The Oakland A’s utterly demolished the Angels on Thursday night, with the score finally settling at 21-3. That’s twenty-one to three.
It’s hard to know where to even begin to analyze this type of gargantuan outburst. Let’s start with a look at the box score, courtesy of ESPN, to get an idea of the big picture.
When you’re done marveling at that, here are the 21 best things about the A’s 21-run onslaught.
1. It was nearly an A’s franchise record
This wasn’t the most runs the A’s have ever scored, but it was close. If you’re talking about franchise history, then the Philadelphia A’s dropped 24 runs twice — on May 18, 1912, they beat the Tigers 24-2, and then on May 1, 1929, they beat the Red Sox 24-6.
If you shorten the goalposts to just Oakland history, then the record came in a 23-2 shellacking of the Rangers on Sept. 30, 2000. That game also marks the biggest margin of victory for an Oakland team, with Thursday being the runner-up in terms of run differential.
Sum it all up, and this was the most runs the A’s have scored in 18 years, and the second-biggest output and margin in Oakland history.
2. It was an Angels franchise record
This is the Angels’ 58th season as a major league club, and Thursday was the most runs they’ve ever allowed in a game. They had done it once before, against the Mariners in a 21-9 loss, so this only ties the franchise record. But no one has ever scored more on the Angels than Oakland did last night.
The spooky part? That Angels-Mariners blowout came on the exact same day as the A’s record-setting win against the Rangers from the previous section — Sept. 30, 2000.
3. It was more than an Oakland football score
When a baseball team puts together such a huge tally, it’s common for folks to jokingly refer to it as a football score. A 21-3 final is like three touchdowns against a field goal!
Here’s the thing, though. The Oakland Raiders have played two games so far this year, and they didn’t reach 21 points in either of them. They also fell short in their last four games of 2017. Calling this a football score doesn’t even do it justice. The A’s are scoring more than the Raiders right now.
4. Giant context
While Thursday’s score stands out, the A’s also posted 10 runs in a blowout victory on Wednesday and seven in a tough loss on Tuesday. All told, they scored 38 runs in the three-game series against the Angels.
The San Francisco Giants have scored 46 runs in all of September, in 17 games so far.
5. Crooked numbers
Another piece of Oakland history: They scored at least five runs in an inning three times in this game. That’s only the third time they’ve done that, after that 2000 Rangers game and another instance in 1969 against Boston. (h/t A’s info manager Mike Selleck)
6. Team effort
Scoring 21 runs in eight innings will usually require contributions from all over the lineup, but the A’s took that to another level. Absolutely everybody joined in on the fun.
- Every starter had two hits, except Matt Olson who had one hit and three walks
- Every starter scored
- Every starter drove in a run
- 8 players scored at least two runs, which hasn’t happened since 1925 (h/t Selleck)
Between the starting nine and late substitute Chad Pinder, 10 different A’s drove in a run in this game. All told they reached base 30 times — 22 hits, seven walks, and an error. They batted around the lineup in two different innings, and nearly a third time. Afterward, starting pitcher Edwin Jackson praised the squad’s camaraderie:
“Everyone on the team has a chance to shine,” said Jackson. “We don’t necessarily have one person hogging up all the shine. Every day it’s different people, and with everyone else, even the guys who aren’t necessarily getting hits that day, everyone is cheering everyone on and everyone is happy for everyone. I think when you have a team that everyone wants everyone to do well, then you have the chemistry that we have here. It’s a bunch of go-getters. These guys aren’t scared. They aren’t afraid of a challenge.”
Shine on, you crazy baseball diamond!
The A’s went 12-for-17 with runners in scoring position. They only left six runners on base overall.
Oakland has been a homer-heavy offense this year, but they’re at their best when they can also string together singles and doubles into extended rallies. Manager Bob Melvin had this to say after the game:
“You can’t just rely on a home run. If you do that you’re gonna go through some severe droughts, and knock wood we’ve been able to stay away from big droughts during the course of the season,” Melvin said. “It’s important to be able to score and at times manufacture runs, get singles, pass the baton, and that’s been the case the last couple nights.”
