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Seth Brown delivers in 2021 season debut

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He didn’t make the Opening Day roster, but he helped get the A’s first win of the year.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Oakland Athletics Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland A’s needed somebody to step up, and Seth Brown had been waiting long enough that he wasn’t going to miss the call.

Brown earned an MLB debut at the end of 2019 and played well, helping the team down the stretch and even getting an at-bat in the Wild Card Game against the Rays. But 2020 was a lost summer, with no chance to play in the canceled minors, and he got only five plate appearances in a short season on a crowded Oakland roster. Now age 28, he barely missed out on the 2021 Opening Day roster last week, instead going back to the alternate site again to play scrimmages.

But the A’s suffered a rash of minor injuries in the first few days of the year, and by Tuesday Brown had already been called up to the bigs. He sat on the bench that evening, but at least he was back.

He got his chance on the field Wednesday afternoon against the Los Angeles Dodgers. With the A’s desperately searching for their first win after six losses, and Chad Pinder and Matt Olson out of the lineup hurt, Brown started in left field.

There was a catch, though. At the plate he’d have to face Trevor Bauer, the reigning NL Cy Young, who was coming off a 2021 debut last week in which he’d carried a no-hitter into the 7th inning against the Rockies.

Brown didn’t blink. In the 2nd inning he drilled a 2-0 pitch to right field for a solid single, the A’s first hit of the day and his first MLB knock since 2019. It didn’t end up factoring into the outcome, as he was later stranded, but at 112.4 mph it was the hardest-hit ball by either team for the entire game, and the second-hardest of Oakland’s season so far.

Can you imagine what he would have done to that ball if he’d put some launch angle underneath it? Well you don’t have to, because his next time up he did just that. The result was a monster homer to right, except that it went just a couple feet on the wrong side of the foul pole so it didn’t count. He instead struck out a couple pitches later, but he’d made his presence known and shown A’s fans what kind of contact they can expect from him — even against an ace starter.

The lefty struck out again in his third at-bat, but he came up once more in the 9th and made a difference. With Oakland trailing by one, and the leadoff man on first and nobody out, he drew a walk to push the tying run to second base. A sac bunt and a sac fly brought it the rest of the way around, but those productive outs wouldn’t have been enough without Brownie setting the table.

In the end it was a wonderful debut on offense, 1-for-3 with a walk and darn near a homer. But even that was secondary to the impact he had on defense.

Leading off the 4th inning, Dodgers DH Austin Barnes pulled a towering drive to left field. Brown ranged back to the wall, timed his leap, and made the grab to rob what would have been a homer.

In case you aren’t sure whether the ball was going out or not, here’s another angle.

Screenshot from NBCS broadcast

That was a dinger, and he pulled it back, or rather nabbed it before it went over at all. In a game that eventually went to extra innings, every single run obviously counts, and this is one of several plays you can point to and say “the A’s don’t win tonight without it.”

***

One hallmark of Oakland A’s contending teams is the constant evolution. The Opening Day roster and lineup go through lots of changes over the ensuing six months, between breakout candidates moving from the bench to starting roles, rookies getting called up, reinforcements arriving in midseason trade acquisitions, and so on.

This year it didn’t even take a week for the first shakeup. It was more because of injuries than anything else, but either way the A’s needed a quick early spark for a sluggish Opening Day squad. Fortunately that was always part of the plan, and Brown was ready to tap in.

There were only 26 players on Thursday’s opening roster, but really it was more like 36-40 with all the reserves they had immediately available. Reserves like Brown, or like top pitching prospect A.J. Puk who had his own impressive season debut Monday, or reliever Jordan Weems who was called up alongside Brown on Tuesday and is now in the bullpen.

Before the season, Athletics Nation voted Brown at No. 18 on our Community Prospect List. Since the end of 2019 he’s been waiting on the doorstep of the majors, and on Wednesday he finally got his chance to deliver — and at a crucial moment, helping the A’s avoid setting a new franchise record for the worst start to a season.