For nearly a week, the Oakland offense has been like a duck floating on a pond: lots of activity, but very little to show for it.
Entering Wednesday’s showdown with the rival Angels, the Athletics had lost three straight, and four of five, posting just enough late offense to steal one win and make their losses look closer than they had been. And while the offensive funk had encompassed the entirety of the Oakland lineup, no two players had played larger roles than Jed Lowrie and Stephen Piscotty.
Both broke out of their slumps in a major way, leading the A’s (91-61) to a much-needed victory, a 10-0 throttling of the Angels (75-77).
Brett Anderson, who became the first Oakland starter to go as deep as two outs into the seventh in 26 games, said it was nice to get back to playing three-faceted “A’s” baseball:
“Not that we’ve played bad, just kinda played some atypical games. Today was back to what we normally do, it was an overall team win.”
While all 18 men that made their way into the game for the A’s made some level of contribution, no two had a greater impact than the two that had been in the greatest scuffle.
Lowrie and Piscotty, like their seven teammates in the lineup, found nothing against Los Angeles starter Felix Peña the first time through. Peña (L, 3-5, 4.20 ERA) coasted through three perfect innings, surrendering hard contact just twice and striking out two, including Piscotty in the second.
But the second time through the order was an entirely different story.
After facing nine hitters through three innings, Peña saw 10 A’s batters in the fourth and didn’t retire any of them until he had been tagged for six hits and five runs. Following back-to-back singles to lead off the frame, Lowrie broke the scoring seal on the scoreless game smoking a line drive to left-center for a two-run double. Three hitters later, Piscotty rocketed his own opposite-field two-run double.
Entering Wednesday’s game, the duo of Stanford alums had combined to go 4-for-38 (.105) with two RBIs over the A’s last five games. In the fourth inning alone, they drove in four, but they were far from done.
All told, the A’s recorded six hits, one walk and six runs in the monstrous fourth, and while Lowrie and Piscotty provided the two biggest punches, the latter said the rally belonged to lead-off man Nick Martini, who started the inning with a line-drive single, Oakland’s first hit:
“We had to break the seal then floodgates opened. … Anytime your team is scuffling and someone laces a ball it kinda serves as a jolt to the offense, and we were able to capitalize.”
Lowrie popped out in the sixth to finish 1-for-3, but Piscotty put on ice a game already with little in doubt, smashing a three-run homer (25) just inside the left field foul pole and into the second deck. His five RBIs matched a career high for the Pleasanton native.
Manager Bob Melvin called Lowrie’s double a big hit not just for him but for the team, saying that while the All-Star second baseman is prone to slumps he always seems to bust out at the right time with a huge hit, like Wednesday’s. As for Piscotty, the skipper called his power “very underrated:”
“I throw batting practice to him everyday, he’s got some juice in his bat. Upper deck, you don’t see that much here.”
Melvin went on to call this season Piscotty’s best, a sentiment the right fielder coyly agreed with. The manager said:
“He’s been huge. He’s as productive and clutch a guy as we’ve had all year, too.”
Both Lowrie and Piscotty, along with most of the A’s starting nine, were lifted in the seventh.
The nine runs would have been enough on most any night, but Wednesday it was far more than enough given Anderson’s stellar start.
Anderson (W, 4-5, 3.96 ERA), making his second start since returning from a forearm injury, vastly outperformed his four-run, 3-1/3-inning effort in Baltimore last week. The southpaw lasted 6-2/3 innings, the longest an A’s starter has lasted since he went seven on Aug. 21, holding the Halos to three hits while striking out three. And he did it efficiently, finally retiring for the night just 82 pitches into his outing.
Melvin said the southpaw featured a good-looking breaking ball in the bullpen before the game, but surprisingly didn’t need it in-game. Anderson seconded:
“Felt like (Dallas) Braden out there pitching with changeups. … You ride what’s working and today it was changeup, fastball-changeup command. It’s good to be back on the winning track.”
The Braden-like Anderson rode his sinker-changeup combo all night, recording 12 of his 20 outs via the groundball.
Melvin said the effort he received from Anderson was huge for multiple reasons: it allowed the late-inning portion of the Oakland bullpen to take the night off, but more importantly, it joined the breakout offensive performance in getting the A’s back into the win column:
“It had been a while since we’d lost three straight. … You know, you’re going to have times where you lose a few games in a row. It hadn’t happened in a while, and after losing three in a row you see how a team responds, and they came out and played a great game all the way around.”
The Yankees beat the Red Sox, 10-1, in New York Wednesday night and remain 2-1/2 games ahead of the A’s for the first Wild Card spot. … The Rays pushed their winning streak to five with a 9-3 victory over the Rangers in Texas to remain 5-1/2 games back of the A’s for the second Wild Card spot. The Mariners, who beat the Astros 9-0 in Houston, stay seven games behind the A’s, and Houston, with the loss, is now hold a four-game advantage over the A’s in the race for the AL West title.
The A’s will send Edwin Jackson (5-3, 3.17 ERA) to the mound Thursday afternoon in search of a series victory to lower their magic number to clinch a playoff berth to five. Los Angeles will counter Matt Shoemaker (2-1, 3.98 ERA), making his fourth start since March.
Trevor Cahill (back) threw 35 pitches off the mound Wednesday and is expected to return to the mound this weekend against the Twins, according to manager Bob Melvin. Cahill (6-3, 3.77 ERA) last pitched Sept. 9, allowing three runs in 2-2/3 innings. … Right-handed pitcher Logan Shore was sent to Detroit completing the A’s Aug. 6 trade with the Tigers in which Oakland acquired Mike Fiers. Shore joins fellow right-handed pitcher Nolan Blackwood as the two players to be named later sent to Detroit in return for Fiers. … Angels catcher Joe Hudson (27) recorded the first hit of his big league career recorded, a line-drive single to left with two outs in the third. Sean Manaea (left shoulder) underwent successful subacromial decompression, acromioplasty and posterior labral repair surgery Wednesday afternoon, according to the team. Manaea (12-9, 3.59 ERA) last pitched Aug. 24 and is expected to miss much, if not all, of the 2019 season.