By Morris Phillips
OAKLAND–The second Ramon Laureano fist pump came about six minutes after the first. And in Oakland A’s parlance, that’s the definition of winning time as the centerfielder hand-delivered a 7-5 win over the Orioles at the Coliseum.
Laureano’s first act was a leaping catch of D.J. Stewart’s drive to the centerfield wall that would have broken a 5-5 tie and given the Orioles an eighth-inning lead. Instead, Stewart stood motionless at the plate staring at Laureano with the ball snow-coned in his glove. The great catch picked up reliever Yusmeiro Petit–who responded with a fist pump of his own–and left Ryan Mountcastle stranded at second base.
Then with two outs in the bottom of the inning, and Mark Canha on board with a single, Laureano delivered a go-ahead two-run homer off Travis Lakins, who hadn’t allowed a run and only two hits in his previous nine appearances this season.
“He’s unbelievable out there in center,” starting pitcher Sean Manaea said of Laureano. “Each time it just impresses you a little bit more than it already has, which is insane because the bar is already crazy high. It’s awesome.”
“That’s just taking over a game,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “It’s taking away two and giving you two. That’s pretty dramatic stuff.”
The win eased the frustration of dropping three straight to Baltimore and kept the A’s ahead of the pack in the AL West, a game in front of the Mariners, and a game-and-a-half ahead of the Astros.
The A’s came in a week removed from their 13-game win streak, a stark reminder in itself that the team had won just three of 15 outside the streak, including eight losses at home. Getting swept by the Orioles, along with producing baseball’s most bizarre story of the weekend–Jesus Luzardo breaking his finger while playing video games–wasn’t the team’s preference for sure.
But the improving O’s gave the A’s all they could handle, tying the game, 2-2 in the third, 4-4 in the fifth, then briefly leading 5-4 in the seventh.
It was at that point the A’s took control and the Orioles’ two bullpen standouts–Lakins and Paul Fry–uncharacteristically allowed runs to score. That Laureano was in the middle of it all wasn’t a surprise, the defensive standout has developed a reputation for lifting his team in high-leverage situations.
The A’s welcome back Marcus Semien on Monday, as the Blue Jays arrive for a four-game set with Frankie Montas and Steven Matz battling in the opener.