By Morris Phillips
The Royals had a guy who normally settles for singles, hit a long home run. The A’s had a guy who needs to prove that he can navigate big league hitters without allowing home runs, give up that long home run.
But late in the ballgame with the outcome in the balance, the A’s had another guy who’s being groomed to hit big home runs, hit one, and off they went to a 5-1 win on getaway day in Kansas City.
Matt Olson’s three-run shot highlighted an eighth inning rally and stood as the difference maker as the A’s captured a series on the road, after dropping their previous series against the Rays at home.
“3-0 any chance you get is one of the best fastball counts nowadays. He threw one over the plate and I was ready for it,” Olson said of reliever Burch Smith’s offering which traveled an estimated 454 feet off the A’s first baseman’s bat.
Olson’s home run was his fourth in the last four games, and proof that the A’s patience in the young slugger is paying off. Olson hit 24 home runs in an abbreviated 2017, and now he’s hit 12 this season, which ranks him behind only Khris Davis on the A’s. Despite a rough 20-game stretch beginning in April, and finishing in May, Olson is settling into his roles as a slugger and an everyday first baseman.
“You look at his numbers right now, he’s on a pretty good pace even though he might’ve got off to a little bit of a slower start than maybe he would’ve imagined,” manager Bob Melvin said of Olson.
While Jed Lowrie was credited with knocking in the game-winning run with his RBI single ahead of Olson’s blast, the first baseman drew all the attention. Like the team, Olson’s heating up.
The A’s scored 24 runs in three games in Kansas City, after they scored just 15 runs in the first nine games of the just completed home stand. Attribute the better play on the road to warmer weather, bigger crowds, increased focus, or none of the above, the A’s have won six of seven away from the Coliseum.
A’s starter Daniel Gossett went five innings, allowing two hits and a run. But after he exhibited some discomfort on the mound in the fifth, the decision was made to lift the right-handed due to elbow tightness. Gossett threw just 63 pitches, but that’s still an impressive outing for a guy who was 4-11 in 2017, and 0-3 this season.
The rail-thin Gossett allowed three, consecutive home runs in his previous start at the Coliseum against Tampa Bay. In his big league career now spanning 115 innings, he’s allowed 26 round-trippers while striking out just 84. So while Gossett can rush the ball to the plate at 92 mph on the average, he needs to prove that he can thrive in today’s MLB heavily weighted on limiting home runs and piling up strikeouts.
So how did Gossett do in that regard on Sunday?
Despite allowing just two hits, Kansas City’s John Jay took Gossett yard, the blast traveling 414 feet in the third to tie the game, 1-1. With that homer, Jay snapped a streak of 442 at-bats without a home run, the lengthiest such streak among all major leaguers who aren’t pitchers.
Not quite a good sign for Gossett. Or Jay. The former Cardinal leads the struggling Royals with a .305 batting average, and his 58 singles ranks second among major leaguers this season. But while Jay put up player-of the-month numbers in May, hitting .368 with 43 hits, the power was missing, and the Royals went 12-15.
So in regards to the newfangled, power game, Sunday was thumbs up for Olson, and thumbs down for Jay and Gossett. Funny how that works.
On Tuesday, the A’s resume their trip in Texas with Sean Manaea (1-4 in his last five starts) facing former Giant Matt Moore (1-5 in 10 appearances).