It was just a matter of time.
The Oakland A’s ranked eighth in MLB in scoring in 2019, and returned a top-notch lineup this summer. However, through their first nine games of 2020, they managed only 30 total runs, barely over three per game.
The lineup finally broke out on Monday. Facing the Seattle Mariners on the road, the A’s got a rally going in the 5th inning and ultimately brought 14 batters to the plate. When the dust settled, eight runs had crossed home — more than one-quarter of their previous nine-game total in one inning.
Another way to look at it: The most runs the A’s had scored in a game so far was seven, on Opening Day. They outpaced that in the span of around half an hour.
To begin, here’s the basic play-by-play:
- Pinder groundout (1 out)
- Davis walk
- Piscotty single
- Murphy infield single
- Semien strikeout (2 out)
- Laureano single — 2 RBI
- Pitching change (Sheffield out, Shaw in)
- Wild pitch — run scores
- Canha single — 1 RBI
- Chapman infield single
- Olson walk
- Pinder single — 2 RBI
- Davis infield single — 1 RBI
- Piscotty double — 1 RBI
- Murphy walk
- Semien fly out (3 out)
All told, they went 6-for-8 with runners in scoring position. That was a sight for sore eyes, after they’d gone 10-for-56 w/ RISP on the year entering the day — they nearly doubled their total in just one huge inning. And they did that without their single hottest RISP hitter, Robbie Grossman, who got the day off against a lefty starter.
That southpaw starter was Justus Sheffield, and he’d gotten lucky to last as long as he had before the A’s broke through. In the first four frames he allowed six pieces of contact between 97-106 mph in exit velocity, and five of them went for outs; the other was a harmless single. Oakland was smashing him all night, it just took a while for it to translate to the scoreboard — two of their three 95+ mph balls off him in the 5th did go for hits, including Laureano’s.
Sheffield was pulled after Laureano’s hit, and reliever Bryan Shaw had a day to forget. His outing went as follows: single, single, walk, single, single, double, walk, flyout. Eight batters, one out.
While Grossman wasn’t part of the action, the A’s other two hot hands were once again in the middle of the scoring. Laureano broke the seal by driving in the first runs, with his bases-loaded single. Canha batted next, and matched Laureano with a single of his own. By the time those two were done hitting, the A’s led 4-1, and the rest after that was just insurance. Khris Davis’ RBI was his first of the year, and so was Stephen Piscotty’s.
Piscotty's hit caps off an 8-run inning for the A's— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) August 4, 2020
All happened with 2 outs pic.twitter.com/YMNdPbPO3Q
Even more impressive is that all eight of the runs came with two outs. And they did it without relying at all on homers, which is always encouraging for a club that sometimes struggles to score when they can’t find the long ball.
However, one A’s hitter didn’t have a fun time in the 5th. Marcus Semien came up twice with the bases loaded each time, and he wasn’t able to contribute in either opportunity. It had been over a decade since a non-pitcher MLB hitter had done that.
Marcus Semien is the first player to make outs with the bases loaded in two separate plate appearances in the same inning since Jameson Taillon on April 28, 2017.— Evan Boyd (@EvanBoydSTATS) August 4, 2020
He's the first non pitcher to do it since JJ Hardy on July 31, 2009 https://t.co/ZM3l6cLA83
Also known as ...
The reverse Tatis— Ben Ross (@BenRossTweets) August 4, 2020
Don’t worry, Semien ended up doubling later, and also added a walk, so he still had a perfectly fine day even if he wasn’t a part of this particular rally.
And anyway, the rest of Semien’s teammates were there to pick him up. It was only one big inning, amid one lopsided 11-1 victory that counts the same as any other win in the standings, but it was still great to see one of the best lineups in the majors finally show what it can do. (Click here for the full Game Recap.)
The A’s did get a little bit of help from Seattle in this rally beyond just the three walks, specifically from third baseman Kyle Seager.
Murphy’s infield single, which helped set the table at the beginning, came with runners on first and second and was fielded by Seager on the run to his right. He could have stopped, planted, and thrown to first to get Murphy, or perhaps he could have stopped, changed direction, and tagged third base for the force out before the runner got there. Instead, he threw wildly and against his body toward second base, but not even close to nabbing the runner there, leaving everybody safe. If he gets just one out somewhere, the whole rally might have been avoided.
Later, Davis hit a dribbler to the left side of the infield. It’s not an easy play charging in to barehand that slow grounder, but Seager is a former Gold Glover and it’s not unfair to expect him to get it done. Instead he clanked it, and the seventh run scored.
On top of all that, a few more of the hits came against defensive shifts, and might have been fielded if the Mariners had been in their normal positions.
Of the A’s 10 pieces of contact in the inning, only five were particularly well-struck at 90+ mph or higher exit velocity. But they at least kept putting the ball in play and forcing the other team to do something about it, and on this day it worked. Finally.