Chapman HR in 9th, A's help wild-card hopes, top Angels 3-2Oakland Athletics' Matt Chapman, center, celebrates his two-run home run with teammates in the dugout during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- The pressure had been building all night for the Oakland Athletics. They knew Tampa Bay had won to pull even in the wild-card race, and had responded by stranding runner after runner.
But one swing of the bat by Matt Chapman was all the A's needed to release that stress and secure a vital win.
Chapman hit a two-run homer with one out in the ninth inning and the A's boosted their playoff chances, rallying past the Los Angeles Angels 3-2 on Wednesday night.
''Big time players show up like that,'' A's manager Bob Melvin said.
Oakland remained a half-game ahead of the Rays for the first AL wild-card spot. Cleveland fell two games behind the A's.
Chapman hit his 35th homer on the first pitch he saw from Hansel Robles (5-1). Marcus Semien started the comeback with a leadoff single, reaching second on an inadvertent sacrifice bunt by Laureano to set up Chapman's 436-foot shot to center. The A's had been 1 for 14 with runners in scoring position before Chapman connected, and the 26-year-old slugger counted himself among those feeling anxious as a result.
''And I was just, honestly, trying to get (Matt Olson) to the plate with an opportunity to win the game. I mean, he's been swinging the bat a little better than me,'' Chapman said. ''Luckily, was able to get a good pitch and do a little more than I expected.''
Until Chapman's shot, one so obvious that center fielder Brian Goodwin did not move, it looked as if the A's would rue their numerous missed opportunities. Kaleb Cowart gave the Angels a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh after Oakland had failed to go ahead in the top half when Mark Canha hit into a double play with the bases loaded.
''We weren't having trouble getting guys on base. We were just having trouble getting them in the last couple days, and sometimes you start to press a little bit as a group,'' Melvin said. ''A lot of times one swing of the bat ends up loosening everybody up, and certainly that was the key hit.''
Taylor Ward hit a solo homer, but the Angels lost seven of their final eight games to the A's. Ward put the Angels ahead in the second, and Laureano tied it at 1 in the fifth with his solo homer.
Chapman said everyone in the dugout knew about Tampa Bay's 4-0 win over the New York Yankees, which Melvin described as ''the non-benefit of being on the West Coast.'' The way the A's responded to avoid their first three-game losing streak since July 24-26 gave Chapman confidence they will be able to focus on themselves during their final series against Seattle.
''We just got to control what we can control, and to be able to have four games left and a half-game lead, we just got to keep taking care of our business and good things will happen,'' Chapman said.
MORE THAN EXPECTED
Oakland right-hander Frankie Montas was effective in his return after serving an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance, giving up one run in six innings. He allowed four hits and two walks, while striking out six. ''Maybe not his best command, but as the game went along, he worked it out,'' Melvin said. ''I did not expect six (innings) today, and it was a needed six.''
The A's designated C Beau Taylor for assignment to create a roster spot for Montas. Taylor hit .174 with two RBIs in 10 games for Oakland.
Athletics: Canha left the game in the seventh because of a groin strain. Melvin did not know the severity of the injury. . LF Khris Davis (stomach flu) did not play. . RF Stephen Piscotty (sprained ankle) took batting practice and ran the bases Wednesday. ''He's getting better every day,'' Melvin said of Piscotty, who has not played since Aug. 24.
Angels: CF Mike Trout expects to participate in his normal offseason routine after undergoing surgery to remove a Morton's neuroma from his right foot on Friday. Trout said he would likely need six weeks of recovery before being cleared for physical activity.
Athletics: LHP Sean Manaea (3-0, 1.14 ERA) will start in the opener of a four-game series at Seattle on Thursday. Manaea has allowed three earned runs in 18 2/3 innings while winning each of his past three starts.
Angels: RHP Jaime Barria (4-10) 6.43) gets the nod to start a four-game series against Houston on Thursday. Barria is 1-3 with a 4.34 ERA in six career games against the Astros.
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