David Murphy looked around at the loaded bases, the drawn-in infield and the left-handed Oakland pitcher on the mound in the bottom of the ninth inning of a crucial game for the Los Angeles Angels' playoff hopes.
Murphy saw nothing but a chance to be a star — and to send the Angels' improbable playoff surge into another day.
He drove a pinch-hit single into left field to end it, and the Angels kept the pressure on in the AL wild-card race with their sixth consecutive victory, 5-4 over the Athletics on Monday night.
After celebrating wildly with his teammates and getting an ice water bucket dumped on his head, Murphy praised the tenacity of a team that was all but finished before going a majors-best 17-8 in September.
"We've got a great group of guys with a lot of character in here," Murphy said. "Just a never-say-die attitude, and the results truly reveal the character of this team. People say it's not how you start, it's how you finish. We're finishing strong."
Albert Pujols tied it with his 558th career homer in the sixth inning for the Angels, who have won nine of 11 to make the AL race awfully tight heading into the final six days.
Johnny Giavotella and Erick Aybar had early run-scoring doubles as the Angels (82-74) remained a half-game behind the Houston Astros (83-74), who won at Seattle, and one game ahead of the Minnesota Twins (81-75), who beat Cleveland.
"It's fun when you're on the right side of a one-run game," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "These guys have been putting everything into every pitch, every out, every play. We're hanging in there. We're grinding it out, and we're getting clutch hits."
Edward Mujica (3-5) retired the heart of Los Angeles' order in the eighth, but gave up a leadoff single in the ninth to C.J. Cron, who had three hits. Mujica then fielded David Freese's squib grounder in front of the plate and threw wild to first, allowing pinch-runner Collin Cowgill to advance to third.
With the bases loaded and nobody out, Murphy's sharp single off Fernando Abad set the fireworks at the Big A.
"It's fun to be in a situation like that, especially with what's going on with the season right now," Murphy said. "It may seem like a pressure-packed situation, but I think it's really not. You just try to slow things down."
Marcus Semien homered for the A's, who have lost three straight and eight of nine while guaranteeing their last-place finish in the AL. Oakland has lost 16 of 22 to the Angels.
"When you play close games like that, sometimes (mistakes) will show up," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "We've seen it often this year. It comes down to us not getting a big hit late in the game, or making an error and them getting a big hit."
Pujols connected for his 38th homer, his best total during the $240 million slugger's four-year tenure with the Angels.
Felix Doubront yielded five hits, four walks and four runs in six innings for the A's.
The Angels hoped for a long start from Hector Santiago after taxing their bullpen in recent days, but the All-Star left-hander didn't quite deliver despite yielding only three hits and two walks. Santiago needed 24 pitches to escape the first inning with just one run allowed, and he was chased in the sixth after Jake Smolinski's tying sacrifice fly. Pinch-hitter Coco Crisp then drove in the go-ahead run with a bloop single.
Angels: Smith thinks he can return from a sprained ankle this week. The Angels need their eighth-inning specialist with Street sidelined by a groin injury.
Athletics: Chris Bassitt (1-7, 3.07 ERA) has received more than one run of support just three times in his 11 starts.
Angels: Nick Tropeano (2-2, 4.35 ERA) is unbeaten in three September starts while filling in for injured Matt Shoemaker.
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