For a guy who hit the game-winning home run and averted the anguish of a ruined Jesse Hahn pitching performance, Billy Butler didn’t sound like a very happy man following Sunday’s 3-2 A’s victory over Tampa Bay.
Butler is laboring through his worst major-league season by far. He’s been so unproductive –- two home runs and 22 RBIs as he entered Game No. 99 — the A’s have ignored the fact he is their third highest-paid player and made him a part-time employee who is only generally in the lineup against left-handed pitching.
The veteran designated hitter thinks that’s wrong, and hitting an eighth-inning center field blast off right-handed reliever, Erasmo Ramirez, to preserve Oakland’s seventh win in 10 games since the All-Star break finally gave him the platform to say so.
It hasn’t been much more pulsating for the A’s all year than it was Saturday night at the Coliseum. Maybe it wasn’t just a thrilling aberration, either.
All within about 10 minutes, Kendall Graveman finished off the A’s first complete game of the year, Jake Smolinski smacked a tying two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning and rookie Ryon Healy followed with a game-winning solo blast to give Oakland a 4-3 comeback victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Best of all, a crowd of 30,436 was on hand to see the A’s third walk-off win this week, and their sixth win in nine games since the All-Star break. Most of the fans came to see a post-game fireworks show, but the pyrotechnics started early thanks to a couple of players who could be major figures in Oakland’s long-range future.
“Two really loud sounds by a couple of young players who are getting a chance to play every day,” said manager Bob Melvin. “It’s exciting to watch.”
The decaying Coliseum added another dubious chapter to its legacy Saturday night, costing Josh Reddick an RBI triple, Rich Hill a possible win in his mound return and the A’s very likely a victory.
With a crowd of 26,846 in the house awaiting a postgame pyrotechnics show, Oakland was burned by its own ballpark –a hole at the base of the right field wall in fair territory that short-circuited an A’s rally and ultimately led to a 4-2 Pittsburgh Pirates victory in 10 innings.
With two outs in the fifth inning and Jed Lowrie on first base for the A’s, Reddick hammered a ball over the head off Pittsburgh right fielder Sean Rodriguez for what appeared would give the A’s the go-ahead run with the score tied 2-2. Lowrie steamed all the way around the bases to score, while Reddick scampered into third.
When Reddick turned around to look into right field, however, Rodriguez was holding both hands up – the ball had lodged in a small opening at the base of the fence and Reddick had somehow found the hole on the fly.
With Josh Reddick off the disabled list and back in his familiar third spot in the batting order Tuesday night, the A’s fielded their optimum offensive lineup for the first time in more than a month.
Even though Reddick didn’t have much to do with it, Oakland once again looked like a team that has rediscovered some serious potential at the bat rack. Even though the A’s saw their bullpen spring a leak for the second time in three days, the A’s rallied from a pair of three-run deficits for a wild 13-11 victory over the Giants at AT&T Park.
Jake Smolinski’s three-run pinch-hit home run off veteran Giants reliever Javier Lopez in the eighth inning was the most dramatic blow that ultimately gave Oakland its fifth victory in six games, and a two-game mini-sweep at a park where they’d lost 13 of 16 coming into this year’s Bay Bridge clash. Now it’s over to the Coliseum for two more to see if they can inflict even more damage to the reeling Giants.
Daniel Mengden has done nothing but impress since he brought his wacky windup, high socks and handlebar mustache to Oakland, and the A’s finally rewarded him for all of his fine work on Monday night.
After scoring just four runs for him combined in his first three major-league starts – all losses Mengden didn’t really deserve — the A’s hammered the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija for five runs in the second inning, continued to add on in later frames and rolled to an 8-3 victory at AT&T Park.
Marcus Semien’s towering three-run homer to center field was the big blow in Oakland’s early outburst as the A’s continued to gather steam following an impressive four-game series in Anaheim, where they won three of four from the Los Angeles Angels and were a bullpen blowup from completing a sweep.
