Over the span of 29 games, from June 30 to Aug. 8, Lowrie batted a measly .173. But after showing signs in Los Angeles over the weekend the Oakland three-hole hitter, who recorded his second multi-hit game in nearly a month Sunday, erupted Monday against Seattle for three hits, including two doubles, and four RBIs, the most he’s had since April 11.
Perhaps it was all the ringing coming from the batter’s box while he stood in the on deck circle that woke up Lowrie. Matt Chapman, extending his hit streak to 11 games and on-base streak to 27, made sure Lowrie had RBI chances collecting three doubles. Behind another strong start from Sean Manaea, the Chapman- and Lowrie-led A’s (71-48) snuck past a late charge from the Mariners (69-51), snaring a 7-6 victory to expand their AL Wild Card lead to 2-1/2 games.
The win had to wait out a two-run eighth and three-run ninth the product of a rare hiccup by what has been one of baseball’s best bullpens. But Blake Treinen (S, 31, 0.90 ERA) struck out the dangerous Nelson Cruz to strand a pair and end the game.
Stress aside, manager Bob Melvin greeted the win with open arms:
“A little closer than we wanted, but a win’s a win at the end of the day.”
Lowrie headed to his first All-Star appearance in mid July batting .285. His slump since had lowered his season average to a very pedestrian .267 entering Monday. That slump appears to be over however, busted by an 8-for-21 (.381) effort over his last five games.
He kept his mini streak rolling immediately, flipping an opposite-field single to right in the first inning to score Chapman and give the A’s an early 1-0 advantage. Given another run-scoring chance in the third, Lowrie rolled a double just inside the bag at third and into the corner for a two-run double, chasing Chapman and Marcus Semien home.
Just to slap some emphasis on his productive night, Lowrie, this time batting right-handed, chopped another by Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager into the left field corner, once again scoring Chapman.
As Melvin said after the game, each of Lowrie’s hit directly impacted the outcome of the game — after a late bullpen letdown. The skipper said that his second baseman is beginning to look like a guy that was acknowledged as one of the game’s most impactful bats:
“He looks like a different guy now again. His legs are incorporated in his swing; he’s driving balls; he’s using the whole field.”
The reason Lowrie found himself in so many money situations was Chapman, whose three doubles matched a franchise single-game record last accomplished by the same man on June 12. He became the third player in Oakland A’s history to record two three-double games in a single season, joining Joe Rudi (1974) and Ben Grieve (1989)
Chapman has gone the opposite direction of Lowrie since the All-Star break, batting .330 (33-for-100) since the start of the second half and is now batting .279. Chapman is also batting .320 since his move to the two spot in the lineup, where he has been asked to get on in front of Lowrie and cleanup man Khris Davis instead of being among those asked to drive others in. He said:
“I feel like I’m a table-setter right now, just trying to get no base and let Jed and KD hit me in. If that’s what BoMel thinks is best for the team then I’m with it.”
“As good as he is right now, he has the ability to get a lot better. He’s going to end up being one of those guys, those top-flight guys.”
Seattle starter Marco Gonzales (L, 12-8, 3.91 ERA) was victimized by the majority of the assault launched by Lowrie and Chapman, serving up eight hits, including two of Chapman’s doubles, and four runs in his five innings of work.
But he has contributed to the success of the A’s with more than his bat. In what has become something of an everyday occurrence, Chapman wowed his teammates, particularly Manaea, with his latest improbable defensive play, diving to his left, popping to his feet and firing across the diamond in time to rob the speedy Jean Segura of a hit in the fourth.
More Planking by Chappy pic.twitter.com/UmaaOykYet
— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) August 14, 2018
Said the starter:
“I don’t even know what I was saying — just screaming gibberish. It shouldn’t come as a surprise but that play was huge.”
Manaea (W, 11-8, 3.44 ERA) didn’t need much more help than that, though. The southpaw getting the starting nod on International Left-Handers Day entered the fray on the heels of 2-2/3-inning three-run effort and a loss but having not lost back-to-back decisions since May.
He kept that run alive, holding the Mariners to five hits and two walks over 7-2/3 innings, while one of the two runs that crossed to his record was scored on a hit surrendered by Emilio Pagán, who was unable to finish the eighth.
Mitch Haniger, who was described as being a pain in everybody’s side by Melvin after the game, provided the punch for the M’s, picking up three hits, knocking in two runs and scoring two more.
Mike Fiers (7-6, 3.40 ERA) makes his second start since being acquired by the A’s Tuesday. Fiers struggled in his only start against the Mariners this season, allowing six hits and four runs over five innings in a losing effort as a member of the Tigers in May. Ace James Paxton (10-5, 3.63 ERA) will toe the rubber for Seattle carrying a 4.71 ERA over his last nine starts.
Matt Joyce (lower back) hit off a tee and in soft-toss before the game and is expected to hit on the field this week, manager Bob Melvin said. Joyce received a second epidural shot two weeks ago and has not appeared in a game for the A’s since July 4. … Jharel Cotton (Tommy John surgery), Andrew Triggs (right triceps) and Paul Blackburn (right elbow) played catch on the field before the game. This is a first for Blackburn and Cotton since their injuries, according to Melvin who called Cotton a “pretty happy boy:”
“For him, it’s a big day because it’s a lot of hard work coming off of Tommy John, that’s a tough thing to rehab from — it can be a lonely existence when you’re doing that.”
Melvin and the A’s are “holding out hope” that Triggs and Blackburn will be able to return to action at some point this season. … With a steal of second in the third inning, Marcus Semien set a career high with his 13th stolen base of the season. His previous high was 12, set last year.