By Morris Phillips
Mired in a funk, stuck in last place, and headed nowhere fast, the A’s came out swinging on Saturday.
And this time, all that swinging had the desired effect on the outcome of the game, as the A’s rolled to a 10-4 win over the Nationals that ended a rough week of six losses in seven games.
With one-third of the season in the books, the A’s have firmly established themselves among the AL’s best home run hitting clubs with 82 homers in 55 games. But hitting home runs has not translated into winning games: after Saturday’s victory, the A’s are just 23-21 when they hit at least one home run.
In fact, not hitting home runs is a truer indicator for these A’s: only once in 55 games have they won without a home run. Oakland’s 1-10 when hitting no home runs.
When you don’t catch the ball, pitch consistently, or hit for average, yeah, even the game’s most powerful act can get obscured. That just wasn’t the case on Saturday: Ryon Healy and Jed Lowrie homered in the first inning off former Athletic Tyson Ross’ younger brother, Joe Ross, and the A’s cruised past the NL East leaders.
Healy would go on to homer a second time in the seventh, and smash a pair of doubles, all part of the best all-around day of his career. Afterwards, manager Bob Melvin said the performance shows why he so bullish on his young infielder: Healy’s passionate, plenty emotional, but resilient and a authentic student of the game.
“It’s been a little bit of a tough time for him, especially defensively,” Melvin said. “But then (Healy) ends up making a great tag on what ends up being a big out at third on the replay. He’s a tough-minded kid, got a lot of ability, but still kind of new at the big league level, still developing, but boy, he can really hit.”
Healy’s feat of four extra bases in one game hadn’t been accomplished by an Oakland player since July 2009 by Matt Holliday. And he was on everything: he took advantage of hitters’ counts on three of his hits, but he also rapped reliever Jacob Turner’s 0-2, 96 mph fastball for a double in the fifth. In the seventh, with Turner laboring through a fourth inning of relief, Healy sent his batting practice fastball careening off the center field camera platform.
“You can’t miss good pitches to hit,” Healy said.
In the seventh, Daniel Murphy doubled off Daniel Coulombe, and was initially ruled safe at third, ahead of a bang-bang tag by Healy. But the review revealed the opposite, and Murphy was ruled out, short circuiting a Nats’ rally, with them trailing by three runs at that point.
The A’s registered a season-high ten runs, one day after losing by ten to red-hot Washington. Starter Daniel Mengden benefited by Bryce Harper’s final game of suspension, and a day off for hard-hitting Anthony Rendon, which weakened the lineup of baseball’s highest-scoring team. Still, Mengden ran into trouble in the fifth, when he was lifted with a pair of runners aboard, and Adam Lind–who had connected for a three-run homer earlier–coming up.
With reliever Liam Hendricks on the mound, Lind walked to load the bases, but Michael Taylor struck out to end the inning. Hendricks pitched the sixth as well, and picked up the win.
On Sunday, the A’s have Sonny Gray on the mound in a matchup with the Nats’ Tanner Roark at 1:05pm.