OAKLAND — After losing 9-2 on Monday in the opener of their 10-game homestand, the Oakland Athletics flipped the script in an 11-2 victory on Tuesday.
The previous game had seen the A’s batters struggling to get big hits, their fielders making uncharacteristic miscues and their starting pitcher walking too many batters. In the second act, it was the Seattle Mariners doing those things, while the A’s looked strong in all areas of the game.
“Bad on both sides of the ball last night, but we knew that that’s just one night,” said shortstop Marcus Semien of the team’s bounce-back. “Put it behind you, try and win the series tomorrow. That started with today. You can’t win the series without winning today.”
The A’s made their biggest statement at the plate, where they tied their fourth-biggest scoring output of the year. Just about everyone got in on the act, with eight players recording hits and six players crossing the plate at least once.
“Offensively, everybody basically contributed and moved the line and had some big hits and added on, and did all the things you’d like to in a game like that,” said manager Bob Melvin.
The A’s tied a season-high with seven hits with runners in scoring position, which also matched their total from the previous six games combined. Only one of their 11 runs came on a homer, by Semien in the second inning, which is a departure for a lineup that often relies heavily on long balls. Their 107 jacks rank ninth in the majors, and they’re a paltry 13-26 in games when they hit one homer or fewer.
“You don’t want to live and die by the home run,” said Semien. “That’s kind of what we have been doing in the past. Situational hitting is better, and I’m sure our hitting coach [Darren] Bush is really happy about that, because you just want to be able to win in different ways. You don’t just want to hit home runs.”
Oakland’s lineup featured several standout performers, but second baseman Jurickson Profar was the most consistent force throughout the evening. On three different occasions he came up with runners on base, and each time he delivered a hit to drive at least one of them in. In the end he racked up four RBIs, and his season total of 39 now leads the team.
Profar’s big RBI total comes despite a low .218 batting average, needing just 53 hits to drive in his 39 runs.
“Even when he was struggling average-wise, when he was down in the mid-.100s, his hits were knocking runs in,” said Melvin of Profar, who is 15-for-45 in June to help push his average over the Mendoza Line. “And then he started hitting a few home runs, he had some big RBI games, and now every time he comes up with guys in scoring position I think he has a lot of confidence.”
Semien also had a big night, with three hits of his own including the homer. He drove in two runs, scored three, and added a walk along the way. The shortstop extended his career-high hitting streak to 12 games, during which he’s 21-for-53, good for a .396 average.
“Just stick with what’s working,” said Semien of his hot streak. “I tinker with my swing from time to time, tinker with the approach based off how they attack me. Just kind of sticking with that right now, and same routine in the cage.”
The A’s scored early and often, putting up nine runs within the first four innings. That included three in the first inning off Mariners opener Gerson Bautista, who faced the first seven batters of the game and only retired two of them, while issuing three walks. The next six runs came off lefty Wade LeBlanc, who pitched out of the bullpen for the third time in a row after starting in his previous 33 appearances dating back to May of 2018.
The Mariners also helped out by committing four errors on defense. Oakland played a clean game on that side of the ball, after making a couple of misplays on Monday that led to runs.
Not to be lost in the offensive onslaught was A’s starting pitcher Frankie Montas, who posted a quality start for his third outing in a row and the seventh time in his last eight games. Montas tossed six strong innings, striking out nine batters with just one walk. The Mariners hit a few balls hard but the right-hander scattered those to avoid big rallies, and kept everything in the park.
“I didn’t think he had his best command early on, and then ended up finding it a little bit,” said Melvin of Montas, who has now struck out 19 batters over his last two starts combined. “I thought his fastball was pretty good, and his breaking stuff early on wasn’t great, but then as the game went along he found it and started getting some strikeouts. We’re starting to get a little used to what he’s doing every time out [with a team-high nine wins in 13 starts].”
Montas showed his usual high velocity, hitting 98 mph with his fastball several times early on and maintaining 96 all night. But it was his slider that earned him six of his nine strikeouts, while his splitter chipped in with a few more swinging strikes and some weak contact.
“They’ve been pretty good, the splitter especially,” said Montas. “I’ve been throwing more strikes with my fastball and I can throw my splitter for a ball and they swing at it.”
After Montas’ departure, the bullpen quietly finished things off. Yusmeiro Petit, Ryan Buchter, and Joakim Soria retired nine of the 10 batters they faced over three scoreless innings.
With the win, the A’s jump back over .500 at 36-35. They’ll play the rubber match of the series against the Mariners on Sunday, with Tanner Anderson making his second career major league start for the A’s against veteran Mike Leake for Seattle.