Three the hard way: Trio of solo shots holds up, A’s avoid the sweep in New York

July 23, 2017

MLB, Oakland Athletics


Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell, left, congratulates Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Santiago Casilla (46) after Casilla earned a save by closing out the ninth inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets, Sunday, July 23, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

By Morris Phillips

You do what you can do, right?

The A’s don’t score many runs, don’t get a lot of hits, and they don’t do any better when the odds are supposedly stacked in their favor with runners on base poised to score.

For that matter, the A’s strike out too much, commit too many errors, and don’t like facing lefties, National Leaguers, or playing day games. But for the most part, all that stuff is actually part of a different story.

For this story, the A’s needed to overcome their run-scoring limitations and find a way to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Mets on Sunday. And they did just that by relying on something that they do well: hitting home runs with the bases empty.

Oakland got solo shots from Marcus Semien, Khris Davis and the game-winner from Matt Chapman in the seventh to edge the Mets, 3-2 at Citi Field in New York. The A’s avoided the sweep and improved their American League-worst road victory total to 16.

But by winning by the narrowest of margins, the A’s also buried a weekend of demons in which they were narrowly defeated Friday and on Saturday, after their 5-0 lead evaporated in the final, four innings.

“We’ve gotten worn down here a little bit these first two games here where we had some leads and they came back, so it was good the guys kept grinding and kept responding,” manager Bob Melvin admitted.

This time, the A’s worked through an hour-long rain delay, and the loss of 1-0 and 2-1 leads. And with the game on the line, reliever Santiago Casilla retired three of the four Mets he faced to earn his 16th save.

The A’s have battled their youth and inexperience all season as reflected in their below-standard positioning in numerous, statistical categories. But hitting homers is one thing this club does well, hitting 134 of them in 98 games. Mets starter Rafael Montero had to be aware of the A’s proficiency with the long ball coming in, but not overly concerned. Montero had allowed just two home runs in his 45 innings pitched this season.

All that concern for Montero was heightened two batters into Sunday’s game. First, Semien launched Montero’s elevated offering into the left field seats. Then in the fourth, Davis hit his team-leading 28th home run to give the A’s a 2-1 lead. After the first two round trippers, 59 percent (80 of 136) of the A’s homers had come with the bases empty.

“Those home runs, when they occurred, that’s because I kept the ball too high,” Montero conceded.

A’s starter Daniel Gossett came in with just one win on the season–like Montero–but unlike his Mets’ counterpart, he was able to change his storyline on Sunday.  Gossett allowed five hits and two runs in his six innings of work to earn the win. Gossett addressed his won-loss record and his personal safety in the fifth when he stabbed Curtis Granderson’s liner through the box to end the inning.

The A’s open a four-game set in Toronto on Monday night. Chris Smith goes for his first, big league win in a matchup with Francisco Liriano at 4:07pm.

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