Inside pitch: Offense carries A’s to sweep of Yanks

The Oakland Athletics rebounded from a two-game sweep at the hands of the 27-win Marlins in Miami by coming home and taking all four from the American East-leading New York Yankees.

That turnaround is right in line for the A’s (31-38), who now sit at 22-13 at home but have lost 25 of 34 on the road. Everything has been better for the green and gold in Oakland, they have scored 4.97 runs per home game, while giving up 5.14, to 3.65 runs scored and 5.56 allowed away.

The A’s actually boast baseball’s sixth-best home record, and the second-worst road record.

Beyond winning four close, hard-fought games — including three one-run efforts — Oakland got major contributions from everyone, from rookie Matt Chapman, who was called up Friday, to Ryon Healy, he is battling for an All-Star nod. From Sean Doolittle, who recorded his second and third saves of the season, to Jharel Cotton, who recorded his first win since May 3.

And that is the type of effort, particularly from the young players, manager Bob Melvin said can produce momentum:

“It’s a big series, especially for the younger guys. … We did this in 2012, and this was a springboard in 2012 for us to do what we did. Now, I’m not comparing it to 2012, I’m just saying we had a big series in 2012 against these guys and all the younger guys we had gained confidence because of it.”

Fastball: Maximizing the offense with OBP

Oakland tied for the fewest home runs (7) in the AL for the week, and had just 25 extra-base hits, but produced 35 runs (5.8 per game) — the offense is averaging 4.3 runs on the season.

How? Despite a .265 team average, the club got on-base at a .348 clip (No.6, AL) through 29 walks — fewer only than the Yankees and Cleveland, each playing one more game than the A’s.

There is still room for growth for the “Swingin’ A’s,” whose .310 on-base percentage is second-worst in the AL, largely due to their low walk total — 219 (3.2 per game).

Changeup: Joyce leads the way

Matt Joyce was brought to Oakland for his ability to get on base. After entering the season with a career .341 on-base percentage, Joyce carried a .287 OBP into June. In the season’s third month, though, the outfielder has found his way aboard at a .482 clip raising his season mark to .336.

He juiced that number with a four-game explosion leading off for the A’s against New York. In the series, Joyce collected eight hits in 16 at-bats, adding four walks.

Joyce expects this run to catapult himself and his team, he told SFBay:

“For me, it’s a lot more fun to contribute and obviously to help the team win. … This was a series, for me, that the constant consistent hard work shone through and paid off.”

Curveball: Making moves in June

The Oakland front office started making moves a bit early, while still very much in the hunt.

Longtime pitching coach Curt Young was fired Thursday, replaced by bullpen coach Scott Emerson. Third baseman Trevor Plouffe, who was acquired this past offseason, was designated for assignment on the same day.

While moves similar can at times signal the waving of the white flag, these may have been the turning point for the A’s, who have rattled off four straight wins since.

Sinker: Pitching falters

Oakland pitchers combined for a 5.90 ERA and .293 opponent’s batting average.

Not only was the staff hit hard the first two games against the Yankee offense, it allowed 17 runs in two games to the Marlins. To be fair, both offenses are formidable, but they left too much of the onus on the offense, which cannot be expected to continue carrying such a load. This team was constructed with the expectation that the pitching staff take on the lion’s share of the responsibility. Continuing to roll will demand both numbers come down.

Slider: Khris gets crushed

Khris Davis suffered the worst single game imaginable, striking out four times and having a pop-up fall on the infield while he walked toward the dugout instead of first base.

That Saturday performance was a low point capping a 3-for-24 run over five games. But, at the end of every plummet is a climb, and Khris came back Sunday going 2-for-4 with a homer (18) and two RBIs.

Of the two-run bomb, which proved to be the game-winner, he said it was a relief:

“I was just happy to get the job done, with a runner at third and two outs. That’s a big knock, and a big momentum builder.”

Pitch-out: Tough test ahead

Oakland gets to test their momentum immediately, facing the team with baseball’s best record. The Houston Astros (46-24) come to town for four games starting Monday.

After hosting the AL’s top team average (.279) and slugging percentage (.474), the A’s get back to the road for three at the Chicago White Sox (31-37) looking to put some tallies on the left side of the that column.

Khris said beating a team as good as the Yankees will help in doing so, and shows that there is now give-up in his club:

“It was a confidence booster, for sure, just because they’re a great team on the other side. They’ve got a lot of power guys, and we just battled and battled, just showed how relentless we can be.”

 


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.