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Game #130: Jonathan Lucroy powers A’s to 6-2 victory over Twins

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Mike Fiers was strong again, and the bullpen took care of business behind him.

Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

When the Oakland A’s lost two games in a row last week it was the first time they’d done so in nearly a month, since being swept in Colorado in late July. They’re firmly back on the winning side now, though, after cruising to a 6-2 victory over the Twins on Saturday. It’s their second straight win, putting them back at their season-high of 26 games over the .500 mark.

Jonathan Lucroy did the heavy lifting in this one. He singled in the game’s first run in the 2nd inning, and then he followed that with a three-run dinger in the 4th.

The homer was the 13,000th in A’s franchise history. The list of names who hit the other milestone dongs is mesmerizing.

With Luc leading the charge out of the ninth spot in the order, the bottom of the lineup accounted for all the offense in this game. After his fireworks they also added a pair of insurance runs later in the evening to ease the pressure in the final frames. In the end all six RBI came from the seventh, eighth, and ninth spots, and every run was scored by the sixth-thru-ninth hitters.

Chad Pinder proved to be the sparkplug out of the six-hole. He got the start against Minnesota lefty Stephen Gonsalves and notched three singles, with each hit kickstarting one of the A’s three rallies in the 2nd, 4th, and 8th innings. He did get thrown out once due to being carelessly aggressive on the bases, but he still managed to cross the plate twice.

Batting seventh was Mark Canha, aka Tom Ace, giving Matt Olson a day off at 1B. He lucked into a bloop single on a checked swing, just ahead of Lucroy’s homer. Later he was replaced by Olson, who has still played every game this season, and Oly contributed to the late rally in the 8th. After Pinder’s single, Olson doubled (off a lefty) to drive him in, and he then came around himself on a subsequent BABIP/hustle double by Ramon “Noodles” Laureano.

It was also quite a day for Laureano out of the eighth spot in the order. The double (grounded down the RF line) was the first of the rookie’s career, but perhaps more impressive was the pair of walks he drew. He carried a strong walk rate throughout the minors but didn’t draw his first in the bigs until Thursday, in his 44th plate appearance. Now he’s got a couple more (raising his rate to 6.1%), and the first one in particular was well-earned in a seven-pitch at-bat. We’ve already seen his defense, arm, speed, and power, so if he starts reliably getting on base too then there won’t be much more to ask for.

Overall it was an excellent showing by the A’s offense. Even with the heart of the lineup being silent, they still produced a blend of power and extended rallies as part of a balanced attack. There were a couple lucky hits but also some hot shots straight into gloves, and with only six strikeouts they at least helped earn their good fortune by putting the ball in play a lot. Matt Chapman joined Pinder with three hits on the night, adding a walk to reach base 4-of-5 times.

*** Game Thread #1 | Game Thread #2 ***

On the other side of the ball, starting pitching Mike Fiers was strong once again. He only had one 1-2-3 inning, so he didn’t exactly dominate, but he also only had one inning with multiple baserunners so he also didn’t find himself in much serious trouble. By the time he served up a solo homer to Miguel Sano in the 4th, his teammates had already staked him to a healthy lead.

Fiers came one out shy of finishing the 6th inning and thus qualifying for a technical quality start. But even that was mostly a precaution, as he put a runner on ahead of Sano. By that point he was at exactly 100 pitches, facing the one guy who’d beaten him, so the A’s turned to Lou Trivino to retire the slugger. Fiers did issue a pair of walks, after just one in his first three starts for Oakland, but he also struck out seven batters including Eddie Rosario thrice.

Trivino made it interesting in the 7th, briefly giving the Twins a chance to make it a game. Tyler Austin blasted a solo homer, and Willians Astudillo was awarded a HBP on a ball that clearly hit the knob of the bat rather than his hand. Ryan Buchter came in to face Joe Mauer but allowed a single, and then Jeurys Familia came in to escape the jam.

Familia nearly blew it. He struck out Logan Forsythe on a nasty sinker, but Rosario drove the first pitch he saw to the wall in LF. Fortunately it fell just short of what would have been a go-ahead dinger, landing harmlessly in Pinder’s glove to end the threat. The A’s lineup got the message after that scare, tacking on their insurance in the 8th, and then Familia and Blake Treinen breezed through the final two frames to wrap things up.

The Astros are leading late in their game and the Mariners won in extras, so this one allows the A’s to keep pace in the standings. The important thing is that they did their part by beating a team they’re supposed to beat, as continuing to take care of business like this will guarantee them a Wild Card at worst. One more triumph Sunday morning would seal a satisfying series victory, for a team that’s only lost one series since mid-June.

Just keep winning!