The Oakland A’s beat the Detroit Tigers 17-3 on Thursday. It was an enormous offensive showing, big enough to be worth a closer look. Here are the 17 best things about the onslaught.
1. The A’s needed it badly
After ranking as a top-5 offense in the majors last season, Oakland has been in the middle of the pack this year. They’re right around league average in both runs per game (16th, at 4.69) and wRC+ (17th, at 97). And it’s been even worse lately — over their last 10 contests entering Thursday, they’d averaged 3.2 runs per game, and only twice scored as many as five in a day. Amid that kind of slump, a huge game feels even better.
2. Nearly set MLB season-high
Not only were the 17 runs a season-high for the A’s, they nearly set the mark for all of MLB so far this year.
- 18: Dodgers, 3/30
- 17: Cardinals, 5/9
- 17: A’s 5/16
- 16: Twins, 4/20
- 16: Rangers, 5/16
Only the Dodgers have enjoyed a bigger game in 2019, though the Rangers darn near matched Oakland later in the day on Thursday.
All that said, this wasn’t the A’s first breakout day. They put up 14 against the Pirates a couple weeks ago, immediately before that aforementioned 10-game slump. A couple weeks before that, they dropped 11 on the Rangers, but then followed it with just three runs per game over their next seven contests. They had double-digits in back-to-back days against the Orioles in early April, but, Orioles.
In other words, the team’s great day doesn’t guarantee anything moving forward. But it was certainly encouraging, and it’s better than the alternative of just never having a big day, so we’ll see if they can build on it this time.
3. Team effort
It probably goes without saying, but every player in the lineup got at least one hit. Even the two subs, Chad Pinder and Mark Canha, reached base — the former on a HBP, the latter on a dinger. Oakland racked up 16 hits, nine of them for extra bases, and added five walks as well.
4. Not the main stars
Matt Chapman is putting up another MVP-caliber season, and Khris Davis finally broke his homer slump on Monday, but they were not the driving forces behind this big day. They combined for only two hits, and didn’t drive in a single run between them. Meanwhile, Stephen Piscotty reached base four times but was more of a table-setter than a run producer.
Those stars still chipped in, but the heavy lifting was done by some other less-heralded names.
5. Clutch Profar
It’s been a tough year for Jurickson Profar on both sides of the ball, so every time he notches a big moment it’s extra nice to see. He had another one in this game.
The A’s got the scoring started in the 3rd inning. They put together a rally, with a couple hits and a couple walks, and got some help from a Tigers throwing error and a run-scoring wild pitch. But then Profar came up with the bases loaded and capped things off with his first career grand slam.
That turned a nice early punch into a sizable 6-0 cushion. They kept piling on, but Profar’s slam was the most decisive hit of the day and eventually served as the game-winner since Detroit finished with three runs of their own.
6. Five dingers
After Profar went yard, the rest of the team followed suit. Josh Phegley and Matt Olson did it in the 6th, Marcus Semien added one in the 7th, and Mark Canha blasted one in the 9th.
Just as the A’s had been struggling to score, their power had also disappeared lately. They recently went through a span of 23 games with just 15 total homers, and now they’ve snapped that by putting up 10 in just the last three contests. Their five jacks on Monday weren’t enough to win that game, but the five on Thursday clearly got the job done.
The biggest tater of the day belonged to Canha, with a 105.9 mph exit velocity and a distance of 419 feet. Semien, Olson, and Phegley were close behind, each around 102-105 mph and 393-406 feet. Profar’s was the cheapest, at just 97.2 mph and 355 feet, but it still had enough to get out and they all count the same once they clear the fence.
7. Phegley stays hot
What a revelation Josh Phegley has been. With injuries to both presumed starter Chris Herrmann and top prospect Sean Murphy, Phegley has gone from being a backup afterthought to being the primary catcher on the team, and he’s responding with a career-best performance.
A couple weeks ago, he put up 8 RBI in one game. He didn’t quite match that total this time, but he still drove in four on the strength of a 4-for-5 day. It’s his second four-hit game of the year, and this one included a dinger and a double. His season line is impressive, with plenty of power but also a relatively low strikeout rate.
Phegley, 2019: .295/.321/.514, 123 wRC+, 5 HR, 2.8% BB, 17.4% Ks
Phegley now has 26 RBI on the season. That ranks him third among all MLB catchers, behind just Yadier Molina (30) and Willson Contreras (27). Both of them play in the NL, so Phegs leads the AL. He’s also second on the A’s, behind only Khrush (28). Granted, RBI aren’t the most useful stat in the world, but this unexpected level of output by a bottom-of-the-order hitter is still noteworthy.
8. Grossman tips the wRC+ scale
It’s been a slow start for Robbie Grossman this year. He’s still walking like he normally does, but he hasn’t done much actual hitting. After a double, a triple, and a walk on Thursday, though, he got his wRC+ over the neutral line up to 101. That’s still only decent, but at least it’s triple-digits now. Baby steps!