Sonny Gray finally beat the bug that knocked him out of his Opening Day start and made up for lost time against the Chicago White Sox Wednesday night.
Not coincidentally, the A’s also recovered from the One-Run Loss Flu. With Gray allowing just three hits over seven innings and striking out five, Oakland made a meager offensive output stand up in a 2-1 victory over the Sox after two disheartening defeats by a run to open the season.
The A’s ran into a tough pitching customer themselves at the Coliseum in Chicago’s latest left-handed starter, Carlos Rodon (0-1), but Rodon was outpaced by Gray, who other than some slight command rustiness (four walks), only really allowed one hard-hit ball that ultimately became the visitors’ only run.
SAN FRANCISCO – Eleven years is a long time. It’s an even longer time for a baseball team not to develop one of its own draft picks as a fixture position player.
But that’s how long it’s been for the A’s, whose last drafted-and-developed everyday player who played any extended length of time with them was shortstop Cliff Pennington, their top pick way back in 2005.
Most of their top position prospects since either didn’t make the grade, didn’t last long like Jemile Weeks, or were traded to other teams before making it to the majors like Addison Russell.
Enter 22-year-old third baseman Matt Chapman, who looks like the best bet to end that dubious drought. Chapman, who hit 23 home runs in just 80 games for Class A Stockton last year despite fighting a bad wrist, could conceivably be in Oakland by September if his impressive spring carries over into his anticipated next assignment at Double-A Midland.
SAN FRANCISCO – A’s manager Bob Melvin called a team meeting Thursday night at AT&T Park to remind his position players one last time that the team is likely to have a lineup that changes fairly dramatically from day to day.
Translation: Nobody’s head should be so big that they should consider themselves a lock everyday starter.
Right fielder Josh Reddick may not have to worry much about that, but for just about everybody else, a look at the lineup card will be essential viewing upon arrival in the Oakland clubhouse in 2016. That may even include assumed regulars like designated hitter Billy Butler, shortstop Marcus Semien and third baseman Danny Valencia.
“Starters for us are relative,” Melvin said. “We’ll have two different lineups with what we feel are all potential starters. There will be five different guys in the lineup (Friday night) who we feel are all starters, too. It’s going to be about the collective 25 and these guys need to know that. We need to put egos aside for the team and know if we’re going to succeed, it’s going to take all 25 guys.”
It just wasn’t Sonny Gray’s day Saturday, both on and off the field.
The A’s ace starter was up in the wee hours of the morning to tend to his 1-year-old son Gunnar, and the youngster was still so cranky after his latest spring outing, he had to bolt Hohokam Park without speaking to the media.
Earlier, on the mound, things didn’t go so well, either. Gray pitched 5-plus innings and gave up six runs – five of them earned – on eight hits and a walk. He also committed an uncharacteristic error and threw two wild pitches in the A’s 7-6 split-squad victory over Cincinnati. He didn’t strike out a batter.
Gray did say via text message that – little wonder — he just got a little tired during his third spring outing and that there wasn’t anything to worry about. Manager Bob Melvin wasn’t worried, either.
As A’s pitcher Jarrod Parker grapples with whether to continue his baseball career after a fourth major arm injury, he really owes it to himself to stop by new teammate Ryan Madson’s locker for a chat before he makes a decision.
Parker doesn’t necessarily have to ask Madson for advice. He simply needs to hear his story, both for his psychological and physical well-being, and perhaps to develop a proper framework to make that decision.
Madson only endured one significant arm injury, not four. But he did spent two fruitless seasons trying to come back from an elbow injury first suffered during spring training in 2012, and frustrated by his efforts to complete a comeback with two different clubs for which he never threw a single pitch, he retired altogether in 2014, bitter and full of self pity.
“I wasn’t on a content path when I was finished in 2012 and 2013 and basically in 2014 when I actually quit,” Madson said. “I was happy at home, but I wasn’t content with the way my career ended and I think that would have haunted me for a long time, not being to overcome my injury.”