Barely 48 hours ago, the Oakland offense appeared to be floundering, in search of anything positive. After a huge Wednesday night, the Athletics cranked up their bats even more Thursday afternoon, showing that the big inning is back in the East Bay.
The A’s (92-61) rode a six-run fourth to victory Wednesday and cinched a series win over the Angels (75-78) Thursday in dominant 21-3 fashion behind a five-run third, seven-run fourth and five-run sixth.
The 21 runs are the third-most scored in A’s franchise history — second in Oakland history; the 21 runs given up ties an Angels team mark for runs allowed.
Stephen Piscotty, who added to his one-homer, five-RBI Wednesday performance with another homer four more RBIs Thursday, said he can’t remember the last time he was part of an offensive onslaught like this:
“I can’t remember. Honestly, when I saw the score on the board I thought it was a football score. It doesn’t happen all that often.”
In stark similarity to their overwhelming performance a day earlier, the A’s bats took a few innings to catch up to the competition. But after two hitless innings authored by Matt Shoemaker, the afternoon went up in smoke for another Angels starter.
Shoemaker (L, 2-2, 5.40 ERA) surrendered contact with an exit velocity eclipsing 99 mph just once in the first two innings, resulting in a Matt Chapman first-inning lineout. The third pitch he threw in the third left Josh Phegley‘s bat at a sizzling 106.2-mph for a single, Oakland’s first hit of the afternoon.
Of the five hits the A’s collected in the third, four boasted exit velocities greater than 100 mph, with Chapman’s 108.4-mph double besting Piscotty’s 102.6-mph three-run home run (26) as their hardest-hit ball of the frame.
Again, like the day prior, Nick Martini was at the head of the rally with a single.
Manager Bob Melvin has been impressed with Martini, and the rookie right fielder’s penchant for initiating attacks:
“His at-bats are terrific — they tend to ignite rallies, like they did again today. He’s been great.”
Piscotty spoke to Martini’s ability to put forth a quality at-bat as well. And while it is his single in the third that garnered appreciation, Martini said it had as much to do with his strikeout in the first.
Martini, who is among the A’s leaders having seen 4.1 pitches per at-bat, saw 19 pitches in his six trips to the plate Thursday. And while he got aggressive after his first at-bat, he credited a five-pitch strikeout in the first for his third-inning single. He added:
“I take a lot of pride in (getting hits to start rallies) because I’m not a big power guy, so I’ve got to go out and have good at-bats.”
The Oakland trigger man finished the afternoon 3-for-6 with three runs and two RBIs, mixing in a solo homer (1).
Though the result was the same, the A’s went about it a bit differently in the fourth.
Of Oakland’s eight hits in the fourth, only two left the bat at more than 100 mph.
Ramón Laureano scored a run after knocking one in on a bloop single down the right field line that came off the bat at 71.4 mph, nearly 11 mph’s slower than it came in, and with a hit probability of 11 percent. But his wasn’t the only hit that, under most circumstances, would not have been. Chapman got things started with two outs and no one on base, sending a similar bloop hit to shallow right.
His left the bat at 77.2 mph and carried with it a hit probability of five percent.
Such is what makes this Oakland offense the threat it is: These A’s can slug with any team, but they can also capitalize on simple slips by the opposition — like the inability to chase down a popup, or a rare throwing error by Andrelton Simmons — perhaps baseball’s best defensive shortstop — like the one he committed in the fourth.
One of the few A’s hitters that did hit the ball hard in the fourth was Phegley. But on a pair of liners with a combined exit velocity of 187.8, the Oakland catcher was made responsible for all three outs — lining into a double play one batter in, and lining out to end the frame.
Five would have been enough for Edwin Jackson, who is still auditioning for the right to start a potential Wild Card game, so 12 was much more than was needed.
For a time, though, it appeared as if the Oakland starter wouldn’t be around long enough to claim a win. Jackson (W, 6-3, 3.27 ERA) walked the first batter of the game and was pitching from behind for most of it. Still, he scrapped his way through 5-1/3 innings, holding the Angels to three hits and two runs while walking three.
Like the savvy veteran he is, Jackson harnessed all he could to post his best frame immediately following Oakland’s first outburst, striking out all three Halo hitters he saw in the fourth. He finished with seven strikeouts. Jackson said it was fun watching his offense run wild in his support, adding that his job became very clear:
“When you’re getting runs like that it’s always fun. The main thing you want to do is go out and continue to pitch, see how many shutdown innings you can have.”
Melvin pointed to Jackson’s veteran wisdom in crediting him for the ability to battle as long as he did:
“It looks like he’s going to have a tough time getting out of that first inning without multiple runs, potentially, and then he finds a way to right the ship. … A lot of times, that’s a veteran guy that’s been through it it allows him to take a deep breath and kinda restart. He did exactly that and the next thing you know, he’s out there in the sixth inning.”
But the A’s answered the Los Angeles run with a six-spot in the bottom half. Then, for good measure, three more in the seventh.
“Obviously, we have the ability to score some runs. … Our lineup is deep all the way through, we feel like we have a chance to score every inning.”
The Astros and Mariners are both idle Thursday, leaving the A’s 3-1/2 games back of Houston in the race for the American League West division title and 7-1/2 games ahead of Seattle in the hunt for the second Wild Card. … The Yankees, currently two games ahead of the A’s in the Wild Card race, and Rays, six games back of the A’s, each play Thursday night. … Oakland’s magic number to clinch a playoff berth now stands at five.
The A’s open a three-game set with the Twins (71-81) Friday night at the Oakland Coliseum. While Oakland has yet to announce a starter, young right-hander José Berríos (11-11, 3.81 ERA) will take the ball for Minnesota. Liam Hendriks (0-1, 5.30 ERA) could get his seventh opener assignment for the A’s in the opener.
His single in the second inning was Jed Lowrie’s 150th hit this season; this is the third 150-hit season for Lowrie (2013, 2017). … The __ runs were a season high for the A’s, topping 16 scored against the Dodgers on April 11 and Royals on June 1. It was also the most runs allowed by the Angels since Sept. 30, 2000 — a franchise record. … The A’s had eight different players score two or more runs; it is the first time since July 25, 1929 that an A’s team has accomplished the feat. This was also just the third time in A’s franchise history in which they scored five or more runs in three or more innings of a game (June 14, 1969 and Sept. 30, 2000). … Francisco Arcia pitched the final two innings for the Angels before hitting his sixth homer of the season in the ninth. … Nick Martini collected the first home run of his big league career, off Arcia, on a fly ball to straight-away right that just evaded a leaping attempt by Jabari Blash:
“It was definitely exciting and I’m happy to get that, for sure. … I was just hoping it would go out, at first. I knew I hit it pretty decent, and then I saw Blash going to scale the wall and I thought, there’s no way he’s going to jump and get this thing.”