The Oakland A’s lineup finally has a couple of hot hitters, but perhaps not the ones we were expecting.
The A’s cruised to a 5-1 victory over the division-leading Houston Astros on Friday at Minute Maid Park, with all five runs driven in by a pair of bats from the bottom half of the lineup.
Of course, holding the mighty Astros to just one run is impressive in its own right, and Oakland’s pitching staff achieved that with a quality start from the rotation and then scoreless work from four relievers. But the story of the A’s season has been their inability to score, and on this evening they overcame that obstacle to post a pair of crooked numbers on offense.
What’s more, that damage was done by two much-maligned hitters who have been heating up lately. Veteran Elvis Andrus has been thumping for a couple weeks now and he continued that surge with a two-run single, while rookie Skye Bolt scorched the heavens with a dinger for the second straight game en route to collecting three hits and three RBI.
The scoreboard stayed empty for the first half of the game, which is to say, four and a half innings. Oakland’s lineup managed only a hit and walk through five frames. but fortunately A’s starter Cole Irvin matched most of those zeroes.
The left-hander made it through four inning unscathed, despite a steady diet of hard contact. Houston finally scratched out a run in the 5th, on a double and a sac fly, but Irvin locked them down again in the 6th.
- Irvin: 6 ip, 1 run, 4 Ks, 1 BB, 3 hits, 67 pitches
When he walked off the mound at the end of the 6th he was trailing 1-0, which felt like some deja vu. His previous start had also come against the Astros, with a similarly quality line for his part, but he took the loss due to lack of run support. He also faced them on June 1, allowing just one run in another game that Oakland lost. This time his teammates didn’t let it happen again, getting him off the hook and into the lead.
In the top of the 7th the A’s quickly put a pair of runners in scoring position, and Andrus singled up the middle to drive them both home.
Andrus was one of the worst hitters in the majors last season, but he’s got a respectable 90 wRC+ this year and he’s been especially hot lately. Over his previous 14 games entering today he had an .892 OPS with a few homers and a bunch of walks, and his 158 wRC+ during that span was the best on the team. This evening he chipped in the go-ahead hit, and even hustled his way to second base when the outfielder bobbled the ball, and then to third base on a wild pitch.
Those extra bases made a difference. Bolt came up with Andrus on third and delivered a sharp single to knock him in. At 106.8 mph, this was no cheapie, it was a laser by Bolt.
Those runs put Oakland on top 3-1, but they weren’t done yet. Bolt came up again in the 9th inning, with another runner in scoring position, and he put a charge into the ball once more. This time his 105.9 mph blast came with some launch angle, sending it 425 feet in to the horizon for a monstrous two-run dinger.
Skye Bolt put a CHARGE into this ball ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/MiN65RgLlb— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) July 16, 2022
Bolt began the season batting 4-for-30 with a wRC+ in the negatives, but over his past two games he’s gone 4-for-7 with a pair of homers. His wRC+ is now up to 75, his batting average is over the Mendoza Line (.216/.237/.378), and he’s suddenly bringing some rain in the power department.
Three runs in the 7th, plus two more in the 9th, gave Oakland a comfortable lead, and the bullpen didn’t let it get away. Domingo Acevedo took care of the 7th, Zach Jackson and A.J. Puk combined for the 8th, and Lou Trivino was sweet in the 9th. The finishing touch came on a nice defensive effort by Andrus, turning a smooth double play to end the game.
It was redemption for Irvin, who got the win he deserved this time in his third try against Houston. It was a bounce-back for Trivino, who had blown his previous save chance on Tuesday. It was a night to remember for Bolt, the most productive game of his career to date. And it was another nice showing by Andrus, on both sides of the ball as he shows he’s still got something left in the tank.
Add it all up, and it was a good day of pitching, a good day of hitting, and a road win over the Astros. Progress!