OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Piscotty’s alert baserunning helped the Oakland Athletics inch closer to their first playoff berth in four years.
Piscotty doubled leading off the ninth inning and scored the winning run on Trevor Hildenberger’s bases-loaded wild pitch with two outs. The A’s cut their magic number to clinch a spot in the postseason to one with their second straight walk-off win over the Minnesota Twins, 3-2 on Saturday night.
Marcus Semien homered for Oakland, which opened a 7½-game lead over Tampa Bay for the AL’s second wild card. The A’s trail AL West-leading Houston by 3½ games and are 1½ games behind the New York Yankees, who clinched the first wild card earlier Saturday.
It’s the first time the A’s have won on a wild pitch in their final at-bat since April 26, 1997.
“It was a different route this time to score that run but we put pressure on them,” Semien said. “We’ve got 94 wins. Nobody expected that but now that we’re here we have to play well.”
Oakland won Friday on Khris Davis’ 10th-inning homer and took the first two games of the series against the Twins despite going hitless in 14 at-bats with runners in scoring position, including 10 on Saturday.
Seeking their first playoff appearance since losing to Kansas City in the 2014 wild-card game, the A’s moved 33 games over .500 for the first time since Sept. 24, 2003. Oakland is 60-25 since mid-June.
With a chance to secure a playoff spot in the series finale Sunday, A’s manager Bob Melvin expects a loud crowd.
“Should be pretty rowdy,” Melvin said. “My guess is they’ll be pretty spirited tomorrow.”
After Piscotty’s hit against Hildenberger (4-5), Ramon Laureano struck out, Semien reached on a throwing error by shortstop Jorge Polanco and pinch-hitter Matt Joyce was intentionally walked.
With the Twins utilizing a five-man infield, Mark Canha struck out in an 11-pitch at-bat. After Minnesota resumed a more normal defense, Hildenberger skipped a fastball past catcher Willians Astudillo, and Piscotty slid home ahead of Astudillo’s throw.
“We always have a really good feeling when we’re in the ninth inning and have a chance to win,” Melvin said. “When Stephen leads off with the double, I don’t think anybody in our dugout didn’t think it was going to get done.”
Blake Treinen (9-2) retired three batters.
Joe Mauer hit a sacrifice fly in the third off Mike Fiers, but Semien hit a two-run homer against Chase De Jong in the fifth. Astudillo had a tying single off Jeurys Familia in the sixth.
Astudillo had three hits for Minnesota, which has tied the team record of 15 walk-off losses, set in 1964.
“We didn’t do too much to give ourselves a chance,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “We get it tied late against a good team with a good bullpen and we couldn’t find a way to get that last zero.”
The Twins used a unique defensive alignment during Matt Olson’s first two at-bats, something they’ve done frequently against the A’s slugger. Third baseman Ehire Adrianza moved to left field while the other three outfielders shifted over. With Minnesota’s infield also in a shift, second baseman Gregorio Petit was positioned in short right — essentially a fifth outfielder. That left the left side of the open; Olson grounded out to first each time.
PUTTING IN WORK
Olson made his 146th start at first base, Jed Lowrie his 128th at second, Semien his 151st at shortstop and Matt Chapman his 138th at third base. It’s the first time in Oakland history that the A’s have had a player with 128 starts or more at every infield position.
Twins: C Juan Graterol’s contract was selected from Triple-A Rochester. RHP Ervin Santana was transferred to the 60-day DL.
Twins: 3B Miguel Sano (lower left leg bruise) had an MRI that was inconclusive. Sano has played in one game since Sept. 4. … 2B Logan Forsythe (knee inflammation) was held out of the lineup.
The A’s plan to start RHP Trevor Cahill (6-3, 3.77) for the first time since Sept. 9 in the series finale Sunday. Cahill has been out with a back strain after making his 19th start, his most since 2013. RHP Kyle Gibson (8-13, 3.78) starts for the Twins after allowing five runs and 11 hits in his last outing.