ANAHEIM (AP) — The Oakland Athletics are headed to the AL wild-card game off a late-inning loss that did nothing to shake their confidence.
Taylor Ward hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the ninth to help the Angels rally past the A’s 5-4 on Sunday in Mike Scioscia’s finale after 19 seasons as Los Angeles manager.
The A’s (97-65) will face the Yankees in New York in the AL wild-card game on Wednesday.
“The best part of this year is that we have been competitive and we’re going to the playoffs,” Khris Davis said. “Teams fear us and that’s a great feeling.”
Oakland finished its winningest season since getting 96 victories in 2013. The 22-game improvement from last season was the third-best in franchise history.
“We don’t like the way this game ended, but we’re thrilled where we’re going,” manager Bob Melvin said. “The guys have had fun but the postseason is a whole different level.”
Oakland starter Brett Anderson allowed two runs and four hits in three innings. He was struck on the rear end by Shohei Ohtani’s liner, struck out one more batter to finish the third inning and left the game.
“I’ll be sore and I’ll have to get treatment, but I’ll be fine and ready to go this week,” Anderson said. “I was glad I was able to continue and stay in the game. That was a positive.”
With Los Angeles trailing 4-2, Ohtani singled off Chris Hatcher (3-3) leading off the ninth, Jefry Marte hit an RBI double and Ward followed with a drive to left-center.
“Our relievers pitched well today until the ninth. We only gave up one hit from the third to the eighth inning,” Melvin said. “Our roster is set for players, but we have a few things to discuss about the pitchers. We’ll do that in the next day or so.”
Davis went 0 for 2 with a strikeout and then was replaced in the sixth. He finished with a major league-leading 48 home runs, was second with 123 RBIs and hit exactly .247 average for the fourth straight season.
Melvin admitted he’s biased, but his pick for AL MVP is Davis.
“Khris has hit more clutch home runs for us in clutch situations all season,” he said. “Matt Chapman also has had a great year, but Khris Davis needs to be in the MVP discussion.”
Stephen Piscotty and Franklin Barreto hit two-run homers for the A’s. Barreto’s was his first since Aug. 1 against Toronto.
Scioscia, the longest-tenured manager in the major leagues, finished 1,650-1,428, including 80-82 this year. He guided the franchise to its only World Series title in 2002.
Los Angeles missed the playoffs for the fourth straight year and had three straight losing seasons for the first time under Scioscia, who turns 60 in November.
During the game, Scioscia sat on the bench and talked with his staff, while first-base coach Alfredo Griffin stood in Scioscia’s usual spot to the right of the dugout steps. Later, third-base coach Dino Ebel took Griffin’s place.
Parker Bridwell (1-0) pitched the ninth for the win.
Ohtani went 1 for 4 with a strikeout and finished his rookie season with a .285 average, 22 homers and 61 RBIs to go along with a 4-2 record and 3.31 ERA in 10 starts. The two-way Japanese sensation is set to have Tommy John surgery this week.
Mike Trout was 0 for 1 with a flyout and wound up hitting .312 with 38 homers and 79 RBIs.
Angels starter Matt Shoemaker gave up two runs and two hits in three innings. He struck out three and walked two.
Scioscia has been picking up some Japanese throughout the season since a translator sits in on his pre-game media gathering. He often asks her how to pronounce certain words and their meanings. Scioscia put what he’s learned into practice, explaining that he wanted to share an “old American baseball proverb.” Speaking slowly in Japanese he said, “Baseball is a beautiful game when it’s played freely.”
A’s: Oakland play at the New York Yankees on Wednesday in the AL wild-card game, with the winner facing Boston in the Division Series. Reliever Liam Hendricks is likely to be the starting pitcher.
The injury-plagued Angels had three straight losing seasons for the first time since 1992-94.