The focus in Oakland almost always on the offense, which has scored the most runs (444) or on the pitching, which has the second-best ERA in the majors (3.11).
The thing is, the A’s can do more. And they did more Monday in the opener against the Giants, a team they will play three more times this week.
The A’s first run came in the fifth inning off Giants’ starter Ryan Vogelsong, who hit Craig Gentry with a pitch. Gentry then stole second and took third as Coco Crisp dropped down a brilliant bunt down the first base line, beating it out with a speed show of his own.
“It’s a good combination when they’re both on,’’ manager bob Melvin said. “there’s the dynamic where (the pitcher) has to be quick to the plate.’’
Gentry was batting ninth and Crisp first, a setup that Melvin likes because of the combined speed factor as the lineup turns over.
In the third inning Gentry singled and the threat of him stealing (he’s now 16-for-16 this season) may have helped Crisp (15-for-18) draw a walk.
Oakland didn’t score in that inning, but in the fifth, when Gentry was hit by Vogelsong, the same basic dynamic was in play. Vogelsong and the San Francisco infield had to be wary of Gentry, and he stole anyway.
When he was on second base, there might have been some tendency for the Giants to play a little deeper on the infield, and Crisp put the bunt down and used his speed to beat out a hit that led to the game’s first run.
Before the night was over, the A’s would have three steals – the others came from Crisp and Eric Sogard – and while only Gentry’s would lead to a run, the pressure the base running puts on shouldn’t be overlooked.
Oakland is 53-for-63 in steals this season, a success percentage of 84.1 that moves them back ahead of the Nationals (83.6) as the best in the Major Leagues in that category. Other teams have stolen more, but those teams have also been thrown out more, sometimes much more.
“Speed doesn’t take a day off,’’ catcher John Jaso said. “Unless you’re catching.’’