treinen, who pitched the top of the ninth.We always have a really good feeling when were in the ninth inning and have a chance to win here, Melvin said. Typically, it Blake who gets the top half of it because were tied, and you look at his record, he been on the right side of that many times. When Stephen leads off with a double, I dont think anybody in our dugout didnt think it was going to get done.With a loss by the Tampa Bay Rays earlier on the day, Oakland magic number shrank to one. One A win or one Tampa Bay loss would ensure Oakland the second Wild Card spot behind the New York Yankees. New York still leads by 1 1/2 games, but the A have seven games left against the Twins, the Seattle Mariners and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who are a combined 231-232 (.499).Not only is there a strong possibility that Oakland clinches at home on Sunday, but a strong finish could mean they host that winner-take-all Wild Card game at home. The most likely candidate to start that game would be Saturday starter, Mike Fiers.The late-season acquisition from the Detroit Tigers went six strong, threw 79 pitches, allowed one run on four hits and struck out five en route to lowering his Oakland ERA to 2 Danny Valencia Jersey
.90 in his ninth appearance.Good again, Melvin said. He looked like he started getting better as the game went along, too. Any time you get six innings and you have a lead, you feel pretty good about that He been terrific for us. Just as consistent as you could really hope for every single time, maybe less one outing.Fiers though he got the no-decision provided a preview of what the start of a wild card game would look like.Semien got the A on top 2-1 with a two-run homer in the fifth, and Fiers handed the lead to Jeurys Familia one of three All-Star closers at the back of the A bullpen in the seventh.Familia who has had long stretches of dominance punctuated by losses of command allowed a one-out double to Adrianza, then a Williams Astudillo single. With Adrianza steaming around third, Canha uncorked a throw up the third base line, which bounced up and out of Lucroy mitt, allowing Astudillo to take second, and tying the game at 2-2. After Semien hauled in a Gregorio Petit pop up on the dead run in shallow left, Ryan Buchter came on to retire Joe Mauer on a fly out to center to end the inning.Off the bat, it didnt look like he was going to get to it, Melvin said of Semien catch. He got a great read on it, great jump, ended up getting to it fairly easily, didnt have to dive. That a huge play, obviously the home run was huge. We were doing nothing for a little bit there, and then all of the sudden we get the lead like that. Marcus had a nice night.The three principles in the ninth Canha, Piscotty and Semien are all Bay Area natives. Clinching at home, for them, would be admittedly special.Oakland clinched on the final day at home in 2012 and in 2015. The only man in the clubhouse who seen the Coliseum on clinch days is Jed Lowrie. The longest-tenured Athletic Canha has only heard stories.Playing the one-game playoff at the Coliseum would be even sweeter.It was really loud [tonight], Semien said of the crowd of 36,071. That at-bat with Canha up there, this place was pretty loud. They said 36,000, and it felt like it was packed. Thatll get us going.It can be even louder. It puts pressure on the other team, and it gets us going. That why itd be great to host. If we dont win the division, itd be great to host here. Tonight, that the kind of atmosphere the playoffs have.