If the A’s make a deep postseason run in 2021, we may look back on Wednesday’s walk-off win as the first game where this crew came together.
There’s a new look and feel about the A’s since they added Andrew Chafin, Yan Gomes, Josh Harrison and Starling Marte in trade deadline deals. The bench looks much deeper and roles are shifting to a slightly different mix than the first four months of the year. Manager Bob Melvin probably wakes up every gameday excited to pencil in matchup-based lineups and make personnel changes at this point.
Each of the A’s acquisitions played a role in the dramatic 5-4 victory over the San Diego Padres at the Coliseum. Here’s a look at their contributions on Wednesday and how they’ve helped reshape the team so far.
Just look at the dude’s Twitter feed to get a feel for how hilarious he his.
The handlebar-mustachioed southpaw reliever describes himself as “athletic pitcher guy for the Athletics” and he’s out here touting Crocs, t-shirts that say ‘FAILED STARTER,’ his old Pontiac Firebird he affectionately calls the “BeaterBird” which needs repairs, he’s getting a shoutout from Lagunitas Brewing and he’s trying to get help to find a houseboat. That’s an instant folk hero, folks.
He’s done just fine on the mound, too, turning in four scoreless appearances in the green and gold, striking out three while allowing three hits and no walks. In Wednesday’s win, Chafin allowed a harmless two-out single but navigated through the seventh without giving up a run.
Chafin doesn’t have overpowering stuff and rarely seems to top 90, but hitters just can’t seem to read the ball out of his hands and make solid contact — almost like a southpaw Yusmeiro Petit. But Chafin has lowered his ERA to 1.88 and kept his WHIP at 0.84 since joining the A’s.
You know how mullets are business in the front and party in the back? That’s Chafin. He’s a human mullet. Gets you outs in the game and gets you a beer from the cooler after the game.
Righties are hitting .167 against him this year while lefties are batting .154. At this point, Bob Melvin should feel comfortable using Chafin in virtually any high-leverage situation.
There were a few clutch moments in Wednesday’s late rally, when the A’s trailed 3-1 entering the ninth, tied it up, gave up the lead in the top of the 10th only to claim a 5-4 victory over the San Diego Padres on Matt Olson’s walk-off, two-run double.
The ninth inning, in particular, featured some feisty at-bats.
Ramón Laureano started off the frame with a 10-pitch battle that featured five foul balls before he smacked a double down the left-field line. While Matt Chapman’s recent struggles didn’t inspire much confidence when he stepped to the plate with runners on the corners and two outs, he delivered an RBI single.
Then came Yan Gomes, who Melvin summoned off the bench for an absolutely crucial pinch-hit at-bat. That’s the thing with these deadline deals, they added a lot of depth to the squad. It feels different when Gomes comes into the game rather than Aramis Garcia (who probably wouldn’t have pinch-hit for Elvis Andrus in the first place).
After falling behind 0-2 immediately to Mark Melancon, Gomes fouled off a pitch, spit on a ball that was way outside and fouled off one more. Then he stroked a solid single to center field to score pinch-runner Tony Kemp (again gotta love that new depth) who substituted in for catcher Sean Murphy earlier in the inning.
Gomes is slashing .272/.311/.461 this year and gone 3-for-10 with a dinger and four RBIs with the A’s. He’s mashing left-handers (.343/.343/.657) and clearly has plenty of pop in his bat, if this dinger last week in Anaheim was any indication.
Yan Gomes launches his first homer with the A’s 💪 pic.twitter.com/RCSrHF8FuO
— A’s on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) August 1, 2021
It might behoove the A’s to move to platoon situation behind the plate, with Gomes against lefties and Murphy against righties. Murph has the familiarity with the A’s pitchers but Gomes is a savvy vet with 10 years of experience and World Series under his belt, and knows how to handle an MLB staff. At this point, he is a better and more consistent hitter than Murphy.
That 11th-hour deadline deal between the A’s and Washington Nationals is looking like a steal with the early returns.
You know how people call some basketball players a “walking bucket”? I feel like Starling Marte is a walking hit.
Not saying he’s gonna get a base knock every time he gets up to the plate, but it seems like he’s due for a daily single and a threat for a multi-hit game each day he’s in the lineup.
The 32-year-old center fielder is about 38 plate appearances shy of qualifying, but his .311 batting average would rank eighth in MLB and fifth in the American League.
Marte has provided an instant spark to the offense, going 9-for-25 with a .360/.429/.520 slash line in his first six games with the A’s while slotting in as an ideal No. 2 hitter behind Mark Canha. Marte also plays with a lot of energy and always seems to have a smile on his face.
In Wednesday’s walk-off, Marte singled and scored the game-winning run from first base after Padres right fielder Wil Myers couldn’t make the catch on Matt Olson’s double off the wall. Marte seems to be in the middle of the action and has scored five runs in six games with the A’s.
Marte also has solidified the outfield defense, as Ramón Laureano is a big upgrade over Stephen Piscotty or Seth Brown out in right field.
It’s clear that Bob Melvin wants to keep Josh Harrison’s bat in the lineup. Ditto for Jed Lowrie.
So, it makes sense that Mitch Moreland hasn’t had an at-bat since Harrison joined the team.
In essence, Harrison has become the team’s primary second baseman and Lowrie has become the team’s primary designated hitter, to give Lowrie and his surgically-repaired knee a much-needed break in the dog days of summer. I don’t think enough has been made of the fact that Lowrie has powered through 103 games this season, including 63 at second base. Lowrie reportedly has warmed to the idea of being designated hitter, even though he has a below average slash line (.230/.307/.363) as a DH this year.
Moreland has never got it going with the A’s and currently totes a .228/.287/.386 slash line with seven dingers and 24 RBI in 68 games this year.
While Harrison has struggled at the plate since joining the A’s, going 2-for-12 with a pair of singles, he is still slashing .289/.361/.425 this year and offers defensive versatility at 2B/3B. He’s definitely an upgrade over Moreland and Jacob Wilson, who was designated for assignment once Harrison joined the team.
Harrison went 0-for-3 with a hit by pitch in Wednesday’s walk-off, so he didn’t make a major contribution in the box score. But if you watch the celebration after Matt Olson’s game-winning double, you’ll see Harrison was the first one to greet the slugging first baseman.
— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) August 5, 2021
Harrison, Gomes, Marte and Chafin are in the middle of a playoff race now and you can tell they’re having fun. This deep squad has the chance to do some special things in the next couple of months.