By Morris Phillips
The pandemic-truncated season doesn’t allow much time for teams to figure things out. But the A’s bought themselves a few extra measures with an unlikely, 3-2 win over the Mariners on Sunday.
The A’s are in mental quarantine, having hit just .175 over their last six games while scoring a measly 16 runs and enduring a three-game losing streak.
But they won the last two, they’re back over .500, and they just might get their full allotment of 51 more opportunities to look more like their true selves.
Ramon Laureano’s two-out, three-run homer in the fifth was all the offense the A’s could muster, but they made it stand up in a one-run win. The big moment was set up by two, subtle pieces of good fortune.
Former A’s starter Kendall Graveman was cruising for Seattle, but after two seasons removed from action due to Tommy John sugery, Graveman isn’t going to throw 25 plus pitches in the fifth inning of any start in 2020. Frustration had set in as well as that 25th pitch turned into a well-placed, infield single from Marcus Semien, the A’s struggling leadoff man hitting below .200 coming into the at-bat.
With runners at the corners, manager Scott Servais summoned reliever Anthony Misiewicz, a lefty facing the right-handed hitting Laureano with two outs. Why a lefty? Maybe Servais was focused on the possibility of lefthanded hitting Matt Olson coming up with the bases loaded, and wanted Misiewicz for the possibility of that task. Instead, the hot-hitting Laureano saw a second, consecutive off-speed sinker, this one in the middle of the plate, and he pounced without having to protect and speed up his bat. Laureano, Oakland’s one in-sync hitter, saw his swing produce a leisurely home run ball that exited at 98 mph.
“A hit would have been great, but a home run is a whole different ballgame,” A’s starter Chris Bassitt said of the support he received from Laureano. “It changed the whole complexion of the game. It was a big sigh of relief for everybody.”
Bassitt would depart after facing three batters in the sixth and after throwing 83 pitches. Leading 3-1 at that point, Bassitt earned the first win of the season for an A’s starter after the first eight starts resulted in an 0-4 record.
The A’s are one of six American League teams with a winning record, along with the Astros, Yankees, Twins, White Sox and the surprising Orioles at 5-3. Oakland maybe the least impressive of the six, but in a season where the top eight will qualify for postseason a winning record is where it’s at, all the style points can be inserted in October and early November. CBS’s Jon Heyman picked the A’s and Braves for an unlikely Fall Classic an he stood with the prediction over the weekend.
So now is not the time to fret over meager batting averages and faulty starters. The A’s have to just hang in there and remain positive.
“Now, we just gotta hit the ball on the barrel and find some holes,” Laureano said.
Frankie Montas faces Justus Sheffield in the finale of the four-game series on Monday.