OAKLAND — Oakland Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman entered Saturday’s matchup with AL Cy Young contender Corey Kluber hitting .146 with no home runs in 12 career games. He finished the evening 3-for-3 with two home runs and a double.
In Chapman’s first at-bat against Kluber, he drilled a cutter over the left-center field wall. In his second at-bat, Chapman started a two-out rally with a double down the left field line. He finished his power display against the otherwise dominant starter with a game-tying 455-foot home run to the suites in deep center field.
“My [second] at-bat … he kind of got in on me a little bit on a fastball, so I figured he was going to try to sneak one by me,” Chapman said. “I was just ready to jump on the first good pitch I saw.”
Chapman’s eighth-inning homer set up left fielder Khris Davis’ walk-off blast against reliever Brian Shaw in the ninth, earning the Athletics a 5-3 victory.
Kluber posted a 1.28 ERA over his previous eight outings, allowing just one long ball and striking out at least eight batters in each of those starts. That included a six-inning shutout performance against the Athletics on June 1 in which he notched 10 punch outs.
While Kluber racked up 12 strikeouts and baffled most of the Athletics lineup on Saturday night, Chapman found success, registering three of the team’s five hits off the right-hander.
“If there’s anybody that you would consider to give him a really tough time, it would be [Kluber],” Bob Melvin said. “So I know confidence wise this will go a really long way.”
After Chapman hit his first career homer in the third, he jumped on a sinker in the fifth for a two-out double. He then scored on an opposite field single by center fielder Rajai Davis.
But Indians designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion launched a two-run home run off Athletics starter Paul Blackburn in the fourth and came home on an RBI groundout in the sixth to give the Indians a 3-2 lead. Blackburn, pitching in his third career game, lasted six frames and allowed three earned runs.
Chapman led off the bottom of the eighth with his first-pitch moonshot to center field. As he trotted around the bases, a crowd of 33,021 on hand for Rickey Henderson jersey giveaway night rose to its feet.
His effort impressed Davis, who has served as a mentor for the young third baseman. Both players went to Cal State Fullerton, and when Chapman attended the school a poster of Davis hung on the clubhouse wall.On Saturday, though, Davis marvelled at the rookie.
“Not everyone can [hit two homers against Kluber],” Davis said. “Kluber is a great pitcher. He’s got nasty stuff, and all around I was excited for [Chapman].”
After first baseman Yonder Alonso knocked reliever Andrew Miller out of the game with leadoff walk in the ninth, Davis sent the fans home with a line drive walk-off homer to right-center field.
“With Kluber on the mound, that’s basically their ace, and then everybody they brought in the game after that doesn’t get any easier,” Melvin said. “So it’s nice to be able to fight through one like that … and hit two clutch home runs.”