A’s win first back-to-back home games of 2015

Thanks to a strong third inning, the A’s rolled past the New York Yankees Friday night 6-2.

Four Oakland runs came in the third inning, with three doubles, one single and one error accounting for the early lead. The A’s continue to improve with runners in scoring position, going 4-for-10 with runners at second or third base, in their second consecutive win.

Brett Lawrie also hit his second home run in as many days — his fourth of the season — just after Stephen Vogt walked. The two-run jack provided the A’s crucial insurance runs that took away the save situation.

The A’s chased Yankees starter Chris Capuano (L, 0-3, 6.39 ERA) after 5-1/3 innings, who allowed three earned runs on six hits and two walks.

The unearned and nearly crucial run came after third baseman Chase Headley let a hard Ben Zobrist grounder through his legs and into left field. If not for that miscue, a double play was likely and runner Marcus Semien wouldn’t have been able to score the A’s second run of the game, along with Zobrist and the third run.

The A’s recorded ten hits Friday night, the most on the recent homestand, and finished the game without an error, which is also a rarity these days.

With back-to-back wins, the worst the A’s can do on the series is split, and may have their first series win of the season at home.

The Yankees’ Brian McCann, though, kept a streak of his own going as well. He homered in the fifth inning, his fourth over the last four Yankees games, tying Mike Stanley‘s franchise record for catchers since 1957. Stanley finished his career with the A’s in 2000.

Sonny Gray‘s dominance had faded a bit over his last few outings, but was on point Friday. Catcher Josh Phegley offered some insight on why that was:

“The fastball, and it’s movement (worked well). Just being aggressive in the strike zone. Guys were having a hard time squaring it up, and rightfully so. And that slider to lefties, not too many guys took it tonight.”

Oakland pitching has been on a roll the last five games, with four consecutive shutouts until Friday evening, but the hitting has been coming alive as well.

Manager Bob Melvin said:

“We’re getting leads now, we’re holding them. We’re getting better at bats, we’re getting breakthrough hits. Cleaner games defensively. A lot of things that have been our Achilles heel, we’re starting to get better at.”

Gray (W, 6-2, 1.82 ERA), who only made it five innings in each of his last two outings, was happy to finish eight quality frames. He said:

“We’re playing with a lot of energy. We’re getting some pretty good starting pitching. We’re hitting the ball. Scoring runs when we need to. We’ve been trying to keep our energy level up. Even through the rough stretch we went through, we were just trying to be positive. We knew we were a lot better team than the way we were playing.”

Every A’s hitter reached base save for infielder Andy Parrino, who pinch-hit for Semien in the eighth inning. And Oakland has been even more creative with the lineup in the last few days, with Vogt playing first base Friday instead of squatting behind the dish.

Of Vogt’s ability to shift around the diamond, Melvin said:

“He can play anywhere, you saw it last year. He’s been playing catcher predominantly this year, but to get his bat in the lineup, and put him out at first and hasn’t played there in awhile and he looks like he plays there every day.”

Vogt enjoyed being able to watch Gray from a different angle. And at worst, didn’t have to squat for nine innings. He said:

“You can see the determination. It’s kind of nice to sit back and relax, and watch him pitch a little bit. We’ve been playing such good baseball, to have a start from your ace like that is huge.”

Oakland has won five of their last seven games, which is monumental from where they were in almost any part of the season to date. Said Melvin:

“For what we’ve been going through, the attitude has been good every day. The effort has been there every day. It’s frustrating, and at times can be a little demoralizing, but for the most part, guys can put it away. And the next day they can come out with a good attitude.”

The A’s are on the verge of a real winning streak against a slumping Yankees team that has won only three of the last 10 games. Oakland will send Jesse Hahn (2-4, 3.69 ERA) against New York’s Nathan Eovaldi (4-1, 4.27 ERA) Saturday night before closing out the series Sunday afternoon.

NOTES

Oakland starters are 4-1 with a 1.00 ERA over the past seven games and the bullpen notched a win Thursday night with Kendall Graveman keeping the team alive though over five innings. … Brett Lawrie is hitting .296 in May, with two home runs and nine RBI, compared to his April average of .229 with two homers and 11 RBI. … Josh Phegley is 9-for-24 over the last seven games, and recorded his first three hit game of the season Friday, going 3-for-4. … Billy Burns recorded his 10th multi-hit game of the season, going 2-for-4, which leads the American League for rookies.


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