The Athletics leadoff spot has been a revolving door, with five different names penciled in at the top of the order more than three times over the first 107 games of the season.
For the third-straight game Monday, Nick Martini found his name atop the lineup card when he arrived at the Oakland Coliseum. Martini responded with a 2-for-4 performance, leading the A’s (62-46) to a 10-1 victory over the Blue Jays (48-57) to end Oakland’s slide at three games.
The recipient of the Martini-led offensive awakening was starter Edwin Jackson who, in his 16th season making his 384th major league appearance, recorded win No. 100.
Manager Bob Melvin said the celebration following the game was made all the more sweeter with how easily Jackson has assimilated into the Oakland clubhouse:
“It’s pretty cool. The guy comes into a team, his 13th organization, and in day one fits in like he’s been here for a few years. Everybody is pretty excited for him … 100 wins is a lot of wins.”
Of the celebration, he added:
“There’s a pretty expensive bottle of champagne in there right now.”
The champagne: a magnum bottle of Ace of Spades Rosé. The celebration: a long time coming.
Jackson (W, 2-2, 3.32 ERA) recorded win No. 99 on June 30, exactly one month ago. Since then, his wife and three children have been traveling with the club to mark a moment in the making since 2003. Along with his family, including Exavier, his six-year-old son, who was in the clubhouse following the game, Jackson was excited to celebrate with his new club:
“It’s special. To look back at where I’ve come from and to imagine having 100 wins is definitely something that I never pictured. I’ve been blessed. … To be able to do with these guys, in the fashion that we did it tonight, it makes it even more special.”
Much like his four previous July starts, Jackson wasn’t as crisp as he was in June. But after walking the first two batters he faced, the veteran battled through 5-2/3 surrendering just three hits to go with three walks and five strikeouts in his first scoreless outing since Sept. 5, 2016.
A consummate team player, Jackson credited his victory to his teammates:
“This is one of those nights where you battle, you don’t necessarily have your best stuff. I had trouble finding a rhythm, finding the strike zone, that’s why this team is credited to the team.”
Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who had a laugh after the game at the fact that he had opposed Jackson so many times over their long careers, said that he had seem starts like Jackson’s before. They are the product of over-anxiousness, the nine-year vet said. But even with less-than-best his stuff, Jackson held the line in preparation for an eighth-inning Oakland uprising that featured six hits, two walks and six runs.
While the starter was on the bump though, offense was much tougher to come by. And Martini was at the center two huge rallies, scoring one run and driving in another.
With his two hits, Martini is now 10-for-23 (.435) in the A’s leadoff spot, getting on base at an incredible .519 clip. But most importantly, Oakland is 4-2 with the 28-year-old rookie batting first.
Given the flux the A’s have experienced at nearly every position this season, five different hitters leading off more than three times might not sound all that significant. But by comparison, the Mariners have had just two names listed at the top of the order more than three times this season, the Astros just one.
It is a key position for all offenses, one that must get on base and score — like Martini has.
Of his new leadoff man, who has spent the last eight seasons in the minor leagues, Melvin said:
“For a kid that’s new to the big leagues, in the position that we’re in, to come in and give you those type of at-bats … to lead off and grind away like he’s doing, get on base, get some hits, it’s been really impressive. To be leading off at this point means he’s a tough kid.”
In what has been Oakland’s crux over the past three days, they came into Monday’s contest having collected just two hits in 19 at-bats (.105 average) with runners in scoring position. It took a while, but the A’s righted that ship with three such hits in the eighth to finish the evening 3-for-8 in those money at-bats.
Toronto starter Marco Estrada (L, 4-8, 4.90 ERA) handed the home team several cheap scoring chances, walking two in the first and three in his four innings, to go along with five hits. But of nine Oakland base runners Oakland accrued against Estrada, only four crossed the plate, one in the form of a Mark Canha second-inning solo homer (14).
Any nervous energy Jackson may have had with his milestone in the capable hands of his bullpen was put at ease with the massive eighth, which included a Stephen Piscotty homer (15) and two-run doubles from Lucroy and Jed Lowrie.
The homer was the only sour note in an otherwise very celebration-worthy evening for the A’s, a club that loves to celebrate, according to Lucroy:
“Our guys, we love to celebrate milestones here. We’ve got a good clubhouse for it, we all enjoy it. … Now we’re going to move on to tomorrow.”
Trevor Cahill (2-2, 3.43 ERA) takes the hill at the Oakland Coliseum, where he is 1-0 with a 0.80 ERA in five start this season, Tuesday against Sam Gaviglio (2-3, 4.65 ERA) and the Blue Jays. Gaviglio tossed 5-1/3 scoreless with six hits allowed against the A’s in Toronto on May 19 taking a no decision in a 5-4 A’s victory.
Prior to Monday’s game, the Athletics optioned starting pitcher Frankie Montas (5-3, 3.75 ERA) to Triple-A Nashville and recalled reliever Ryan Dull (0-0, 5.89 ERA in 21 appearances with the A’s this season). Manager Bob Melvin said that the move is the result of Oakland having three off-days over the next two weeks eliminating the need for a fifth starter. Dull pitched Monday, getting one out to strand a runner at first in the sixth. … Jharel Cotton (Tommy John surgery) was at the Oakland Coliseum Monday, doing sock-throws drills before the game. Melvin called it a light at the end of a long tunnel on the path to recovery for Cotton. … Matt Joyce (lower back) suffered a setback Monday, re-aggravating the strained lumbar while swinging the bat. Melvin said the 33-year-old outfielder will seek medical diagnosis before the team plans the next step in his recovery. … Andrew Triggs (right triceps) threw for the first time Monday. Triggs (3-1, 5.23 ERA) has not pitched since May 17, when he was removed in the third inning after suffering a right triceps strain. There is no timetable for his return. … Before Monday’s game, the Blue Jays traded All-Star closer Roberto Osuna (0-0, 2.93 ERA) to the Astros in exchange for reliever Ken Giles (0-2, 4.99 ERA). … With two more RBIs Monday, Khris Davis now has 27 in the month of July, the third-most for the month in Oakland franchise history behind only Jose Canseco, who knocked in 28 in 1987 and 35 in 1991.