A’s not letting early season struggles define them

By Morris Phillips

Among the encouraging things happening with the A’s the last couple of games?

Seth Brown may finally be ready to bring his big fly game to the Major League level.

The 28-year old is well-known in minor league circles as an unrepentant slugger, the author of 92 home runs since his debut in 2015, including 37 in just 112 games for AAA Las Vegas in 2019.

That last line had the A’s hopeful Brown could elevate his game in Oakland, but in his first 36 games with the A’s over the last three seasons, Brown didn’t clear any fences…

Until Saturday night. With the A’s 6-0 lead cut in half, Brown took reliever Ryan Stanek into the upper deck, a not-high-enough fastball turned into a memory of a lifetime. So majestic was Brown’s homer, the flight of the ball on television revealed the entire Minute Maid Park scoreboard showing Brown’s numbers without a home run for the last time.

“The only thing he doesn’t have on his resume is a homer for a guy who really is a home run hitter,” manager Bob Melvin said. “I know that takes a lot of pressure off him now that he finally has a home run.”

Pressure off Brown? More succinctly, pressure off the entire Oakland roster. Brown’s shot put the finishing touches on a 7-3 win, the A’s third in four games after an 0-6 start. Not wanting to get buried in the competitive AL West two weeks in, the A’s are fighting back, and giving their 2021 season a healthier look.

In the last four games, the A’s have out-manuvered the Dodgers late, come up with some more late game magic in Houston on Friday, and set up a couple of wins with nearly identical, exemplary starts by Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas.

The key? When you don’t fall behind early–as the A’s did repeatedly in their winless start–you can pick your spots and pounce on the opposition in the later innings.

“We grind it out a little bit and stay in the game until we do something nice late,” said Mark Olson, who came up big in Friday’s win. “I think we can take this momentum and ride it out.”

A few key presences must be reclaimed from the injury list with Chad Pinder (knee), Mike Fiers (hips), Burch Smith (strained groin) and A.J. Puk (strained biceps) on the 10-day injured list, and Trevor Rosenthal on the 60-day list after surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome on Thursday.

Matt Chapman and Sean Murphy remain mired in awful slumps, but both have expressed optimism in recent days–not just for themselves, but for the team as a whole.

We’re always rotating guys and new faces, so for us, it always takes a little bit to get going,” Chapman said. “But once we get going, we’re able to really bond and really pick up steam.”

The A’s open a two-game set with the Diamondbacks in Phoenix on Monday. Familiar face Madison Bumgarner squares off against Chris Bassitt in the opener at 6:40pm.

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