Only six of the 21 runs came on homers.
8. Martini’s first dinger
Even with 18 runs already on the board, the A’s found a way to make the end of the game special. In the 7th inning the Angels hoisted their white flag as high as possible by bringing in catcher Francisco Arcia to pitch. Not in the 9th, or late in an extra-inning marathon. The Angels were getting beaten so badly that they had a position player take the mound in the 7th.
Arcia retired the first two batters he faced but then allowed a single. Nick Martini came up next, and he drilled his first career home run.
The first Major League round-trip #RootedInOakland pic.twitter.com/H5WaCJJheC— Oakland Athletics ⚾️ (@Athletics) September 20, 2018
The 28-year-old rookie is a leadoff hitter, known more for his plate discipline and on-base skills than his power, and indeed he’d helped spark two of the A’s earlier rallies. It took him 48 games and 151 plate appearances in the majors to collect that first long ball — off a 59 mph curveball from a catcher.
“Obviously it was a position player (who allowed the homer),” said Martini with a laugh. “But I saw it going up and I didn’t know if it was gonna have enough. And then once it got over, definitely super excited.”
9. Taylor reaches base
This isn’t quite as cool as Martini’s dinger, but it’s still an important milestone for a new player. Like Martini, backup catcher Beau Taylor was drafted in 2011 and toiled through eight minor league seasons before making his MLB debut at age 28. Unlike Martini, though, Taylor waited all the way until September for his chance.
There hasn’t been much playing time for the third-string catcher, but he finally reached base for the first time on Thursday. He entered as a pinch-hitter in the 6th inning and drew a walk, in his third career plate appearance. He’s still looking for that first hit, but at least his OBP is above zero now. Considering that drawing walks is his top skill at the plate, this was an appropriate way for him to find his way to first base.
10. Dr. Josh and Mr. Phegley
Perhaps the most fascinating day belonged to Josh Phegley, who started behind the plate before giving way to Taylor. In the 4th inning, the A’s sent 11 batters to the plate and finished with seven runs. Phegley batted twice. The first time, he lined into a double play, as the runner was nabbed off of first base. The second time, he flew out. In Oakland’s biggest inning of the day, Phegs accounted for all three outs while the entire rest of the lineup reached base.
And yet, he still had an awesome day. He collected three hits, and each time he came around to score. He led off the 3rd with a single to spark the initial five-run rally, in the 6th he kept the line moving with an RBI single, and in the 7th he singled ahead of Martini’s homer. And he did all that while catching a strong pitching effort from Jackson.
The A’s attack was so relentless that Phegley was able to tank an entire inning all on his own and still put together an excellent stat line.
11. Arcia makes history
As long as we’re talking about catchers, we have to take a moment to recognize the Angels backstop. Francisco Arcia started the game behind the plate, but in the 7th he was asked to pitch. Then, with two outs in the 9th inning and everyone just waiting for it all to be over, he went deep against Chris Hatcher for a meaningless extra run.
That run may not have mattered to this game, but the record books care very much. Arcia became the first player in MLB history to catch, pitch, and hit a homer all in the same game. Here’s a YouTube video of his highlights.
12. Kiekhefer throws a zero
On a day when the Angels pitching staff couldn’t buy an out, the deepest recesses of the A’s bullpen had a perfectly fine day. Lefty specialist Dean Kiekhefer hasn’t made a good first impression this month, getting knocked around in his first two outings, but he managed to toss a scoreless inning in this one. It was his first positive contribution to the team.
That said, though, there is one unfortunate stat. Even though Arcia gave up two homers, he still finished the day with a 9.00 ERA for the season. Kiekhefer finished at 10.80, and in fewer total innings.
13. Jim Johnson fuels the fire
If you’ve forgotten about the saga of Jim Johnson on the A’s, I highly recommend refreshing your memory with this 2014 season review. The short version: He posted the worst adjusted ERA+ in Oakland history, all for the bargain price of $10 million. He’s ranged between decent and downright good in his career, but he was terrible here.
