The Oakland A’s had a Saturday full of bounce-backs. On the team level, they avenged a sloppy loss the night before with a decisive 8-3 victory over the Texas Rangers in Arlington. And on the individual level, Matt Chapman had a banner day on both sides of the ball, with two homers at the plate and a great catch on defense.
The A’s victory wasn’t a one-man show, as they combined to blast five solo homers and Chapman drove in just two of their eight total runs. But amid a tough season for the star third baseman, it was encouraging to see him lead the way and show signs of heating up down the stretch of the pennant drive.
Before Oakland’s power display, both teams used a bit of small-ball in the 1st inning. The A’s jumped on the board in a fashion that’s grown familiar lately, as Starling Marte singled, stole second base, and came home on an RBI hit by Jed Lowrie — that’s Marte’s 10th steal in 14 games wearing green-and-gold, and Lowrie’s millionth hit with runners in scoring position. But Texas matched that feat precisely in the bottom of the 1st, as their second batter singled and stole and then their cleanup hitter drove him in.
In the 2nd, Chapman loudly put Oakland back in the lead with his first dinger.
That 2-1 margin held for a while, in part thanks to Chapman himself in the field. With one runner on and nobody out, the two-time Platinum Glover posted one of his most amazing defensive highlights yet, racing down the line to make a tumbling over-the-shoulder catch.
The reactions from Chapman and his teammates say it all.
- “The best catch I’ve ever seen in a game I’ve been a part of,” said starting pitcher James Kaprielian.
- “I’ve seen him do some miraculous things. But when that ball was hit, it’s a hit. I don’t know that anyone else gets to that,” said manager Bob Melvin.
- And Chapman himself: “Definitely got to be one of the best plays I’ve ever made in my life.”
“I know that if I’m not swinging the bat well, I’m able to change the game on defense. I’m able to have my range and arm strength back because my hip is better. I feel like I’m back to the player I was when I won the Gold Gloves.”
While one Matt was finding his stride, the other was chipping in as well. In the 6th inning, Matt Olson went deep to push the lead to 3-1.
3️⃣0️⃣th Oly bomb of the season pic.twitter.com/Kof4A8369H— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) August 15, 2021
Texas battled back to tie it up in the bottom of the 6th, but the A’s kept thumping, as Mitch Moreland led off the very next inning with a long ball. In the last four games Moreland has six extra-base hits, including three homers and two more drives that probably should have been homers.
Moreland’s rocket gave Oakland the lead permanently, but they didn’t waste time adding insurance just in case. Four pitches later, Chapman hit another one to go back-to-back with Mitchy.
That’s 820 feet worth of homers for Chapman today, at 413 and 407 respectively. In his last five games, he’s 5-for-13 with these two dingers, nine walks, and only three strikeouts. That’s promising not only for the pop in his bat, but also the improvement in his handle of the zone, as the current MLB leader in striking out.
After the Mitch-and-Matt homers, the 7th inning continued with a Marte-and-Matt rally. Starling has proven himself as a table-setter but got to take a turn as run producer, ripping an RBI double down the line.
Stay hot, Starling Marte ♨️ pic.twitter.com/JyTyTDHe6x— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) August 15, 2021
Then Olson smoked one through the gaping left-side hole in the Rangers’ defensive shift, plating Marte.
Matt-a-palooza tonight in Arlington pic.twitter.com/f3CtMEWEWF— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) August 15, 2021
That would have been enough, but in the 9th, Seth Brown added an exclamation point, 408 feet off former A’s pitcher Jharel Cotton.
Seth Brown with another absolute tank pic.twitter.com/hHOu7jhYTC— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) August 15, 2021
So many dingers. Two hot Matts. Mitchy
Two Four Bags. Marte Partay. And steady Jed as usual. This lineup is rolling.
Tip of the Kap
Gotta give a shoutout to the pitching too. Kaprielian allowed a couple short rallies but nothing disastrous, and despite not striking out anybody he generally kept the A’s in the game. The Rangers scored once in the 1st, then squandered a chance in the 3rd, and then knocked out Kaprielian in the 6th but couldn’t extend the rally long enough to take a lead.
- Kaprielian: 5⅓ ip, 3 runs, 0 Ks, 0 BB, 8 hits, 69 pitches, 79.3 mph EV
Not his best, and not his worst, but good enough today. Texas only hit the ball hard off him a few times, and he offered them no help via free passes.
The bullpen followed a similar theme — not their best nor their worst, but just good enough. Andrew Chafin entered in the 6th inning to escape Kaprielian’s final jam, with two on and one out and a run already home to cut the lead to 3-2. His first batter (former A’s prospect Jonah Heim!) launched a fly deep to left, but at 383 feet it only had enough for the warning track and it landed calmly in a glove. It was still a sac fly to drive in the tying run, but the damage had been limited.
Chafin went on to record the third out and then pitched a scoreless 7th, while his teammates immediately rebuilt a sizeable new lead. Yusmeiro Petit and A.J. Puk cleaned up the final two innings. That’ll do.
Back on track
The A’s won seven games in a row, then lost a stinker last night to snap their streak. But they hopped up today and got right back on track, with a bunch of fireworks at the plate and nice work in the field.
They’ve now won eight out of nine, and 12 out of 15. And perhaps most importantly, both Matts are finally hot at the same time, and they’re not alone.