OAKLAND — In three previous meetings this season, the Oakland Athletics couldn’t manage much against the Seattle Mariners’ Marco Gonzalez.
He came out the winner in all three games and held them to a .238 batting average, with just eight extra-base hits in 85 plate appearances. The only hitter who seemed to have Gonzales’s number was All-Star third baseman Matt Chapman, who was 5-for-10 against him this season.
In Tuesday’s 9-2 win, Oakland’s All-Star — quickly becoming one of the best all-around third basemen in baseball — continued arguably the hottest streak of his career by battering Gonzales again. Chapman drove in five runs as the A’s won their fifth straight, pushing them a season-high 13 games over .500 and keeping pace with Cleveland for the second AL wild card slot.
“It’s not a surprise,” said A’s manager Bob Melvin. “It’s homers, it’s doubles, it’s balls the other way. He’s really developed into a guy that knows what he can handle and when he gets it he doesn’t miss it. He just appears to be getting better and better.”
In his three previous games since the All-Star Break, Chapman went 6-for-11 with two doubles, three runs and two RBIs. On Tuesday, he went 3-for-4 with a single, a double and a home run.
“I’m just going to call it dumb luck,” said Chapman, who is now 7-for-13 against Gonzales with four runs, four RBIs and three extra-base hits. The third baseman is batting .366 (34-for-93) with 22 runs, 11 doubles, two triples, six home runs and 23 RBIs over his last 25 games dating back to June 14.
Oakland entered the third inning in a 1-0 hole but quickly flipped the script with three consecutive hits off Gonzales, who had not allowed a hit to eight previous batters, to take a 2-1 advantage.
A single by Josh Phegley and a double into the gap from Marcus Semien brought Chapman to the plate, and he stung the second pitch he saw — a hanging cutter — through the left side to score both baserunners and extend his current hitting streak to six games.
Melvin was quick to highlight Chapman’s role in getting to Gonzales — who in three previous starts against Oakland had allowed just six earned runs in 21 innings for a 2.57 ERA — early.
“We finally got some balls to handle tonight,” Melvin said. “Obviously Chappy had a lot to do with that.”
In his next at bat, Chapman golfed an ankle-high changeup over the left field wall for his 22nd big fly of the year, a mark that has him second behind Alex Bregman for the most among AL third basemen. With over a third of the season left to go, Chapman is just two homers off his career-high of 24.
Chapman wouldn’t have been in position for the big fly had home plate umpire Brian O’Nora called strike three on a close pitch to Semien one batter prior. O’Nora had been clipped in the back of his head by Domingo Santana’s follow-through swing in the third inning, but remained in the game, and in his postgame comments, Gonzales expressed frustration that he did.
The call put Semien aboard on a walk, and Chapman hit the first of back-to-back homers, followed by Matt Olson’s 20th of the season.
“He’s just doing a great job,” Chapman said of Semien. “Every game he seems like he’s getting on base and he’s giving me a chance to hit him in or move him over. Ever since he’s been in the leadoff spot he’s been huge for us.”
Olson’s circuit shot moved his hitting streak to 11, giving the A’s their seventh set of back-to-back homers this season.
Chapman would add an RBI double in the seventh for his third hit of the day. It wouldn’t be a signature Matt Chapman performance without an excellent defensive play, which the 2018 Gold Glover would deliver early in the second inning.
Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager skied a pop-up into shallow left field right in between Chapman and the charging Chad Pinder. With both players running at full speed to field the ball, Chapman caught the ball over his shoulder before tripping over Pinder, who had bailed at the last second to give his third baseman the play. Chapman secured the ball for the first out of the inning and neither player was injured.
Chapman gave credit to starter Daniel Mengden, who allowing four hits and one earned run over seven strong innings. For the third straight start, Mengden did not allow a walk, a stat that has been key to him getting deep in games.
“That’s huge for us, playing defense behind a guy that throws a lot of strikes and works quick,” Chapman said. “That’s all you can ask for. To see him get into that groove is really good.”
Mengden (5-1, 4.21 ERA) would go on to record the win, allowing one run. A’s starters have now given up just three earned runs in four starts in the second half and hold a 0.99 ERA over 27.1 innings in those games.
Besides Chapman, Semien and Ramon Laureano also recorded multi-hit, multi-run games, while Phegley pitched in two RBIs. The 12-hit barrage was the 37th time in 95 games that Oakland has recorded double-digit hits.
Oakland has the best record in baseball since June 17, going 18-5 over the last month to vault them into the thick of the playoff push.