OAKLAND — As he sat next to A’s general manager David Forst in his very own press conference after signing a one-day contract with Oakland, Make-A-Wish kid August Wold was asked which of his new teammates would hit a home run in Saturday night’s game. The answer came easy: One of his favorite players, Matt Chapman.
“You heard it here first,” Forst said.
Wold had actually told Chapman half an hour earlier, after the All-Star third baseman gifted him his bat. Not only did Chapman go yard, but so did three other A’s, snapping a three-game home run drought. Despite a late charge by the Texas Rangers, Oakland rode Wold’s wish to a much-needed 5-4 win, halting their slide in the standings while getting into a fracas with a divisional opponent.
“We need to keep that kid around,” Chapman said. “Take him on the road with us, maybe.”
The A’s had gone without a home run for a season-high three games entering Saturday (losing all three), following a streak where they’d homered at least once in 21 games straight.
A solo shot from Mark Canha in the second broke the drought, and a solo blast from Marcus Semien in the third gave Oakland a 2-0 lead.
Both Canha and Semien had extended interactions with Wold before the game, with Canha talking at length with him by the batting cage and Semien imparting wisdom to the eight-year old Little League shortstop, who suffers from Hirschsprung’s Disease — a birth defect affecting the colon.
“Stuff like that, as a player, it puts thing in perspective,” said Canha.
Then, in the fifth, after having struck out looking and popped out, Chapman stroked a 2-0 offering from Texas starter Adrian Sampson off the State Farm sign in right center for a two-run shot, doubling the A’s lead to 4-0. Chapman had hit just one home run this month (July 16).
”He’s my good luck charm,” Chapman said of Wold.
Ramon Laureano became the fourth player who interacted with Wold pregame — playing catch with him and throwing soft toss in foul ground, before gifting him a Nintendo Switch — to jump ship, blasting a 413-footer to left with one out in the sixth, admiring the shot for a couple steps on his way down to first.
“I was thinking about him,” Laureano said of Wold. “I was thinking about Sampson, too.”
In June, Texas starter Adrian Sampson expressed displeasure when Canha when he admired a homer in Arlington, and during the same game, had seemingly stepped on Laureano’s bat intentionally, trying to break it after he retired him to end the fourth inning.
After hitting the fourth home run off Sampson on Saturday, Laureano pointed to his bat.
“You remember when you stepped on my bat? You can step on it again,” Laureano told Sampson, who quickly snapped back, but maintained after the game that he did not hear what Laureano said.
“I think you have to talk about the unwritten rules and the sticklers,” said Canha, who was hit by Sampson in the fourth after his homer. “To me, I just feel like we need to throw that stuff out the window … I don’t know why he was surprised or felt like we were talking trash talk. This guy had a target on his back and we were fired up to face him today.”
Reliever Rafael Montero would later hit Laureano with a 3-1, 94-mph fastball in the eighth, causing both benches to clear, and while no punches were thrown, Montero and manager Chris Woodward were thrown out of what had become a one-run game.
“Sometimes, games are a bit more spirited than others,” said manager Bob Melvin.
The Rangers had scored four runs with two outs in the seventh against Homer Bailey and relievers Ryan Buchter and Yusmeiro Petit, but Chad Pinder cut down Elvis Andrus trying to score on an Omar Mazara single to right to end the inning.
“That’s obviously the key play of the game,” Melvin said.
Bailey’s start was a marked improvement from his last outing, when he allowed nine earned runs and three homers in just two innings against Houston. Adding an effective slider, he held the Rangers to three runs in 6 2/3 innings, striking out seven and walking one.
Liam Hendriks — the first player Wold interacted with on Saturday, wrapping his bat in A’s-branded grip tape — closed things out in the ninth, halting Oakland’s three-game slide in front of 36,468 at the Coliseum.
Said Melvin: “We should bring him (Wold) out again tomorrow.”