Chad Pinder’s 460-foot home run blows up Boston

Bashing four home runs Saturday, the Oakland Athletics buried the Boston Red Sox for a third straight day becoming the American League’s most powerful club on the season.

With 63 long balls on the season, the A’s (20-23) moved ahead of the New York Yankees (24-15), who have 62 following their own two-homer showing Saturday, all the while dismantling the Yanks’ rival 8-3.

Of the four homers, none was louder than a 460-foot shot from Chad Pinder, who victimized the Red Sox (21-21) in joining Mark McGwire (1996) as only the second Oakland player to hit a ball into the second deck at the Coliseum.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the A’s clubhouse at the Oakland Coliseum.

Pinder called having his name mentioned alongside the former Rookie of the Year and MVP “special”:

“That’s pretty good company, that’s an honor in itself, hearing that.”

Manager Bob Melvin said power is his club’s strength:

“We hit a lot of home runs, when we’re playing well we hit a lot of home runs — that’s how we score, for the most part.”

Before blowing this one up, the A’s continued their recent knack for answering back in the second frame, responding to a Boston two-spot with one of their own.

Where the Red Sox used power, getting a solo home run from Hanley Ramirez (6) along with an RBI single from Christian Vazquez scoring Chris Young who doubled, Oakland went with speed and patience early.

Trevor Plouffe started the rally drawing a seven-pitch walk, and Pinder matched it following a strikeout of Ryon HealyJosh Phegley, who is fleet of foot for a catcher, dropped a perfect unintentional check-swing bunt up the first base line. With starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz (ND, 3-3, 4.97 ERA) unable to make the play, Vazquez was forced from his crouch up the line to make an off-balance thrown, one he sailed into the visitors bullpen and under the player’s bench.

Third base umpire, and crew chief, Mike Winters, who drew ire from both dugouts over his strike zone Friday night, ruled that the ball left the field of play prior to Phegley rounding second, and Pinder third. By rule, Plouffe was granted home, but the other two runners were returned to second and third. A decision Melvin did not seem to agree with.

Following the game, however, the skipper said his anger was not associated with that particular ruling, which was decided to be fan interference. He chose not to address the actual issue, saying:

“That wasn’t — that’s a ground-rule, they were right about that, my issues weren’t with the ground-rule. If it’s a fan-interference, then they can place them, it’s a judgement call.”

After a brief, yet heated interaction between the two, Winters ejected Melvin, who had already turned toward the dugout.

Pinder would score to tie the game in the inning, however, as Rajai Davis followed Phegley’s lead dropping an RBI bunt single up the third base line.

Starter Sean Manaea, who was lifted after 5 innings having allowed three runs (two earned), called that habit “huge”:

“Knowing, as a pitcher, that your offense can get you a lead — not just a one-run lead, but two- or three-run leads — that’s huge, you can go out there and pitch to contact. … That’s the kind of thing that good teams do.”

Of his own performance, which included five hits and three strikeouts, Manaea (W, 2-3, 5.24 ERA) said he was most pleased with his ability to avoid walking batters.”

Oakland offered return-payment on Vazquez’s error in the fifth when Healy had a grounder clang off his midsection at first base and into foul territory near the visitors bullpen, letting Deven Marrero not only reach, but get to second. He was sent home, carrying the go-ahead run, with a two-out single from Dustin Pedroia.

When Pomeranz was relieved of his duties, it became evident that he had kept a powder-keg offense in check. The A’s greeted Boston bullpenners Ben Taylor (L, 0-1, 6.59 ERA) and Noe Ramirez with a four-homer, six-run barrage in the fifth and sixth to claim an 8-3 lead. And each homer in the fifth grew more impressive.

Mark Canha, adding on to his walk-off heroics of the night prior, launched a solo homer (3) into the second embankment of bleachers in left field. Khris Davis added a two-run bomb (13) that nearly flew into a luxury box window just to the left of straight-away center field. Jed Lowrie contributed a solo home run (6) of his own in the sixth, this one well into the seat in right field.

It was Pinder’s fifth-inning blast, though, that inspired the greatest awe. Connecting on a first-pitch, center-cut fastball, Pinder pulverized his own two-run rocket into the second deck in left-center. With the blast, the lanky utility man became just the second Athletic — fourth player ever — to reach the plaza reserve level seats.

Of the three fifth-inning homers, which added up to just over a quarter-mile of combined flight, Melvin said:

“Seems like they got longer and longer: Canha crushed that ball, KD we’ve seen it, and the Pinder one, I don’t even know how to explain that.”

Pinder himself wasn’t explain. And, he added, he was unaware of the homer’s landing spot until “a lot” of his teammates showed him the video in the clubhouse. He said:

“Honestly, it was one of those swings where you kind of blackout. You see it and you hit it, and you don’t know what happens after.”

The five-run lead was all the bullpen would need in support of Manaea, who worked five innings allowing three runs — two earned. Frankie Montas and Josh Smith combined for four zeroes, extending the Oakland bullpen’s home scoreless streak to 25 innings.

On deck

Oakland goes for a four-game sweep of the Red Sox in Sunday afternoon’s series finale. Melvin and the A’s will send top performing starter Andrew Triggs (5-2, 2.12 ERA) to the bump, he is 3-2 with a 3.25 ERA in home starts this season. Boston will counter with Eduardo Rodriguez (2-1, 3.05 ERA), who does not have a decision against the A’s despite eight scoreless innings in his only previous start against them.

Notes

Prior to the game, the A’s activated reliever John Axford (right shoulder) from the 10-day disabled list. Reliever Ryan Dull was placed on the 10-day DL with a right knee strain suffered in the ninth inning of the A’s 3-2 win Friday night, results of his Saturday morning MRI showed no structural damage. … Yonder Alonso (left knee) sat out of Saturday’s game, his third in a row. Manager Bob Melvin said the first baseman is feeling “a little bit better” each day and could possibly start Sunday’s series finale with the Red Sox. … Melvin was ejected from the game after arguing a call in the second, it was the manager’s first ejection of the season. … Trevor Plouffe (0-for-2 with two walks and two runs scored) saw his season-best 10-game hitting streak come to an end.


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s sports director and Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.