The Oakland A's have not had a large number of highlights in the 2016 season. But on this night, and in this week, the A's put together a notable effort and completed a four game sweep of the Kansas City Royals. The sweepage was not fluky, as the 43-12 was a record-setting series margin for the Green & Gold. How did the sweep get closed out?
The win featured very strong pitching from handlebar-stache-sporting rookie Daniel Mengden, who earned his 2nd win of the year. Prior to this game, Mengden was just 1-7 on the year, and his ERA looked like a sad face. Tonight was a different story, however. Mengden pitched 7 very clean innings of shut out ball. The Stache struck out 6 while notably walking zero and yielding just 3 hits. The 0 walks stood out, as Mengden has carried a fairly poor 11.3% walk rate into the game.
Mengden's gem followed up fellow Stache Bro Sean Manaea, who pitched 5 shutout innings for the W yesterday in the A's 8-0 win. Manaea has more experience on the bump this year compared to Mengden, but less in the stache game. If the rookies can build on this lovely two days of spinning, they will make a name for themselves and help the 2017 A's be better than the current incarnation has been. It is exciting.
It wasn't just our strapping young pitcher who put on a show today. The offense went berserk yet again, putting up two touchdowns worth of runs.
Rookie 3B Ryon Healy continues to terrorize MLB pitchers. He went 3 for 5 on the night. He doubled and scored in the 2nd, He hit a 480 foot BOMB that plated 3 in the 3rd. He added a single in the 6th. The young man can rake and now sports a powerful slash line of .309/.344/.525.
Yet another rookie, this one September call up 2B Joey Wendle, has settled in to provide a much needed jolt in the leadoff spot. Wendle put together his first ever 4 hit game in the Bigs. He singled 4 times in 6 at bats and scored 3 runs. Wendle has yet to get an extra base hit, but he is hitting the ball hard to all fields and currently is batting .349. He has been a major bright spot since his call up, both at the plate and with nifty glove work at 2B. He also provides speed that has been lacking in this version of the Athletics. Fun kid to watch.
Compared to the noted guys thus far, Marcus Semien with a whole 2 years of service time, feels like a grizzled veteran. He is still a young player on the upward path, however, and tonight highlighted one of his strengths: BIG power from the SS position. Marcus belted a line shot RBI double to the left field wall in the 2nd inning. He completed the A's scoring with a towering 3 run HR in 8th, plating Max Muncy and Yonder Alonso. The HR was his 25th this year, good for 2nd among all MLB shortstops.
The team leader, elder statesman, and lone all-star, Stephen Vogt, also provided star power at the plate tonight. Vogt led the team with 5 RBI highlighted by a 2 run double in the 2nd and a HR to deep right center that plated 2 in the 6th.
Khris Davis also knocked in 2 runs, while Alonso and Danny Valencia both scored twice.
All-in-all, it was a continued circus of scoring dominance vs. a Royals pitching staff that looked simply over matched. How many trips to the mound did Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland and manager Ned Yost make this series? Felt like triple digits.
The Ugly Side
The game wasn't without its warts on the A's side.
The left field defense was an adventure. Both Khris Davis and Max Muncy misplayed catchable fly balls to the warning track.
Chad Pinder continued to be adventurous with his throws, this time from short stop, as he replaced Semien late.
Last but not least, the latest call back from AAA, Dillon Overton, continued his woeful big league year, as he gave up all 5 runs in the 9th, including yielding his 12th HR in just 22 innings of work. Somehow, Dillon must figure out how to not leave the ball down the dead center of the plate. The only positive for Overton's night was radar readings of 91. These were some of the highs on the year for a player who has not shown a return in velocity since his Tommy John surgery in 2013. Hopefully the velocity sticks in 2017, location improves, and Dillon can right the ship.
Watching a team of very young players, with just a sprinkle of veterans here and there, go out and play the best ball of the year against defending champs fighting for their playoff lives, was FUN. This group of players has some jazz to them.
The A's cut Billy Butler on Sunday. Monday they headed to KC and put together a 4 game thumping. Maybe this is a coincidence. Maybe it was true addition by subtraction. Either way, the A's are 4-0 in the "Post Billy Butler" era.
The series put a figurative nail in the coffin to the Royals' hopes at defending their 2015 World Series. We will have a new champ this year and that is in part due to the A's pummeling of the Royals this week.
After a long and funky year, getting a nice, dominant sweep like this in KC provides a sweet taste to take away some of the bitter. Seeing many young players with futures in the franchise doing it together, makes it that much sweeter.
Next up, the A's travel to face the division leading Rangers in Texas. Let's see if the train can continue to roll. Go A's!