With the Athletics down 7-3 late Friday night, Marcus Semien‘s grand slam did more than tie the game.
The A’s shortstop’s bolt of lightning down the left field line marked the team’s 200th home run of the season, making Oakland the eighth team to reach the plateau in 2017.
Semien conceded that having a player who can hit 40 home runs on the roster is always helpful, but said:
“We’ve kind of been living and dying by [the home run], that’s not necessarily what we want.”
The 2017 A’s are the first Oakland team to hit 200 in a season since 2002. That team enjoyed 34-homer campaigns from Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada, who won the American League Most Valuable Player award. First baseman Scott Hatteberg hit the 200th home run for the 2002 A’s on Sept. 25.
MLB’s home run rate rose again this year, with the 2017 campaign on track for the most home runs ever. The current record, 5,693 home runs in 2000, amounts to 1.17 per game. 2017’s rate is 1.27.
The A’s smashed four home runs Friday night to cross the 200 threshold. Matt Chapman‘s 11th and Matt Joyce‘s 23rd preceded Semien, and rookie Boog Powell tied the game with a laser off Houston Astros closer Ken Giles over the out-of-town scoreboard in right field.
Semien is nowhere near his 2016 total (27) after missing two and a half months with a fractured wrist, but manager Bob Melvin still likes what he sees from his number two hitter:
“He’s been getting on base, he’s been laying off a few more pitches that maybe he swings at before.”
Semien’s at-bat prior to the homer was rough, to say the least. Facing right-hander Luke Gregerson, Semien seemingly checked his swing on a 1-1 slider, but first base umpire DJ Reyburn felt differently, calling it a swing on home plate ump Sam Holbrook’s appeal.
Down 1-2, Semien took a fastball that just missed the strike zone down and away. Gregerson’s next pitch was a hanging slider at 81 mph that sailed into the left field seats off Semien’s bat. Second baseman Jed Lowrie, a switch hitter, said he “can’t imagine” an at bat against Gregerson being comfortable for a right hander, which Semien is:
“Gregerson throws a hard slider and he’s been doing it for a long time. … I can’t imagine he’s given up too many like that.”
The slam ultimately allowed the A’s to remain competitive late in the game, with Jed Lowrie hitting a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth, which just happened to score Semien. The A’s trailed all night before Semien’s homer in the seventh.
“Timing couldn’t have been better with that one.”