OAKLAND — With the Oakland A’s clinging to a 4-3 advantage in the eighth inning on Sunday afternoon, Mike Napoli stepped to the plate in a one-out, bases loaded situation.
The Texas Rangers veteran sent a rocket of a line drive sailing toward left field.
Instead of flying into the outfield for extra bases and multiple runs, the ball landed in the glove of Matt Chapman who snared the liner and beat Elvis Andrus back to third base for an unassisted, inning-ending double play.
“It’s either a double play or it’s a ball in the corner and now we don’t have the lead anymore,” manager Bob Melvin said after the A’ swept aside the Rangers with the 8-3 win.
“In kind of a tense game, that really gave us a lot of momentum because we were in a position that was not favorable at that point and that was a great play,” Melvin added.
Half an inning after Chapman’s defensive gem, the offense provided some insurance, pouring on a four-run barrage.
The triumph over the Rangers gave Jharel Cotton his second win in as many starts on a day he tied his career high with nine strikeouts.
“All his stuff was kind of working and those are the type of games we expect him to pitch,” Melvin said. “And after a rough period, he’s coming around a little bit. It’s good to see.”
Cotton allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits while issuing no walks in his six innings of.
The starter had entered the day with a 7.71 ERA in 10 starts in Oakland compared to a 3.40 ERA in nine starts on the road.
“I was telling myself as I walked off the field, ‘It feels really good to do this at home [and] get the confidence going again.’”
The guests had jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second inning courtesy of a Jed Lowrie error. The second baseman clanked a pop-up off the bat of Napoli, allowing Adrian Beltre to race home from third.
The only other damage came in the fifth when Shin-Soo Choo boomed a solo home run into the right-field bleachers.
“I’m just going game-by game, just trying to get better. I found [out] how to get — to better myself — and I’m doing that right now. So it feels really good. My confidence is definitely rising.”
Matt Olson and Matt Chapman had staked Cotton with a lead back in the second, going back-to-back.
Olson now has nine homers in 35 games, while Chapman has 10 in 52.
“It’s not a surprise to us,” Melvin said when asked about the impressive play of the rookie sluggers. “But it’s important that they’re playing well at a time like this — especially in August — not just a September call-up type thing.”
Lowrie exits early
Lowrie left the game before the sixth inning due to a left shin contusion. The second baseman fouled a pitch off his leg in the bottom of the fourth. Melvin said the decision to remove Lowrie was precautionary and that the infielder would be further evaluated on Monday.Bob Melvinjharel cottonMatt Chapmanmatt olsonMLBOakland Athleticspaul blackburnTexas Rangers