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Game #54: Home Runs, Doubles, and Double Plays

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Oakland Athletics Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

With 8.5 consecutive wins under their belts and freshly tied for the second Wild Card spot, all of a sudden the A’s rocky start doesn’t feel quite so rocky. Perhaps the way that the A’s got to this point of the season isn’t exactly how people anticipated, but “in contention for the second Wild Card spot” is more or less exactly where most thought the team would be. Today, with the Red Sox squeaking passed the Astros and securing a win, it was the onus for the A’s to beat a floundering Mariners’ squad to keep pace as the season’s second act was set to begin. For the A’s, it was Brett Anderson charged with keeping the Mariners at bay, and the A’s offense charged with solving the veteran Mike Leake.

Game Thread

It was a sunny and windy day at the coliseum, perfect home run and adventurous defense weather. Perhaps it was due to these windy conditions that Anderson struggled mightily with his control early on in the game, but it was his finesse and ability to keep Seattle guessing that, despite his lack of control, he turned in a very strong performance overall. In the first inning he walked two batters and threw well over twenty pitches, but he also struck out two batters and induced a weak ground ball out off the bat of white-hot Daniel Vogelbach. In the second inning, Anderson successfully worked around a weakly hit one out double towards the left field corner.

In each of the third and fourth innings, Anderson allowed a hit along with either a walk or a hit batsman, but his sweeping breaking stuff forced the Mariners’ offense to meekly tap into tailor made double plays. Another double play got turned in the top of the fifth inning, when a leadoff walk got erased on a sensational diving-stop-and-flip play to Semien, making it three consecutive innings wherein the team turned a double play.

Much like in yesterday’s game, the A’s got their offense kickstarted with a first inning Matt Chapman home run. Unlike yesterday, Robbie Grossman preceded Chapman’s dinger with a hard fought walk, so Chapman gave the A’s a 2-0 lead instead of just 1-0. It was his thirteenth home run of the year, and, for now, Chapman is the team leader in home runs hit. The team made a lot of hard contact against Mike Leake early, though not every ball fell. In the bottom of the second inning, Phegley hit his sixth home run of the year, a solo shot, off the top of the high wall in left field to stretch the A’s lead to 3-0.

But then things went quiet for the A’s offense. Both Anderson and Leake work fairly quick, and the game’s tempo picked up as the action became fewer and further between. Thirteen consecutive A’s were retired by Mike Leake from the second inning through the sixth.

After he pitched a flawless sixth, even though his pitch count was rapidly approaching one hundred, Anderson returned for the seventh inning, knowing that both Lou Trivino and Blake Treinen were most likely unavailable for today’s game and more length from the starter was necessary. Anderson struck out Tim Beckham to begin the seventh, to perhaps prove that Bob Melvin was justified in sticking with his tiring starter, but the following batter Jay Bruce, who reached in all three at bats he had against Anderson, smacked a towering home run to the right center field seats, reducing the A’s lead to 3-1. He was taken out of the game one batter later after giving up a single. All told, Anderson had an effectively wild start, pitching 6.1 innings and allowing just the one run on five hits, four walks, and one hit batter. He even played some nifty defense along the way.

But due to the Bruce home run, a two run lead felt a little too close for comfort. Mark Canha walked to start the inning to become the first A’s baserunner since the second inning. What followed was a delay of game due to a controversial Canha slide wherein it appeared he targeted the fielder and not second base on a fielder’s choice, but after a lengthy review the slide was ruled to be legal, leading to an ejection of Mariners’ manager Scott Servais. His pitch count rising, Leake appeared to be out of his rhythm and with two outs, he walked Skye Bolt to place A’s on first and second.

Leake was taken out of the game, and looked very disgruntled when walking off the mound, unable to get the final out of the frame and responsible for the two runners. And sure enough, what had been a respectable three run outing turned into an ugly five run outing as Josh Phegley, one of the Bash Brothers of the 2019 A’s, doubled in both runs on a low line drive into the left field corner. In the eighth, a Chapman double with Grossman on first base set up a run scoring error and a run scoring ground out to push the lead to 7-1.

In relief of Anderson, Yusmeiro Petit, Ryan Buchter, and Joakim Soria successfully shut the door for the A’s without allowing any more damage.

The A’s have now officially won nine games in a row and have looked and played like the team everyone was hoping they would be throughout the offseason. As a result of this strong play, the A’s are tied for the second Wild Card spot with the Boston Red Sox, who defeated the Astros today by a score of 4-1. The Astros’ lead in the division is now just six and a half games, well within reach.

Win streak continues tomorrow against the Angels at 1:07.