Those ice-cold bats thawed when it mattered most Saturday. The A’s collected five hits against the Mariners; two were most needed, one was overdue.

Let’s start with the clincher: Pinch hitter Robbie Grossman’s one-out double (or if you looked closely, triple) in the 10th inning that scored ghost pinch runner Tony Kemp from second base turned into the game winner. The A’s won 3-2 in Seattle, they’re 2-0 with this new extra inning experience.

“He’s been consistent all year,” manager Bob Melvin said. “The thing about Robbie, too, is he’s such a weapon off the bench we’ve seen him have such great pinch-hit at bats for us having played in the National League and understanding what his role is and what he needs to do on a typical day.”

Now, step back three innings to the un-clencher: Chad Pinder’s two-run home run on Yusei Kikuchi’s two-strike fastball glossed over a 15 strikeout effort and otherwise dismal .175 average the A’s collected over the first seven games of this season.

How excited was the downtrodden dugout to see Pinder’s home run bounce into the center field stands?

“Like on a 1-10 scale? Like a 12,” Melvin said. “We have not gotten big hits, and we were stagnant again up until that point and all of the sudden we’re in a tie game.”

Step back one more inning for the hit that broke a .000 average: Designated hitter Khris Davis, back in the lineup against a left-hander after two off days, singled into shallow center field, snapping his 0-for-15 start to this season.

Davis made an adjustment with his hands that helped with his timing, which showed in some of the strong contact he made: near-100 mph exit velocities on a pair of fly outs in addition to the single. He pulled reliever Matt Magill’s outside cutter cutter into left field for a long out. A Davis of two years ago would have popped that pitch the opposite way right and over the fence.

Fixating on Davis seems unfair, even if it’s compelling to watch his progress. Despite the win, the team will be the first to admit that the offense in its entirety isn’t clicking on all fronts.

Ask them about their cold bats that kept them to a .175 average through the first seven games of the season, none can blame a short camp. No excuses. But they can dip into the old bag of clichés for some explanation.

“Hitting is contagious,” Ramón Laureano said before Saturday’s game. To be fair, that was the team’s explanation for collective hot streaks in their best months of the 2019 season.

A more honest explanation Melvin provided is that confidence can wane when an entire lineup feels pressure, especially with wins at a premium. Though, Pinder assures they’ve kept perspective and aren’t pressing despite the unorthodox circumstances.

“You have to take seven games with a grain of salt,” Pinder said. “We’re all getting into the swing of things. Nine at bats in, I can’t start hitting the panic button, and the same goes for everyone in our lineup.”

Khris Davis’ first hit of the season — after going 0-for-15 — certainly alleviated a knot of tension, even if Sean Murphy, Marcus Semien and Matt Chapman couldn’t drive him home in the sixth inning.

Mike Fiers has solid outing

Similar to the rest of his rotation-mates, Fiers had a rough first start of the year. His command was off in a four-inning outing against the Los Angeles Angels, magnified by Mike Trout’s first career home run in a 3-0 count. Despite the urgency of the season, it’s taken starting pitchers some time to regain their feel, find their rhythm.

Fiers’ one tricky inning, the third, he loaded the bases on a walk and a pair of bloop hits before Kyle Seager knocked a two-run single into shallow center field. Ramón Laureano chopped down Kyle Lewis gunning for third for the center fielder’s 20th career outfield assist.

“Even with that, I felt really good and that I’m getting back to where I need to be,” Fiers said.


Fiers is the first A’s starter to go beyond the fifth inning — Frankie Montas delivered five innings in his last start — lasting six innings with two runs, three strikeouts, four hits and a walk.

“Once he go into the flow of the game, using all his pitches, he was unpredictable as he can be,” Melvin said. “It seemed like he got better and better as he went along.”

Bullpen continues its dominance

Joakim Soria had the ninth inning — with a tie game and extra innings perhaps on deck, closer Liam Hendriks would need to wait.

After loading the bases with one out, the 13 year veteran had to dip into his bag of tricks to keep the Mariners from walking off on his clock. Having relied primarily on his four-seamer and slider getting into the pickle, Soria whipped out his changeup and a variety of arm angles to strike out Jose Marmolejos and Shed Long Jr. swinging, sending the game into extras.

“He threw a lot of pitches out there to get through it, he had to give them different looks and different pitches and that’s exactly what he did,” Melvin said. “We’re fortunate to have a guy who did a lot of closing.”

Soria’s effort kept intact the bullpen’s pristine 1.70 ERA through these eight games.

Jake Diekman learned a new slider grip, inspired by Tampa Bay Rays reliever Chad Roe’s, and his strikeout pitch looks dominant and crisper than he’s thrown it as an Athletic.

Hendriks took the 10th and navigated the ghost runner well, striking out one in a shutout inning. And Melvin is learning to adjust to the new rule, too. He can feel for the pitchers.

“It’s like, what did I do to deserve this?” Melvin said. “It’s a little uncomfortable but something anybody is going to have to deal with.”

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Author: Shayna Rubin

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