The Oakland A’s were already hot enough, winning 11 of their first 13 games since the beginning of June. Then they added Ramon Laureano back to their lineup and dialed things up yet another notch.
The A’s fell behind early but rallied back with six runs in the 6th inning to stun the Los Angeles Angels in an 8-4 victory Wednesday, completing a three-game sweep at the Coliseum. In Laureano’s return from the injured list, the center fielder robbed a homer at the wall and then hit one of his own at the plate.
For the first couple innings, this looked like it might be an afternoon finale snoozer. The A’s had won the first two night games of the series, but the Halos blitzed them under the midday sun and took a sizable early lead.
Starter Cole Irvin wasn’t fooling anybody today, and in the 1st inning alone he allowed five pieces of contact blistered at triple-digit exit velocities. His first pitch of the game was launched high off the jagged edge of the wall for a double that could just as easily have been a homer, and then a parade of four singles sent three runs across the plate. It could have been even worse, but Mark Canha made a brilliant leaping catch to rob another extra-base hit, likely cutting two runs off the rally.
In the 2nd inning, Irvin served up a meatball to Shohei Ohtani and the ball landed 435 feet away for a solo homer. That made it 4-0 Angels.
Meanwhile, Oakland’s lineup went down in order the first time through, notching one single but getting thrown out trying to stretch it to second base. Maybe it was just going to be one of those days, as even the hottest teams don’t win every game.
Gotta tip your cap to Iglesias ... he wasn't even looking when he caught it pic.twitter.com/DPLwGPX2X8— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) June 16, 2021
But nope. The Angels never scored again, and the A’s soon woke up and looked exactly like the steamroller we’ve watched all month. Well, almost exactly. There was one slight improvement.
This morning the team activated Ramon Laureano from the injured list. The CF missed a couple weeks to a strained hip but was back in the lineup today batting second, and it didn’t take long for Laser to show that he’s fully operational.
Irvin settled down after the early damage, but with two outs in the 4th he was tagged with another deep fly. As the ball carried back in right-center, Laureano glided over, timed his leap, and plucked it out of the air. Side angle showed that it was headed over the wall and would have been a homer.
The batter, Justin Upton, had already been denied a homer to right-center by the wall’s jagged edge in the 1st inning, and now had been robbed of another by Laureano in the 4th.
But Laser wasn’t done. In the bottom of the inning, just a few minutes after pulling back a dinger on defense, Laureano blasted one of his own to put the A’s on the board. It’s the second time this season he’s pulled that combo of hitting and robbing a homer in the same inning.
Laureano’s 404-foot shot began Oakland’s comeback, and Mark Canha knocked home another in the 5th with an RBI groundout — and some extra hustle to make sure he wasn’t doubled up to end the frame. The A’s had settled down after falling behind early, and the deficit was down to 4-2. We had ourselves a ballgame.
Inevitable, my dear Watson
The Angels called to their bullpen in the 6th inning, and it went poorly for them almost immediately.
A’s fans might already have fond memories of Tony Watson. He’s a good lefty reliever, but in 2018 with the Giants he allowed the most iconic Mark Canha Bat Flip homer. Last month he faced Oakland in an Angels uniform and blew a save by walking two batters, inducing a comeback grounder, and throwing it away for an error to gift the tying run.
Today he was tasked with holding a two-run lead. Instead, he let six straight batters reach base, on five singles with an intentional walk mixed in, and all six of them came around to score.
It began innocently enough, with singles from Matt Olson and Jed Lowrie. Then Matt Chapman made it three in a row, driving home Olson. Chad Pinder lined another one, and Lowrie scored to tie the game. And then something none of us could have imagined a month ago — the Halos put up four fingers to intentionally walk Elvis Andrus, loading the bases. How quickly a slumping player can heat up.
The free pass brought up Tony Kemp, and that decision backfired. Kemp is hot too, like everyone in the A’s lineup, and he plopped a bloop single into center field for another run. Oakland now had the lead.
Tony Kemp Tony Watson pic.twitter.com/zRRgxPDCAj— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) June 16, 2021
That was it for Watson, and somehow it unraveled further from there. The first pitch from new reliever Steve Cishek sailed to the backstop, and Pinder hustled home to make it 6-4.
Then Canha hit a grounder to short, with the infield drawn in to make a play at the plate, but the throw to the catcher went high and Andrus slid home safely. It was the second time in as many innings that Canha had hit a simple grounder to short at the opportune moment and been rewarded with an RBI.
heads up play by the OG Elvis pic.twitter.com/EQj7oOSm4i— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) June 16, 2021
Olson capped off the rally with one more RBI single, pushing the margin to 8-4. The A’s brought 11 batters to the plate in their Big Inning, just as they had in Monday’s 8-5 victory over the Angels, and with runners in scoring position they totaled four hits plus Canha’s two productive groundouts.
Bonus good news: Pinder went 2-for-2 off the bench, in his first game back after being hit by a pitch in the head on Monday.
Bullpen holds on
The comeback got Irvin off the hook, and the bullpen cruised from there.
- Irvin: 5⅔ ip, 2 Ks, 2 BB, 1 HR, 9 hits, 81 pitches, 90.9 mph EV
The lefty might have finished the 6th inning, but Kemp got a little too ambitious on a shallow fly to RF, and as he ranged out from 2B his presence probably got in the way of the outfielder as the catchable ball dropped to the turf for a hit — a nearly imperceptible imperfection in Kemp’s amazing play this season.
There would be no seesaw re-comeback by the Halos. Burch Smith, Sergio Romo, and Lou Trivino retired the final 10 batters in order to lock it down.
That’s game-set-match for the three-game series, in an 8-5, 6-4, 8-4 sweep by the A’s. They’ve now won seven of their 10 meetings against the AL West division rival Angels, with nine more to go beginning a month from now. Of course, we’re yet to see Mike Trout, who could be returning from his calf injury by then.
In the meantime, Oakland is scorching. The sun is out, the weather is blazing, and the A’s are 12-2 in June. At 43-27, this is their best start to a season since 1990, which was also their last trip to the World Series. And Ramon is back. Ride the wave!
— Brodie Brazil (@BrodieNBCS) June 16, 2021