The Oakland A’s lineup is back.
After struggling to just 30 runs in their first nine games of the 2020 season, the A’s exploded for 11 against the Seattle Mariners on Monday. The lopsided 11-1 win clinched the series victory for the A’s, who took three out of four at T-Mobile Park in their first road trip of the year.
Oakland was quiet through the first four innings, before finally striking in the 5th against Seattle starter Justus Sheffield and reliever Bryan Shaw. They brought 14 batters to the plate in that frame and went 6-for-8 with runners in scoring position, and Shaw in particular faced eight hitters and retired only one of them. Click here for more details on the 5th-inning rally.
The game was essentially over by the end of the 5th, though the A’s later tacked on a few more runs for good measure. One of those extra tallies came on Khris Davis’ first homer of the year.
On the other side of the ball, A’s starter Frankie Montas looked like the ace we all hoped for. He powered through seven efficient innings, racking up nine strikeouts and letting only one run across.
The 5th inning was a sight to behold. For the first nine games of the season, the A’s lineup wasn’t able to find its rhythm. They weren’t getting on base enough, and when they did nobody could drive each other home — well, almost nobody.
Oakland loaded the bases with one out in the 5th, and Marcus Semien responded with a strikeout. It looked like they may squander yet another prime opportunity, but then, with two outs on the board, one of their few hot hands strode to the plate in Ramon Laureano. The center fielder came through yet again, singling sharply to cash in two runs and chase Sheffield from the game.
Laureano’s 9 RBI lead the team so far this year.
With Sheffield done, the Mariners called on reliever Bryan Shaw to end the rally. He did not do that. The right-hander first faced Mark Canha, the other hot hand in the A’s lineup, and he began by uncorking a wild pitch to let home another run. It didn’t matter, though, because Canha soon singled so the run would have scored anyway, and all the wild pitch did was cost him a second RBI on his hit.
That made it 4-1 and it just escalated from there until it was 8-1. Click here for more details on the 5th-inning rally.
The A’s kept adding, between Davis’ homer and a bases-loaded walk by Canha in the 7th, and then an RBI single by Matt Olson in the 9th.
To truly illustrate the offensive onslaught, you have to look at the box score. They set season-highs in runs (previously seven, on Opening Day), hits (12, up from eight), and walks (11, up from seven), and they did almost all of their damage without relying on homers — other than one garbage-time run on Davis’ dinger.
All told they reached base 26 times (12 hits, 11 BB, 3 HBP). It was a full team effort, with all the starters getting a hit but nobody with more than two, and everyone except Semien either driving in and/or scoring a run (six of them did both).
Still five batting averages below the Mendoza Line among regular starters, but it’s progress. Four players reached base four times each: Laureano, Canha, Davis, and Olson.
Return of Khrush
The Khrush nickname might be a thing of the past, but Khris Davis finally showed his old power stroke on Monday.
Davis had a tough off-year in 2019, hitting just 23 homers to fall well short of his normal 40+ annual standard, and finishing below replacement-level value. He got off to an even worse start this summer, going 0-for-16 in his first 18 plate appearances before finally notching his first hit on Saturday in his fifth game. He picked up another hit on Monday in the 5th-inning rally to collect his first RBI, but even that was an infield single that gets fielded for the out a decent amount of the time.
Then in the 7th, we saw a glimpse of the Davis of old.
That was his first dinger since Sept. 24, 2019. May it be the start of one of his signature homer binges, where the streaky DH hits several in the course of a few days.
Frankie Montas was the presumed ace of Oakland’s rotation entering the season, and he’s beginning to live up to that billing.
After a couple good-but-shaky starts in his first two outings, Montas was great on Monday. He didn’t quite dominate, dealing with baserunners in each of the first five innings including a couple outright jams, but he kept Seattle to just one run through seven frames. After the A’s big 5th inning, he bore down and retired his final seven batters.
His seven innings are the most by any A’s pitcher this year, and it was effectively the team’s third straight quality start, though Chris Bassitt technically came one out short on Sunday.
Montas: 7 ip, 1 run, 9 Ks, 4 BB, 0 HR, 4 hits, 99 pitches (70 strikes)
The right-hander threw plenty of strikes, though he did offer a few free passes along the way. When the Mariners swung they couldn’t do anything against him, with only three batted balls over a 90 mph exit velocity and only two balls that registered as likely hits (the other two hits were quite fortunate).
Montas had his whole arsenal working, with his four-seamer and splitter missing bats, and his sinker and slider peppering the zone and earning weak contact. He racked up a dozen swinging strikes overall, and dialed his heater up to 97 mph. This is starting to look like the ace we were hoping to see.
Despite all that, Montas may have only been the second best starting pitcher on this evening.
With no fans allowed at games during the coronavirus pandemic, there’s nobody to cheer on the team while they play. Fortunately, Sean Manaea has the A’s covered, at least when it’s not his turn to pitch.
Throughout the game, the broadcast crew took note of Manaea holding up handmade signs for his teammates when they were at bat.
Canhanball! Man Chap! Let’s goooo.
This is the kind of thing to remember when it comes time to vote for Team Captain in our year-end awards. Manaea has been woefully underrated in that department in past seasons.
The A’s head back to the Bay Area after their brief foray up north. They’ll play three each against the Rangers and Astros, beginning with Texas on Tuesday at 6:10 p.m. Top prospect Jesus Luzardo makes his first MLB start, against Lance Lynn of the Rangers, who finished fifth in AL Cy Young voting last year.