By John Hickey
Special to S.F. Examiner
OAKLAND – The Oakland Athletics have done what they can to get more people to come watch them play in the Coliseum.
They’ve won a lot of games — 71. That’s more than all but three of the 30 big league teams. They’ve played exciting baseball with an MLB-best 24 one-run games and with more runs scored in the eighth inning than any team in baseball. Once 12 games out of first place, they’ve moved from fourth place to second and are just two games behind American League West-leading Houston.
Even so, there were just 10,400 on hand for Monday’s game, a game that didn’t seem to be all that close, but turned out to go down to the wire with closer Blaine Treinen striking out Nelson Cruz with two men on to preserve a 7-6 win.
So after the game, second-year third baseman Matt Chapman, one of the emerging stars of the club, took to the post-game TV interview to plead the players’ case for support.
“I just want use this time to encourage the people in Oakland to come out, man,” Chapman said. “All the fans and support we could get, we would really appreciate it. Tonight we’re fighting to the very end against the Mariners and I just wish we could get more people out here. We’re fun to watch. And we really want our fans to come out and support us. It would be great.”
On Tuesday, manager Bob Melvin was on the same wavelength.
“I did see that,” Melvin said. “He just wants to play in front of some big crowds. We’ve had some terrific crowds here this year. There was the Giants series and there was the free game, and guys just like playing in front of big crowds.
“So I don’t blame him that he tried to encourage the fan base to come out and support us. When we have a full house here, it inspires us. Our fans are as loud as any in baseball. That’s what he’s referring to. When our fans come out in full force, it is a terrific atmosphere.”
The manager said he didn’t have any problem with one of the team’s younger players stepping up to the microphone.
“His game is all about old school,” Melvin said. “He’s just a younger player, but he plays the game the right way. And he’s just trying to reach out to the fans.”
The A’s rank 29th in home attendance at 851,621. That’s ahead of only Miami. The tiny number doesn’t mean there isn’t local interest in the club.
Reports last week said that TV ratings for the club are up 94 percent from last year, from 0.68 to 1.32 per household. A Wednesday game against the Dodgers had a 2.2 mark, the best for an Oakland game since 2014 when the A’s made it to the AL Wild Card game.
–Melvin said he hadn’t seen that much of closer Blake Treinen before he was traded to the club mid-2017 from Washington, with the Nationals playing in the NL. But Treinen has the best ERA for any MLB reliever at 0.90 and has racked up 31 saves. “I didn’t see it from afar as a far as what went on in Washington,” the manager said. “All I’ve seen is what we’ve seen here. And if you just look at his stuff, he’s got some of the best stuff in all of baseball. So what he’s doing doesn’t surprise me.”
–Matt Olson has played in all 119 games for the A’s this season, but the first baseman was on the bench to start this one. Instead, strong-armed rookie Ramon Laureano started in center and Mark Canha moved from center to first base with the Mariners throwing a quality left-hander, James Paxton. “It’s always tough not to have Oly in there,” Melvin said. “But in the games he hasn’t started this year, he finds a way in there, whether it’s defense or whether it’s pinch-hitting. So it wouldn’t surprise me if he got in there.”
–The Mariners welcomed Robinson Cano back into their good graces Tuesday. He was in the starting lineup at first base after serving and 80-game suspension for having tested positive for a banned diuretic. “(The suspension) doesn’t really matter,” Melvin said. “He’s back now, and we’re the team that’s going to have to deal with him right away. So the timing isn’t great for us. But you can’t complain about it. It is what it is.”