OAKLAND — Matt Chapman has never played with sunglasses in his Major League career. The Oakland A’s third baseman said they cause him trouble on ground balls when he’s playing in close. That quirk cost him on Thursday.
In the top of the sixth, playing back of second base on a shift, Chapman lost a Brian McCann pop fly in the sun. It was his second of the day (the other being foul), and his struggles weren’t over. Two batters later, he overthrew first on a grounder by Alex Bregman, which led to two more runs.
Chapman, Oakland’s most viable All-Star candidate and a Gold Glove-caliber defender, went 0-for-2 with those two errors on Thursday in a 7-3 loss to the Houston Astros, and was pulled early because of a recurring hand issue that will necessitate an MRI. It is not the hand Chapman was hit in earlier this week.
“It’s hard to really say [what it is],” Chapman said. “It’s been getting progressively worse of the last couple days. I just tried to push through it, and couldn’t do it anymore.”
Chapman said his hand swelled up, and that he was in “a lot of pain.”
“We’re going to get to the bottom of it,” Chapman said. “I’m getting an MRI, and we’re going to go from there.”
Chapman will have an MRI today on a right hand that’s been troublesome for him since the end of last season. He began to feel discomfort in November, when he began his offseason hitting routine. He went to hand specialist Dr. Steven Shin, and X-rays came back negative. He took a break from swinging until January. When he arrived at spring training in February, the hand flared up again.
He underwent an MRI with Shin — the same doctor who will attend to San Francisco Giants third baseman Evan Longoria’s broken hand, and the same doctor who operated on Giants second baseman Joe Panik. The test found no structural damage, but did find bruising and inflammation on a sesamoid bone. Chapman, 24, received a cortisone shot and eventually returned to the field.
“Been trying to push through it all season, and the last couple of days is when I really started noticing it,” Chapman said. “It’s probably not good of me to not say anything, but the first they knew about it was today … I wanted to be out there for the team.”
After his fly out to right in the bottom of the fifth, Chapman told manager Bob Melvin something wasn’t right, and he went out for the sixth to try and get one more defensive inning in.
“A couple swings looked to me like it was bothering him,” said Melvin.
Offensively, Chapman has 10 home runs and 26 RBIs, and is hitting .252., but his true value has been his glove. Chapman leads all of Major League Baseball in defensive runs saved, with 18, and has the most putouts (53) and assists (179) of any third baseman.
Chapman was hit in the face and then the midsection by the pop from McCann to lead off the sixth, which he dropped behind the second base bag. After a single by Tony Kemp, he managed to erase McCann on a grounder from Alex Bregman, tagging third for the force. His throw to first, though, was way off line and high, allowing Bregman to scoot all the way to third, and scoring Kemp. A Jose Altuve double brought Bregman around to score.
“He was going to get Chad [Pinder] in the game after that inning of defense, and we were going to figure it out,” Chapman said. “I went out there for that last inning of defense, and was already planning to come out, try to figure out what was going on with my hand.”
Heading into Thursday, Chapman had hit .389 since the start of June, with one home run, seven walks and four doubles.
“Frustrating for a lot of reasons, obviously,” Chapman said. “I don’t like to feel like I cost the team runs, missing that fly ball today. It hit me in the face, so it didn’t feel good either. It was embarrassing.”