The Oakland A’s blew a big lead on Monday and got shut out on Tuesday, but they didn’t let any of it build into a slump on Wednesday.
Oakland put together their third-highest scoring total of the season so far, and their bullpen held on for 10 outs, en route to an 8-4 victory against the Los Angeles Angels. The win salvaged the series finale and avoided a sweep in Anaheim.
The A’s barrage was led by three home runs, from Matt Olson, Robbie Grossman, and Stephen Piscotty, which staked them to a close lead midway through the game. A three-run rally in the 8th, fueled by four walks from a trio of Angels relievers, added a few pieces of insurance to the board.
In the opener on Monday the A’s scored nine runs in just four innings, but they couldn’t find any answers against Dylan Bundy and the Halos’ bullpen on Tuesday. That quiet night now looks like the anomaly of the series and the last couple weeks overall, as Oakland has totaled 58 runs over their last 10 games.
On the other side of the ball, Chris Bassitt had his first rocky outing of the year but kept the team in the game, pitching into the 6th and leaving with the lead in hand. The bullpen, which blew a five-run advantage on Monday, didn’t give the Angels an inch the rest of the way, retiring 10 of the 12 batters they faced to seal the win — with some help from Ramon Laureano, who pulled back a ball that would have been over the wall for a homer.
Having waited more than 36 hours since their last run, the A’s wasted no time getting on the board on Wednesday, and they did it with authority.
The third batter of the game was Matt Olson, and he launched a moontshot to right field against Halos starter Griffin Canning. The final distance of 454 feet made it the fourth-longest dinger of Olson’s career, which is saying something.
The Angels answered back in the bottom of the 1st, so Oakland kept the pressure on in the 2nd. Mark Canha doubled and Robbie Grossman hit another homer, his third in his last five games. It was also his fourth hit with runners in scoring position this year, tying him for second on the team, and later in the game he stole his AL-leading fourth base.
Once again, the Angels came back to tie it, and once again the A’s muscled their way out in front. This time it was Stephen Piscotty in the 4th inning, going 428 feet for the team’s third long ball of the day off Canning. The right-hander has allowed eight homers in four career starts against Oakland.
They added another in the 5th without leaving the yard, on doubles by Marcus Semien and Matt Chapman. For Chapman it was his team-leading seventh hit with runners in scoring position; Oakland went 3-for-11 as a whole in such situations, and a combined 6-for-27 in the series.
One final charge
One of the A’s problems in their Monday loss was that they let off the gas too early. They scored nine runs early, which would normally be enough, and then went silent at the plate for the final five frames. Meanwhile, the Angels chipped away until suddenly they had six unanswered runs, a late lead, and a victory.
That didn’t happen on Wednesday. The Halos cut Oakland’s lead to 5-4, but the A’s added some insurance in the 8th. Walks by Grossman, Piscotty, and Sean Murphy loaded the bases, and Semien drew another free pass to force in a run. Ramon Laureano followed with a single to cash in two more of the gift baserunners.
All told, Grossman and Murphy each reached base three times, every lineup slot reached base at least once, and six different players drove in runs. Grossman now has a 200 wRC+, meaning his batting line (.311/.466/.600) is twice as good as league average.
Bassitt does just enough
In his first three starts combined, Chris Bassitt allowed just two total runs. He more than doubled that number on Wednesday, but he still did just enough to put the team in position to win.
Nobody said an assignment against the Angels would be easy. In the 1st inning, the scorching hot Mike Trout homered yet again, his seventh in his last nine games. Bassitt retired five in a row after that, but then three sharp hits in the 3rd, plus a sac fly by Trout, yielded two more tallies, and for the second time Bassitt had given up a lead.
The right-hander settled in from there, retiring nine straight batters while his teammates staked him to yet another two-run cushion. But then in the 6th, as he ventured deeper into his third turn through the Angels lineup, he struck out Trout this time but served up another homer to an MVP-caliber superstar, in Anthony Rendon.
That was it for Bassitt, who exited to let Jake Diekman get the final out of the 6th (which he did).
Bassitt: 5⅔ ip, 4 runs, 4 Ks, 0 BB, 2 HR, 5 hits, 80 pitches (55 strikes)
It’s his worst line of the season, but to be fair the ball was flying all day. And again, he did leave with a lead intact. If this turns out to be the bad version of Bassitt, then he’s gonna be just fine.
The bullpen needed some revenge after their Monday slip-up, and they got it.
One important feature of the six-run meltdown that day was that almost none of it was against the team’s setup crew. Five of the runs were charged to middlemen J.B. Wendelken and Lou Trivino, with Yusmeiro Petit allowing the other — and while Petit’s was the decider, it would be a stretch to pin the loss on him in any other way except the capital letter in the box score.
On Wednesday, the top dogs got back in action. Diekman struck out a pair, Petit got both his batters to finish off the 7th, Joakim Soria pitched around Trout for an otherwise clean 8th, and Liam Hendriks went 1-2-3 in the 9th (but didn’t register a save because of the four-run lead).
All told, the relievers faced 12 batters and retired 10 of them. Rumors of their regression to the mean were greatly exaggerated.
While the bullpen was great, they did have a little bit of help behind them.
In the 7th, with the lead still just one run, Petit gave up what would have been the game-tying homer to blow the save, except Super Ramon flew in to bail him out.
That’s a full-on, ball was over the wall, 100% woulda been a homer, highlight robbery.
Laureano is going to serve a suspension at some point, because an Astros coach shamefully picked on him until he snapped. The lineup will survive, with three strong veteran outfielders in Grossman (200 wRC+), Canha (119 wRC+), and Piscotty (only 97, but he did homer today), and the defense will be average or better. The A’s have the depth to cover for this loss and not miss a beat.
But even still, this game was a reminder of just how much Laureano can impact all aspects of a game. On the offensive side he notched a clutch hit to drive in two runs and really put the game away, even on a day when he struck out three times. On defense, he straight-up erased a run with that catch above, and he also made some other nice plays. This win was an ensemble effort, but if you had to pick just one star then it would be Ramon.
Last year Laureano was criticized for defense that looked flashy but didn’t measure out well on paper, but this year he’s passing the eyeball test and the early-sample metrics like his work. He just keeps getting better, and it will be tough to fully replace him while he sits out for six games.
Heading to the City
The A’s get Thursday off, and then it’s time for some rivalry action. They’ll visit San Francisco for three games against the Giants, looking to retake the Bridge trophy that they lost last summer. First game is Friday at 6:40 p.m., with the marquee matchup of Frankie Montas vs. Johnny Cueto.