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Oakland Athletics batter Texas Rangers, sparked by Jonathan Lucroy grand slam

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Oakland Athletics catcher Jonathan Lucroy looks to the dugout for a sign against the Giants at AT&T Park on Friday, July 13, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

When the Oakland A’s signed catcher Jonathan Lucroy this past offseason, they likely didn’t expect to get the same multidimensional backstop who made two All-Star teams with the Milwaukee Brewers earlier in his career.

During stints with the Texas Rangers and Colorado Rockies last year, Lucroy posted the lowest slugging percentage since his rookie season. His defense also declined. So while his .238 batting average and one home run through the first 76 games this season were perhaps a bit startling for the A’s, his prolonged slump somewhat mirrored his overall career trajectory.

But Lucroy’s production over the past few days has offered hope of a second-half improvement. On Saturday, Lucroy lined a walk-off single off San Francisco Giants reliever Will Smith. On Monday, his second-inning grand slam against Rangers starter Cole Hamels set a 15-3 blowout win in motion.

By toppling Texas, the A’s (58-43) advanced to just 2 1/2 games out of the second American League Wild Card spot, far exceeding preseason expectations.

Lucroy was one of many Oakland contributors. Right fielder Stephen Piscotty hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning and an RBI double in the seventh inning, one game after seeing his 11-game hitting streak snapped. Third baseman Matt Chapman, fresh off his own walk-off hit Sunday, roped a three-run home run later in that seventh frame. It was his first home run since returning from a right thumb contusion on July 3. Designated hitter Khris Davis added an opposite field long ball — his third round-tripper in two games — giving him 24 on the year and 109 since the start of the 2016 season. It was also his 12th career home run in 92 at-bats in Arlington.

Davis’s homer completed Oakland’s fifth home run cycle game (solo, two-run, three-run, grand-slam) in franchise history, and first since July 19, 2015.

Already one of the best hitting teams in baseball away from the Coliseum — they lead baseball in runs and home runs on the road — the A’s delivered 18 hits against the Rangers. Texas outfielders Carlos Tocci and Ryan Rua each were required to pitch in the lopsided contest, and were the only two Rangers not to allow a run.

Though his outing was somewhat overshadowed by the offense, Oakland starter Brett Anderson was stellar. He went six innings, struck out a season-high six and allowed two runs. He came in with a 6.08 ERA and left with a 5.46 ERA mark. With a pitching rotation still in flux due to injuries, him being serviceable would be a boost for the A’s.

On Monday, Anderson’s quality outing preserved a bullpen that was leaned on heavily in extra-inning games on Saturday and Sunday. For the first time since the All-Star break, none of Oakland’s three high-leverage relievers (Jeurys Familia, Lou Trivino or Blake Treinen) were needed.

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