OAKLAND — The Oakland Athletics’ last six losses have been recorded by their bullpen, including Friday night, when they suffered their major league-leading 28th blown save of the season.
On Saturday, the rest of the roster took matters into their own hands to give the relievers a break.
Chris Bassitt struck out a career-high 11 batters, everyone in the lineup reached base at least once against the Detroit Tigers pitching staff and the A’s bounced back from a deflating loss against the worst team in the majors to notch a decisive 10-2 victory. Matt Olson led the way on offense, matching his own career highs with four hits in the game and his 29th homer of the season.
“Not the best loss [Friday] night, probably a game that we should have won,” said Olson. “To come back and answer with a good game like that is big for what we got going forward.”
Bassitt got off to a rocky start, throwing 43 pitches through the first two innings and allowing two runs on five hits and a hit batsman. It could have been even worse, but with runners on first and second and one out in the first inning, a foul popup unexpectedly drifted back into fair territory and landed safely next to third base, allowing the A’s to turn a surprise double play on the Tigers’ runners who had held at their bases.
“We haven’t seen the wind blow like that in a while here, and Matt Chapman usually does not get fooled like that,” said manager Bob Melvin. “It was swirling, and to be able to turn that at that time, when all of a sudden looks like it might be some traffic on the bases early in the game, that’s a huge play in the course of the game.”
From there, Bassitt dominated, scattering three singles over the next four innings. In addition to being a career-high, his 11 strikeouts were also the most by any A’s pitcher this season, as were the team’s total of 19 strikeouts by the end of the game.
“Just not trying to be perfect,” said Bassitt, who noted that his curveball was by far the best it’s been all season. “Not really trying to hit corners, not trying to hit the outer third, I’m just trying to put the ball over the plate. Obviously you can get burnt a couple times by doing that just because you leave pitches middle-middle, but overall it’s more so just not trying to be perfect.”
The quality performance by Bassitt was especially helpful after the bullpen was asked to throw 7 2/3 innings on Friday.
“A lot of times he gets better as he goes along,” said Melvin. “It was a big day not only for him to give us those kind of innings, but get some other guys in there and give some of the other guys a break in the bullpen.”
After falling behind 2-0 early, the A’s lineup went on to score 10 unanswered runs. Jurickson Profar got the onslaught started in the second inning with his 20th homer of the season, matching the career-high he set last year with the Texas Rangers and giving the A’s their franchise-record sixth player with 20 long balls. The team rallied for another four runs in the fourth to take the lead for good, including a two-run triple from Marcus Semien.
Olson then homered in the fifth inning, and capped a long rally in the sixth with a two-run single. The first baseman, who missed the first month of the season to a broken hamate, matched his homer total from last year in 54 fewer games and nearly 200 fewer plate appearances.
“To put up the numbers that he has to this point, with missing a significant amount of time, it’s pretty amazing,” said Melvin.
Chapman later added a homer of his own in the eighth inning, his team-leading 32nd of the season.
The news wasn’t all good, though, as center fielder Ramon Laureano left the game with a right leg cramp the day after being activated from the injured list with a stress reaction in his right shin. He banged out two hits, including an RBI single and later a double, but his running was visibly hampered each time he ran the bases. He was lifted for a pinch-runner after the double.
“It’s just his right whole leg, kind of fatigue, so he had some cramping and stuff all over the place,” said Melvin. “Hopefully, we don’t think it’s the same thing that was going on [with the stress reaction].”
Melvin noted that Laureano was already scheduled to get Sunday off anyway, and that he hopes the star outfielder will be good to go after that.
Relievers A.J. Puk, Ryan Buchter, and Blake Treinen breezed through the final three innings to wrap up the victory. The trio struck out eight of the 11 batters they faced.
Treinen’s appearance was particularly noteworthy, as he had been deemed unavailable before the game due to an ongoing back issue.
“Blake’s OK now, obviously,” said Melvin. “I was surprised when he came to me and he said, ‘I know how the bullpen is today, I feel good enough to pitch.’ And then to watch him, looked like he had really good movement today, a little lower velocity but it looked like the movement was better today. He’s getting swings and misses that we hadn’t seen here recently.”
With the win, the A’s gained a game on the Cleveland Indians in the playoff race, and now lead the Tribe by 1 1/2 games for the second Wild Card spot. Oakland wraps up its series against the Tigers on Sunday, with Sean Manaea making his second start of the season for the A’s since returning from a full year on the injured list.