The Oakland A’s finally put some runners on base in front of their homers.
Both teams went deep three times Tuesday night at Comerica Park, but two of Oakland’s dingers came with runners on while the Detroit Tigers settled for three solo shots. The A’s also added a few more rallies to their power display, and came out on top 9-3 in the opener of a three-game series.
Entering today, 20 of Oakland’s last 22 homers had come with nobody on base, a particularly painful inefficiency given the number of close games they’ve played lately. They got to work early changing that trend.
In the 3rd inning, back-to-back doubles plated one run, and then Matt Chapman followed with a two-run homer to give the A’s a 3-1 lead. Chapman’s last eight long balls had been solo, dating back to late-July, as were 18 of his first 21 for the year.
Chappy with the deep home run for the lead pic.twitter.com/i1tdqgKWqh— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) August 31, 2021
In the 5th they struck again. A pair of singles and a sac fly brought home one run, and then with a runner on first base Mark Canha went yard for two runs. That’s Canha’s 13th dinger of the year, and 11 of them have been solo. The only other time all season that somebody was on base for a Canha homer was in early April. It was also just Canha’s second long ball since early June.
Canha’s blast put Oakland up 6-1, and from there they cruised. The Tigers hit a pair of solo homers in the bottom of the 5th, but that wasn’t enough to keep pace, and anyway the A’s added some insurance in the late innings. Chapman capped it off with one more tater in the 9th, this time with nobody on base, so make it 19 of his 23 homers for the season that have been solo.
It was nearly a three-homer night for Chapman. In the 5th inning, he sent one 424 feet to center field, which was actually his second-farthest fly of the evening. But in Comerica’s cavernous dimensions it fell just short for an out, and then a few pitches later Canha hit his two-run dinger. Chapman’s two homers that did clear the wall went 426 and 423 feet.
Oakland’s offense wasn’t all long balls, though. The 3rd inning began with Starling Marte doing his job as a table-setter, lining an opposite-field double to the wall, and then it continued with Matt Olson doing his job as a run producer, lining an opposite-field double down the LF line to drive in Marte. Chapman followed with his first dinger.
In the 5th, the speed of Marte impacted the game like it’s done all month. He led off the inning by beating out a grounder for an infield single, then began to attempt a steal but ended up on third when Olson singled on the pitch. Yan Gomes delivered a sac fly to bring home Marte, then Chapman almost homered, and then Canha followed with his dinger. If Marte doesn’t hustle out that infield hit, do the A’s score at all in that frame?
On the other side of the ball, Detroit made some loud contact against starter Cole Irvin but didn’t get many runs to show for it. A solo homer in the 1st gave them an early lead, but they stranded a double in the 3rd, then loaded the bases in the 4th and stranded that too thanks to a Platinum Glove double play on defense by Chapman. In the 5th they homered twice, and then put two runners, which was enough to chase Irvin but only put a small dent on the scoreboard.
- Irvin: 4⅔ ip, 3 runs, 2 Ks, 2 BB, 3 HR, 7 hits, 84 pitches, 90.3 mph EV
That’s his second straight short start, though tonight Oakland’s offense exploded for enough damage that it didn’t matter. Two of the Tigers homers came from former A’s Robbie Grossman and Dustin Garneau.
The score was 6-3 when Irvin departed, and relievers Deolis Guerra and Yusmeiro Petit kept it that way through the end of the 7th.
In the 8th the A’s added some cushion. They put runners on second and third, and Josh Harrison notched a hit to score them both and push it to 8-3. Harrison had three hits tonight, including a double to lead off the game, and he also stole a base.
Even with the increased lead, setup man (committee closer?) Andrew Chafin came in for the 8th, and then after Chapman’s second homer in the top of the 9th, lefty A.J. Puk took it the rest of the way.
The moral of today? Put runners on base and then hit homers, like the A’s did, instead of hitting homers and then putting runners on base to strand, like the Tigers did and the A’s have been doing all month. Pounding out a dozen hits, seven of them for extra-bases, helps too. And also Matt Chapman is really, really good.
That’s three in a row for Oakland. It’s a winning streak! And suddenly, the A’s are only one game behind the Red Sox for the Second Wild Card.