Grossman, 2019: .225/.344/.378, 101 wRC+, 3 HR, 15.3% BB, 17.6% Ks
That walk rate ranks 17th among 245 MLB hitters with at least 100 plate appearances. If he can even get just a few more hits to fall (.259 BABIP, career .318), then his OBP is gonna look really nice. And given his ability to make contact (tiny 5.8% swinging strike) and avoid strikeouts, he’s absolutely a candidate to keep improving.
9. Olson bunts
In the 1st inning, Matt Olson laid down a bunt to beat the shift. It’s the second time he’s done that this season, stealing a free hit from a defense that was choosing to hand it to him. Fans are always clamoring for hitters to do this when they face heavy shifts, and Olson is obliging. Better yet, if he makes a habit out of this strategy, will there come a time when teams have to quit shifting him to take away the gift-wrapped auto-single?
10. Olson also smashes
But don’t worry, it wasn’t all smoke and mirrors for Olson. He also swatted his third homer in the last four games, as he settles back in after a month-long stint on the injured list.
Olson batted six times in this game, including the bunt. Of his other five batted balls, three of them were 100+ mph in exit velocity (including the homer), and another was a sharp grounder at 95+ mph. By all rights, Statcast says his two lineouts should have been hits, and one of his grounders could have been as well.
All of this bodes well for Olson moving forward. He ranks sixth in MLB in percentage of hard-hit balls, with 58.3% of his batted balls going 95+ mph off the bat — and that includes his two bunts, which of course drag down the hard-hit rate. Whether or not he fully maintains that pace, the point is that his hamate injury doesn’t appear to be affecting his thump.
11. Full highlight video
Before we go any further, here’s the full video with all 17 runs.
Make sure you watch until the end for Canha’s moonshot!
12. Only 6 LOB
The A’s put 23 runners on base, between their hits, walks, the HBP, and the error. They plated 17 of them and left only six on base, and only three of those were left in scoring position. As great as it was to see them score so many runs, it was even better to see them convert such a high percentage (74%) of the ducks they put on the pond, no matter what the raw total was. Overall they went 5-for-12 with runners in scoring position, and even when one guy missed in a big spot the next guy came through.
13. 2-out RBI
Of the 17 runs, 14 of them were scored with two outs. That includes the wild pitch, so the A’s picked up 13 two-out RBI. This Oakland squad is often left searching for that one big hit to capitalize on a rally, and they got a bunch of them in this game, fighting until the end of the inning each time.
14. No scrubs
Making this outburst even better is who it came off. Detroit’s starter was Spencer Turnbull, who isn’t a household name but did enter with the fourth-best ERA in the AL. In fact, since most of his runs were unearned on Thursday, he’s still fourth at 2.40. That’s a tiny sample size, of course, and he’s only 13 games into his big league career, but it’s got the folks at Bless You Boys encouraged that he’s at least a legit MLB starter. His 3.73 FIP and average-ish .321 xwOBA don’t offer any major red flags yet.
After Turnbull departed with six runs to his name, the next pitcher was Blaine Hardy, who was rumored as a trade target for the A’s last winter. All told, the first nine runs came against that solid duo. (Then, with the game already out of hand, the next six runs came off weaker arms in Reed Garrett and Victor Alcantara.)
15. OK maybe one scrub
As you might expect, a position player eventually pitched in this game. Brandon Dixon is a utilityman who’s already played several positions in his brief career, but he was called on to pitch the 9th in the rout. It was his first pitching appearance of the year, but the third of his career after a pair in 2018. He didn’t allow runs in those previous games, though, so this ruined his perfect 0.00 lifetime ERA.
Dixon operated in the 60s in terms of velocity, topping out once at 75 mph. Along the way he allowed Canha’s dinger.
16. Bassitt dominates
Not to be lost in the celebration is Chris Bassitt’s sparkling performance on the mound for Oakland.
Bassitt, Thu: 8 ip, 0 runs, 7 Ks, 2 BB, 4 hits
The right-hander got some help from his defense early on. Phegley threw out a basestealer in the 1st, and then Chapman tossed out a runner at the plate in the 2nd.
Once his teammates handed him the massive lead, though, Bassitt cruised. He wasn’t perfect, scattering a few baserunners along the way, but he stayed focused and never let the Tigers back into the game. His ERA now stands at 1.93 through five starts, with well over a strikeout per inning and more than four per walk.
Melvin considered leaving Bassitt out there for the ninth but two years removed from surgery and at 105 pitches decided not to risk it, especially with a big lead.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) May 16, 2019
Probably the prudent call there by Melvin, as fun as it would have been to see Bassitt finish the shutout.
17. Chapman gem
Speaking of Chapman helping out on defense, he made another highlight on Thursday. The runner was initially called safe, but it was reversed on replay and he was ultimately out.
Vintage Chapman. He’s essentially playing shortstop, with the whole left side of the infield to himself, but the hit goes more toward where a 3B would normally be standing. No matter, as Chapman just ranges over there anyway, collects the grounder, and makes a ludicrous throw in the opposite direction of his body’s momentum to his fellow Gold Glover at first base.
Great job all around by the A’s!