OAKLAND – It would probably not be an exaggeration to call this current segment the A’s are starting the most important of the season.
In the last 40 regular season games, the A’s have the toughest schedule of any American League club. The beginning was a showdown of the Bay Bridge Series against the Giants, who started with the best record in baseball on Friday.
The 70th win of the year helped them keep up in a tight playoff race with the Astros, Yankees and Red Sox, who each won on Friday. The A’s remain in possession of the second AL Wild Card course and are 2 1/2 games behind Houston for first place in the AL West.
The nine-game home stand, which began Friday, will conclude next weekend with a critical streak of four against the Yankees, who have a one-game lead over Oakland for the best AL wild card.
“We just want [to the playoffs] at some point, ”said A manager Bob Melvin. “We’re more focused on winning the division. There are many teams that have come together and we are aware of that. We just try to loop through every game and above all to have a good start and a good home stand. “
The A targeted Starling Marte, Yan Gomes, and Josh Harrison in deals just before the trading deadline to turn an inconsistent criminal offense. As so often in their short stint with Oakland, the trio spearheaded the offensive, combining for five of the A’s six hits that night while driving in three of their four runs.
Each of the newcomers made a powerful contribution to Friday’s victory.
Marte does a little of everything
A one-hit night may seem below average to Marte, at least when compared to the multiple multi-hit efforts he’s given in since joining the A’s. That one hit was a major one, however, as it added the much-needed insurance.
Marte held a run in the lead in the lower part of the sixth and roped a double with two outs over the right field line, which Mark Canha scored second. Given his propensity to steal bases, it was only a matter of time before he tried to steal third parties. The A’s knew it was coming. The Giants knew it was coming.
In fact, Marte broke out with Matt Olson on the plate for third place, resulting in a rash throw from pitcher José Álvarez, who sailed down the left field line to give him his 36th stolen base that year, now with Whit Merrifield from Kansas City for the major league leadership. Marte scored easily on the wrong throw by single-handedly shifting a lead from one run to a lead from three runs by making two runs in two different ways over the span of just a few pitches.
Marte amazed most of his new teammates with his electric style of play. All but one: Harrison, who is no stranger to the outfielder’s all-round abilities, having seen it up close as his teammate with the Pirates from 2012-18.
“I’ve seen what he’s doing for years,” said Harrison. “It’s always exciting to see a new group of guys experience what I’ve had with him for a couple of years. He hasn’t lost a step. This is Marte. He’s a guy who can change the game offensively, defensively and at the bases.
“With the team we have here, he brings another element with him that makes us more dangerous.”
Marte’s defense was also on display, making an impressive bouncing catch on the barrel of a ball hit 100.4 mph by Wilmer Flores and running it deep down the center left to avoid a Giants threat in the second inning to end.
Gomes’ calming presence
Rookie James Kaprielian struggled with command problems to take the lead with a run after five innings. After Kaprielian gave way to the bullpen in game six, Jake Diekman, Yusmeiro Petit, Sergio Romo and Lou Trivino combined San Francisco to just two hits in the game’s last four innings, with Trivino’s goalless ninth crowning his 21st save of the year.
As important as Gomes’ two hits, including a double that kicked off a green rally in two runs in the fourth, was his ability to calm Kaprielian through shaky water. The right-hander, frustrated with his four best walks of the season, credited Gomes for helping him focus in tough traffic jams, especially the third when he received a visit from the veteran catcher after doing three straight strikes with two Outs was over. When Kaprielian regrouped, Kaprielian initiated a flyout from Kris Bryant who ended the inning to keep the game goalless at the time.
“For someone as competitive as me, they do a good job of keeping me on the ground,” said Kaprielian. “I felt his presence behind the bowl. When he wanted me to do a big pitch, he said, ‘Let’s go, we have this’. He told me the right thing and made me believe in myself even when I wasn’t at my best. That says a lot. “
Harrison in the clutch
Harrison triggered the A’s offense with a two-time single in the fourth. His energy was felt immediately as he raised his fist in the air on the way to the first base.
After Harrison had taken second base at the throw, he seemed to be feeding himself with an emphatic “Ride The Wave” hand gesture in the direction of the A’s shelter from the announced crowd of 40,133 people, a high number of visitors to the Coliseum for the season.
“Harrison just brings so much energy,” said Melvin. “The driving in the first two runs was huge.”
Leave a Reply