The Oakland A’s have the best record in the American League, and they played like it on Monday.
The A’s came through in every area of the game, earning a tight 5-4 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in their series opener at the Coliseum. And for the second straight day, the winning drive was a go-ahead homer off the bat of Ramon Laureano.
After the high of their 13-game win streak in mid-April, Oakland’s lineup went cold for a week. They scored just 15 runs over their next seven contests, five of them losses. But they began to heat back up Sunday in their 7-5 victory over the Orioles, and they kept it up tonight against the Jays.
They got started early in the 2nd inning, with back-to-back doubles by Matt Chapman and Jed Lowrie.
Next up was Stephen Piscotty, and he sent the ball into orbit to bring home Lowrie with a two-run homer.
doubled singled off the wall and was thrown out at second, thanks to a perfect carom, a perfect barehand play by the outfielder, and a perfect throw in. This wasn’t a TOOTBLAN, it was a correct decision to hustle to second that was beaten by a bad hop and a great play. Piscotty also walked tonight, and the big day raised his season batting line above league-average (105 wRC+).
Toronto tied it up soon after Piscotty’s dinger, but the A’s kept pushing. They nearly scored in the 4th, then finished the job an inning later. Yesterday it was Laureano with a two-run homer in the 8th to take the lead, and tonight it was Laureano with a two-run homer in the 5th to take the lead.
RAMÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓÓN pic.twitter.com/4Lr866bO4D— Oakland A's (@Athletics) May 4, 2021
That’s 109.4 mph off the bat, 432 feet in distance, a serious long ball. Laureano has now homered in each of his last three games, and he’s riding a six-game hitting streak.
Another big call by umps
Those five runs ended up being enough, which is fortunate because they had come frustratingly close to more in the 4th inning. There was a runner on first and one out when Piscotty hit his ball to the wall that got him thrown out second base, for the second out of the inning, thus taking away the chance for the next batter to hit a productive out and drive home the runner who had reached third. Then that batter, Elvis Andrus, nearly got the job done anyway.
Andrus squibbed a swinging bunt a few feet in front of the plate, and it would require a tough enough play that there was a chance he could beat it and let the run score. However, the catcher’s throw pegged Andrus in the back, and he was ruled to be inside the baseline and therefore out due to interference.
This is a tough one to judge honestly from a fan perspective. Overall this is a call that I do want umps to make, so it’s hard to complain when it happens just because it was against my team. If the roles were reversed, and it wasn’t called, I’d probably be annoyed at the very least. We’re all a bit extra mad at the umps lately, for good reasons, but I have to grudgingly admit that this is a real rule and it was correctly called. As long as we get the same benefit on some future defensive play.
Which version of Frankie Montas are you going to get on a given day? Three times this year he’d been quality, totaling four runs combined, and twice he’d had a disaster outing. Tonight added to the list of good ones.
It’s not that Montas was perfect, as there was plenty of hard contact against him, but he was generally in control all night. His one hiccup came in the 3rd inning, when the Jays strung together five singles in the span of six batters to plate three runs.
Despite not featuring any extra-base hits, the rally was still a powerful onslaught, with a few absolute rockets that fortunately didn’t get any elevation. However, Montas also helped himself by not mixing any walks into the rally inning, with only one free pass all night.
- Montas: 6 ip, 3 runs, 4 Ks, 1 BB, 0 HR, 7 hits, 88 pitches, 91.9 mph EV
That’ll do on a night when the A’s lineup does its job, which it did tonight. That’s four times in six tries that we’ve gotten Quality Frankie, and two outta three ain’t bad.
The A’s pen needed to cover three innings to hold their lead.
First up was Sergio Romo for the 7th. After a shaky start to the year he’s quietly settled down lately, and here he delivered a perfect 1-2-3 frame on 13 pitches. He’s tossed a scoreless inning in each of his last four appearances, with four strikeouts and two walks and great Statcast numbers each time.
Next was Lou Trvino for the 8th. He got into some trouble, with an extremely hard-hit double and then a soft single to put two in scoring position with one out. He nearly sent a pitch to the backstop but got saved by his catcher Sean Murphy, and then on the next offering he missed by even more and this time Murphy couldn’t stop it. Wild pitch, run scored. But Trivino stranded the other runner to hold the lead.
Finally, Jake Diekman came in for the save in the 9th. Popout, strikeout, strikeout, 11 pitches, done.
Oakland’s bullpen will eventually blow a lead in 2021, but it hasn’t happened yet. That’s one good way to establish an early 18-12 record, and it’s especially satisfying after the panic of losing the club’s expected closer during spring training.
Back on their feet
In the game recap of the A’s last loss on Saturday, I said that they “didn’t quite pitch well enough, hit well enough, or field well enough in this game,” but with a reminder that it was just a bad day and that they’d be back on top soon enough.
Today they pitched well enough, hit well enough, and fielded well enough, and picked themselves up from their brief mini-slump last weekend, against a strong opponent in the Jays. If all goes well, we’ll continue to see this good version of the A’s more often than the bad.
(Also, welcome home, Marcus Semien! He went 1-for-3 with a walk in his return to the Bay Area.)