It was around this time last year that the Oakland Athletics started their run toward the postseason that eventually wound up sending them to Yankee Stadium for the one-off American League Wild Card game where they lost 7-2 to the Yankees.
After earning the three-game sweep against the Baltimore Orioles, it may be safe to say that the run is happening once again, especially with the A’s winning seven of their last 10, including taking two of three games at the Tampa Bay Rays last week, the same team they’ll open a four-game weekend series against on Thursday.
For the second game in a row the Oakland Athletics lineup fired on all cylinders in the late innings.
Wednesday’s output wasn’t necessarily as strong as the 10-run sixth inning they had the night before in a 16-run effort, but the A’s spread the runs out a bit more in their 8-3 series-sweeping win over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday.
Josh Phegley drilled a three-run home run to left in the fifth inning and the A’s took advantage of the O’s defensive miscues on the basepaths to highlight a four-run seventh inning to seal the win.
“Early on it looked like we just didn’t have anything going, A’s manager Bob Melvin said of the team’s slow start to the game on Wednesday. “There wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm, and next think you know we have three runs, so that was a real pick-me-up.”
Phegley’s ninth home run of the season to open the scoring might’ve woken up the A’s Wednesday, which eventually led toward a key, game-clinching four-run seventh inning, but like the hot hitting they’ve had through the series, especially in the late innings, the A’s pitching deserves as much credit as well.
Following a strong performance on the mound by Mike Fiers the night before, Chris Bassitt earned his fourth win of the season, snapping his three-game winless streak as he briefly flirted with the idea of a no-hitter into the sixth inning before Jonathan Villar’s single ended that.
Overall, Bassitt turned in a solid 5 ⅔ innings on the mound, allowing just a pair of runs on a pair of hits with three walks and six strikeouts, easily his best performance of the month.
“I thought that was as good as stuff as we’ve seen him have in a while,” Melvin said.
“I felt a whole lot better than I had the last couple of outings,” Bassitt added.
He also mentioned why he struggled through the last few outings this month.
“We haven’t really went over mechanics or stuff like that,” he said. “I think it was a mindset problem I had when I was pitching and we just fixed that and it was a lot better today.
“I was trying to be a strike thrower for two or three outings and now it’s more so just whatever you got on your fastball, whatever you got on your slider, changeup, just throw the crap out of it at home and try to make them hit your nasty kind of thing.”
Although the sweep comes against an Orioles team that is just 21-53 this season after Wednesday and have won just once in their last 10 games, the A’s pitching has been fairly,and surprisingly, solid. They held Baltimore to just seven total runs in the three game series with the three runs on Wednesday as the series-high..
Toss in the 27 runs scored by the A’s in this series, with 18 of them coming in the fifth inning or later the last two games, and Oakland seems to be fully back on track, like they were when they won 10in a row last month.
“We’re a great team,” Bassitt explained. “The offense is clicking and then the starters, I mean, it makes starting a whole heck of a lot easier when you know you got a lot of runs going for you. So, I mean (the pitchers) just pumps strikes, don’t really walk guys, and the way the offense is, it’ll just give our chance to win. You’re going to win a lot of games that way.”
As the A’s continue to get back into their groove and seem to be on another, similar playoff-bound run they were on exactly a year ago at this point, Melvin knows that they’ll have to continue to play well and sustain this run if they want to find themselves back in the playoffs again in the Fall.
“We’d like to be able to sustain it,” Melvin said. “We had the 10-game win-streak that everything was hitting on all cylinders and playing really well and couldn’t follow it up, I think we lost five in a row after that. So we have to sustain it.
“We’ve been on some runs before with this group of guys, so I know they’re looking forward to getting as many games over .500 we can.”