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The Oakland Athletics' Marcus Semien hits a two-run home run against the Chicago White Sox during the second inning of Game 2 of the American League Wild Card Round on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, at RingCentral Coliseum in Oakland, California. The A's won, 5-3, to force a decisive Game 3. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images/TNS)

If the Oakland A’s recover from their series-opening dud against the Chicago White Sox to advance deep into October, the theme of their postseason run will be revenge.

Starting pitcher Chris Bassitt, shortstop Marcus Semien and the Athletics guaranteed that with their performances in critical games on Wednesday.

Bassitt tossed seven innings of one-run ball in an elimination game, Semien blasted a key two-run home run in a 5-3 victory over the White Sox, forcing a winner take-all game three on Thursday. 

A’s closer Liam Hendriks struggled in relief and likely won’t be available for the series finale, but Oakland built up a big enough lead to survive late trouble and avoid a heartbreaking upset bid.

If the A’s secure a victory in Thursday’s winner-take-all wild-card series finale, they’ll look back at the clutch contributions from Bassitt and Semien as a primary reason Oakland will have a chance to get revenge against a Houston club that was caught cheating its way through recent postseasons.

A day after White Sox right-hander Lucas Gioltio silenced an A’s offense that appeared overwhelmed at the plate, Oakland responded with two first-inning runs and added two more on Semien’s home run to center field against Chicago lefty Dallas Keuchel in the bottom of the second.

Semien’s 2020 regular-season numbers practically mirrored the ugly statistics he posted back in 2013 and 2014 with the White Sox, but his home run to dead center was a reminder why Chicago’s decision to move him in a December, 2014 trade for former A’s starter Jeff Samardzija was such an ill-advised decision.

It took six years for Semien to look completely comfortable in the batter’s box in the majors, but his breakout 2019 season made him an American League MVP finalist and gave Oakland hope he would remain an offensive catalyst entering the final year before he hit free agency.

Semien regressed in 2020 and struck out in a key spot on a pitch down the middle against Giolito in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s game, but he showed why A’s manager Bob Melvin has maintained such a high level of confidence in him with one of the most important hits of the year for Oakland on Wednesday.

Semien’s swing gave Bassitt – who also joined the A’s in the 2014 trade that sent Samardzija to Chicago – the chance to pitch with a big lead and the right-hander took advantage of it.

Bassitt was the A’s most reliable starter this season, won the AL September Pitcher of the Month Award and outdueled a pitcher in Keuchel who was one of the primary competitors for the honor after the southpaw posted a 0.45 ERA in four starts this month. Against a White Sox lineup that crushes fastballs, Bassitt threw four-seamers, cutters or sinkers on 72 of his 92 pitches and the only run he was charged with came after reliever Liam Hendriks gave up a two-run home run to Yasmani Grandal in the eighth inning.

Given how A’s pitchers have performed in playoff games in the last decade, there’s no question Bassitt’s outing was the best by an Oakland starter since Sonny Gray threw eight innings of shutout ball in Game 3 of the 2013 ALDS against the Tigers. Considering the win-or-go-home stakes of Wednesday’s game, Bassitt’s was arguably more impressive.

The A’s trade to acquire Bassitt, Semien, catcher Josh Phegley and infield prospect Rangel Ravelo made sense for an Oakland franchise that was slashing payroll in the 2014-2015 offseason, but Chicago’s decision to part with a number of promising players in exchange for Samardzija and reliever Michael Ynoa has come back to haunt it.

Bassitt had already thrown 115 2/3 major league innings and compiled a 3.66 ERA at the time of the deal while Semien was a work in progress but a player with a high ceiling at the shortstop position. Committing to Bassitt over Samardzija in the rotation would have left the White Sox in a much better place, but the trade has hurt Chicago in recent years and never more so than on Wednesday.

If the A’s are able to build off of the win over the White Sox on Thursday, they’ll head to Los Angeles to square off with an Astros team they went 7-3 against this season. After talking all spring and all season about winning the AL West and getting revenge against a Houston club the A’s view as an enemy, revenge is back within reach.

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Up next: Oakland vs. Chicago beginning at noon Thursday, Oct. 1 broadcast on ESPN (724 on Xfinity). 

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