This time, though, A’s fans were perfectly happy with his meltdown, since it came for the opposing team. He nearly enjoyed a good day. He got the last out of the 3rd to end a long rally, and he actually should have had a quick inning in the 4th — he induced a single, a double play, and then a grounder to Andrelton Simmons, the best defensive shortstop in the world. However, Simmons threw the ball away, turning the potential third out into a baserunner, and that opened the floodgates. The next five batters notched hits, and then Johnson was pulled.
*Diddy voice and accompanying shimmy*— Oakland Athletics ⚾️ (@Athletics) September 20, 2018
I thought I told you, we won't stop pic.twitter.com/XcrAWJa7wr
By the time his teammate was finished letting all the inherited runners come home, Johnson had allowed six runs in one inning of work. They all went down as unearned.
14. Inauspicious start
It’s weird to think about, but this game actually got off to a terrible start. Jackson let the Angels’ first two batters reach base in the 1st inning, and it looked like early trouble. However, the veteran settled down and retired Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and Justin Upton in order to escape the jam, the latter two on strikeouts.
“That was huge for us to get out of that (first) inning and get the boys back in the dugout to be able do the damage they did today,” said Jackson. “Hats off the offense, and always hats off to the defense, and hats off to Phegley behind the plate.”
Trout did later homer off of Jackson, but by that point it was 12-1. And anyway, the A’s immediately answered with six more runs in the bottom of the frame. Just in case.
15. Semien explodes
Marcus Semien led the A’s with 5 RBI on the day, which set a new career-high for the shortstop.
16. Piscotty 2 Hotty
Stephen Piscotty was next on the list with 4 RBI, mostly on his three-run homer in the 3rd (back when the game was still in question). However, Piscotty also drove in five the night before, giving him a total of 9 RBI in less than 24 hours. His 22 RBI in September are the most in the AL, and trail only Michael Conforto in MLB. His seven homers in the month are also tied for the league lead and trail only Conforto overall.
Piscotty now has a 149 wRC+ since May 28, a span of 402 plate appearances.
17. Chapman doubles
Matt Chapman got the scoring started for the day in the 3rd inning. The A’s were down 1-0, but he knocked a double to drive in a pair and take the lead. It was his 41st double of the season, which leads the club and puts him in a tie for sixth in Oakland history. The record is 49, by Jed Lowrie last summer. Chapman’s 24 in the second half tie the Oakland record for most after the All-Star break (tied with Rajai Davis).
The A’s rank second in MLB in doubles this year, with 311. They trail only the Red Sox, who play in a stadium where every line drive to left field is an automatic double. After Chapman’s 41, Piscotty is next with 40, then Lowrie with 37. Oakland could easily finish with three players at 40+ two-baggers.
18. The scorebook
Box scores are fun, but there is a whole different aesthetic to an old-school scorebook. Here’s a visual representation of this game, courtesy of radio voice Vince Cotroneo.
And it’s only the 6th inning pic.twitter.com/V5qYPW8GYJ— Vince Cotroneo (@vincebaseball) September 20, 2018
19. Quick marathon
You’d think it would take a while to score 21 runs, but apparently not. The whole game took only 3:22, which is longer than average but not by much. Granted, the last couple innings of garbage time flew by in the blink of an eye to salvage the overall pace, but still.
20. Trout swimming upstream
This isn’t really specific to Thursday’s game, but I’m reminded of it every time the A’s face the Angels. Mike Trout has played seven full seasons in MLB, and the Angels have only managed to make the playoffs in one of them — and they were swept out in three games. They’ve only had a winning record in three of those seasons. Trout has more MVP awards than years in the postseason, and more top-2 MVP finishes than total postseason games played.
21. Magic Number down to 4
Even after their game, the A’s got a bit of help Thursday night. The Rays led the Blue Jays 8-2 entering the 9th inning, but Toronto rallied for seven runs and a stunning 9-8 victory. Coupled with Oakland’s win, the Magic Number is now down to four to clinch the second Wild Card, with nine games left to play. Tampa Bay is 6.5 games out in the race. In addition, the Yankees lost too, so the A’s are only 1.5 games out of the first Wild Card and home-field advantage in the play-in game.
Just plain crazy.