Though he continues to search at the plate after a right hand injury, Matt Chapman has made his return very visible in the field.
Chapman — whom anyone even remotely associated with the Athletics would tell you will rivals six-time Gold Glover Eric Chávez defensively at third — returned from an 18-day injury hiatus Tuesday. He has gone hitless (0-for-6) since returning, but his trio of Chávez-like plays helped the A’s (48-39) claim a 4-2 Fourth of July victory and four-game season sweep of the Padres (37-51) Wednesday.
Even with the heroics of their third baseman, the A’s found themselves down once again. But, once again, they were not out, scoring the games final four runs, three driven in by Stephen Piscotty, to convert a second comeback win in as many days and a sixth during a current 8-1 stretch.
Manager Bob Melvin said of his team’s ability to maintain steadfast faced with early deficits so often of late:
“We’ve been pretty resilient, it doesn’t seem to bother us when we get down early in the game.”
Sean Manaea (ND, 8-6, 3.33 ERA) was the man tasked with preventing the fireworks this Independence Day, pyrotechnics that have been supplied to San Diego almost solely by third baseman Christian Villanueva. Entering Wednesday, Villanueva was the only Padre to have homered more than nine times (16) this season.
The Oakland ace was unable to extinguish his power, as Villanueva became the first Padre to eclipse the 40-RBI mark with a two-run home run (17) in the second inning.
Manaea, who had walked Hunter Renfroe leading off the second in front of Villanueva’s dinger, started funneling grounders to his third baseman following the homer, and it proved to be the right decision.
Chapman showed range both left and right, and came up firing with a healthy right hand when he gathered. On most days, a diving play to his left to rob A.J. Ellis of a single and end the fourth would have been the highlight of his day, but Chapman was far from done.
With Villanueva, 2-for-2 with a homer and a single at the time, lingering in the on-deck circle and Wil Myers on first with one out, Manaea gave up a screaming one-hopper about 10 feet inside the bag at third. Instead of an RBI double, Chapman turned the Renfroe smash into what, in the end, looked like a routine double play.
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Melvin said Chapman has expected rust to shake off with the bat, but called the third baseman’s defense “off the charts:”
“You look at the boxscore and he goes 0-fer but for us he drove in like three runs because there’s two plays there that are going to lead to some runs … and one of them leads to two outs. … That’s one of the reasons we wanted to get him back as quickly as he could.”
Manaea marveled at the play, though he did admit that it is the sort of thing he come to expect from Chapman:
“Unbelievable. I don’t think too many guys can make that play. He’s just been amazing the whole season. It’s amazing but, at the same time, it happens all the time.”
The play may not have been a great surprise coming from a guy who has made the impossible look mundane since he arrived in Oakland last June. But the man himself had something new going on.
After committing a pair of rare errors in his last start before landing on the DL, Chapman said he had never felt comfortable wearing shades in the field. But in his first day game since the June 14 loss, the 25-year-old took the field donning a pair of green-framed Oakleys.
Chapman admitted after the game that there was some fear regarding the use of sunglasses, which can cause problems with seeing balls hit 90 feet at upwards of 100 miles per hour directly at a third baseman, but that his success Wednesday is a confidence-builder.
Chapman helped Manaea keep San Diego from igniting its offense, while Piscotty gave the A’s all the offense they would need.
Tying an Oakland franchise record — last reached by Chapman on June 12 — with three doubles, Piscotty tallied an answer-back RBI in the second following Villanueva’s homer, then two more to give Oakland its first lead of the afternoon in the eighth.
Piscotty, who added a stellar leaping catch at the wall in the first, finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs setting up closer Blake Treinen (S, 22, ERA) to shut the door and make the A’s 34-0 when leading after the seventh inning.
The A’s offensive hero said after the game:
“We know we have a really good offense and if we keep the game close anything can happen in any inning. We’ve been doing it all year, it’s a great testament to this team, how we battle late.”
Lou Trivino (W, 7-1, 1.49 ERA) got the win after escaping a bases-loaded jam in the eighth. But the table was set for him by Manaea, who outpitched San Diego’s Luis Perdomo (ND, 1-2, 6.86 ERA) holding the Padres to four hits and two runs over seven innings.
Melvin had nothing but praise to offer his starter:
“He gives up a quick one and then seems to come back and get back in the game. I think that’s maturing as a pitcher that you give up a two-spot right away and you’ve got to put that away and say that’s all they’re going to get and that’s what he did.”
José Castillo (L, 1-2, 2.84 ERA) was tagged with the loss.
With the home portion of their first-half schedule now complete, the A’s embark on a three-city, 11-game road trip leading to the All-Star Break following an off-day Thursday. Paul Blackburn will be tasked with opening the roadie on Friday in Cleveland. Blackburn (2-2, 6.46 ERA) is coming off his best start of the season, shutting Cleveland out over 6-1/3 last Friday. He will be matched up against Carlos Carrasco (8-5, 4.24 ERA) who is expected to be activated from the disabled list (right elbow contusion) in time for the game.
Manager Bob Melvin said Wednesday that Andrew Triggs (right triceps), who had his rehab process halted due to tingling in his right elbow, has suffered no structural damage in his throwing arm. He is expected to begin throwing once again as soon as the discomfort subsides. … Brett Anderson (left shoulder) made his third rehab start Tuesday, allowing four hits and two runs over 5-2/3 innings. He walked two and struck out five throwing 81 pitches. Melvin said before Wednesday’s game that the lefty could be activated to make his next appearance during the A’s upcoming road trip. … Daniel Mengden (right foot) will make a rehab start with Triple-A Nashville Friday. … Chris Bassitt, who suffered a scrape on his right leg during Tuesday’s game, is not expected to miss his next start. Melvin said that while he was experiencing some pain the right-hander was “was moving around OK out there.” A decision regarding his availability will be made in the coming days. If he is unavailable for his next start, which would come in Houston on Monday, Anderson could be the one tapped. … Khris Davis collected an RBI single in the third and added a double and run scored in the eighth, pushing his hitting streak to seven games. During that stretch, Davis is batting .370 (10-for-27) with five RBIs despite having gone without a homer.