Oakland Athletics first baseman Matt Olson (28) hits a foul ball during the seventh inning against the Minnesota Twins at the Oakland Coliseum on July 3, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Chris Victorio | Special to S.F. Examiner)

Matt Olson keys win with titanic blast to center

Seth Brown drives in winning run against Royals, but first baseman’s blast jolts slumbering A’s

OAKLAND — Kansas City Royals starter Jorge Lopez flopped his arms down at his side and sighed as soon as Matt Olson made contact.

He had shut down an Oakland A’s team that had averaged over eight runs per game over seven games in Texas, holding them to just two hits over six innings, but the Oakland first baseman’s seventh-inning home run on Tuesday — a 110.5-mph rocket to center — broke him. “It inspired us,” said manager Bob Melvin. “No doubt.”

The A’s two-run seventh on Tuesday wasn’t exactly an offensive explosion, but on a night where closer Liam Hendriks set a record, Olson’s blast and rookie Seth Brown’s go-ahead double were enough to spur them to a 2-1 win, cutting Oakland’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot to nine.

“It was one of my better swings,” Olson said. “I’ve never even put one there in BP. I was shocked.”

Olson has been the A’s hottest hitter over their last 19 games coming ino Tuesday. He’d hit .324 with eight home runs and 19 RBIs in that span. His home run gave him a career-high 35 for the season, a figure all the more impressive considering he missed six weeks after having his hamate bone removed.

It was also a rare sign of offensive life from the A’s (91-61), who had scored four runs in 15 innings against the Royals (56-96), a team with an ERA of 5.17, 25th in baseball.

Lopez — who entered with a 6.09 ERA this season — had cruised through six innings, holding Oakland to just two singles, striking out four and walking just one. He led 1-0, courtesy of a fifth-inning Nick Dini sac fly.

Leading off the seventh, Olson crushed a belt-high, 93.5-mph fastball 450 feet into the first row of seats above the center field luxury suites. What Melvin called a “massive” drive tied the game at 1-1.

“It was like the one I gave up to [Mike] Trout a couple of weeks ago,” said A’s starter Brett Anderson, who surrendered a 450-foot shot to the Angels star at the Coliseum on Sept. 6. “But, [Olson’s] was at night, so that’s even more impressive.”

As Olson rounded the bases, Lopez glared at him. He dotted the next man up — Mark Canha — in a move that Melvin called “weak.”

“If hitting Mark was intentional, it definitely added to the spark,” Olson said.

Lopez then allowed a booming RBI double off the right-center field wall by rookie Seth Brown, a ball that came off the bat at 105.8 mph and gave the A’s a 2-1 lead.

“I think if Mark was held up you would have knocked [third base coach Matt Williams] over, and everybody else over, on the way to home plate after getting hit after a home run like that,” Melvin said.

Of the 22 hits Brown has had in 19 games since being called up, 10 have gone for extra bases. He had 37 homers in the minor leagues this year, and the power will come, but in the meantime, he’s making a big impression.

“Each time he gets an opportunity like that comes through, he really believes that he belongs and he’s a big part of this team, which he is,” Melvin said.

Anderson, for his part, threw five one-run innings (throwing just 66 pitches), giving him 171 for the season — just 9 1/3 shy of his career high, and the most he’s thrown since 2015. He was lifted for rookie A.J. Puk, who tossed two shutout innings.

The idea for the rest of the season is to work in Puk and fellow rookie Jesus Luzardo by piggybacking them onto starts to aid in their development.

“I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to go longer, but having a couple of lefties throwing upper 90s come in after you, it’s never a bad option,” Anderson said.

Puk then handed the baton off to Joakim Soria (one scoreless inning), who then gave way to Hendriks.

After giving up an eighth-inning lead on Monday (the A’s had gone 81-2 when leading after eight), he tossed a 1-2-3 ninth to close out Oakland’s 91st win, and his 23rd save. His two strikeouts gave him 116 for the season, moving him past Rollie Fingers (115 in 1975) for the most Ks as a reliever in a single season.

“They beat me, and I’m mad,” Hendriks said. “I came back and wanted to put a stamp on it. I ended up breaking Rollie Fingers’ record, so it’s a pretty cool experience, so to cap it off with that, that’s pretty special … It’s just such a rich history.”


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