After a grueling home stand in which the Oakland A’s skidded out of the postseason picture against three of the hottest teams in baseball, a three-game series against the middling Detroit Tigers poses an opportunity to rise back up the ranks.
With a comfortable 9-3 win against the Tigers on Tuesday at Comerica Park, the A’s have won three straight and are now one game back of the Boston Red Sox for the second wild card spot. They finish August with a 14-12 record, decent given a recent six-game losing streak. It also marked the A’s 12th win in a row at Comerica Park.
Some of Oakland’s constants kept up their pace, but most encouraging was that scuffling players looked pointed toward a turnaround.
Matt Chapman and Mark Canha, the struggling players, combined for three home runs in the win.
Separating himself from the Mendoza line he’d flirted with most of the year, Chapman had his second multi-home run game of the season, his eighth and ninth home runs over a 14-game span. His first home run off Detroit starter Tarik Skubal gave the A’s a lead after Starling Marte and Matt Olson combined for a pair of doubles to tie the game 1-1. His second home run off reliever Derek Holland in the ninth inning to cap off a 12-hit evening for the A’s.
Chapman made contact in four of his five his at-bats, three of them registered with an impressive 108mph exit velocity.
“I would advise him not to change anything tomorrow,” Canha said. “That’s about as good as you can do.”
After a July that had him batting .180 with 34 strikeouts, seven walks and a .540 OPS, Chapman’s batting .256 with an .898 OPS in August.
He continues to make a difference defensively, too. A difficult unassisted double play to extinguish a Tigers scoring threat in the fourth inning “happened in slow motion” for stressed A’s starter Cole Irvin. Manager Bob Melvin said he can see Chapman starting to settle into a rhythm, driving the ball from his back leg, and out of his head mechanically a year after hip surgery.
“He’s driving the ball,” Melvin said. “Defensively, too, it’s just as noticeable defensively with some of the balls he’s getting to. For me, it was probably getting comfortable with the hip and not thinking about it anymore. Getting his mechanics right and just playing.”
Canha’s two-run opposite field home run was his 500th career hit and his first home run since Aug. 15 in Texas — his second home run over his last 41 games played. The A’s outfielder has been in a slump, batting .191 with a .329 OBP lifted by 20 walks over 37 games since he returned from a hip injury in mid-July.
That his home run went to the opposite field was an indication that some mechanical tweaks are paying off.
“Finally found a little something that’s working,” Canha said. “I’m going to stick with it, and that little something is helping me stay on the ball a little longer and making an effort to not pull off which I’ve been doing. It is something you say you want to do and it’s easier said than done. But the homer to right shows I’m doing a good job, just have to fine-tune it now.”
Usual suspects contributed, too
Josh Harrison, Matt Olson and Starling Marte also contributed multi-hit games on Tuesday. Harrison had three hits with a two-run single in the eighth inning to score Chad Pinder and Elvis Andrus, who also got hits.
Harrison is batting .289 with five doubles in 21 games with the A’s. Marte is batting .344 with nine doubles and 20 stolen bases in 29 games with Oakland.
Cole Irvin’s start
Irvin’s start in Detroit was in jeopardy last week after he left his three-inning start against the Seattle Mariners with hip discomfort.
After treatment to relieve the tightness, Irvin said his outing against the Tigers was the “best he’d ever felt” health-wise. Irvin wasn’t his sharpest, giving up three solo home runs to former A’s outfielder Robbie Grossman, Derek Hill and former A’s catcher Dustin Garneau.
Irvin departed two outs into the fifth inning with those three runs allowed, seven hits, two walks and two strikeouts.
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Author: Shayna Rubin