Athletics beat White Sox to force Game 3 – but will they regret burning closer Liam Hendriks?

Marcus Semien and Khris Davis homered and Chris Bassitt took a shutout into the eighth inning as the Oakland Athletics evened their wild-card playoff series against the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday with a 5-3 victory.

However, the outcome of Thursday's decisive Game 3 could well be impacted by Oakland manager Bob Melvin's decision to go to closer Liam Hendriks in the eighth inning to protect a five-run lead.

Hendriks, one of the game's best closers during the regular season with 14 saves and a 1.78 ERA, entered after Bassitt allowed a leadoff single. He gave up a one-out homer to Yasmani Grandal to cut the A's lead to 5-3. 

A's closer Liam Hendriks, left, was tagged for two runs and four hits over 1 2/3 innings in Game 2 of the AL Wild Card playoff series against the White Sox. (Photo: Ezra Shaw, Getty Images)

Then, with two outs in the ninth, Hendriks allowed two singles and a walk before finally exiting after throwing a season-high 49 pitches. 

Jake Diekman, pitching for the second consecutive day, walked in a run before retiring Jose Abreu on a sizzling ground ball to end the game. 

Although the A's survived elimination, they'll go into Game 3 with their two best relievers at less than full strength. Melvin insisted after the game Hendriks would be available, if needed, on Thursday.

Bob Melvin on Liam Hendriks: “I guarantee you he’s available for tomorrow.”

With no off days during this year's best-of-three wild and best-of-five Division Series rounds, bullpen management may become an even more important factor.

If the A's end up losing Game 3 – especially if it's close in the late innings – Melvin's decision to lean so heavily on Hendriks in a non-save situation the day before could have Oakland fans second-guessing him the entire offseason.

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