The Athletics have a lot to celebrate these days. They are one of baseball’s biggest surprises this season, heading into August just one game out of playoff position.
After celebrating the 100th win in Edwin Jackson‘s career Monday night, Tuesday brought more merry-making with a 6-2 victory over the Blue Jays that made Bob Melvin the fourth manager in A’s — not just Oakland — history to reach 600 wins, tying Art Howe and behind Hall of Famers Tony La Russa (798) and Connie Mack (3,582).
Including a four-game sweep in Toronto, the A’s (63-46) have now won all six meetings with the Blue Jays (48-58) this season.
One day after joking about the expensive bottle of champagne in his clubhouse, the Oakland skipper once again joked about the libation of choice:
“(I’ll have a) bottle of Mumm’s [sic] when I go home.”
Melvin, a native of Palo Alto and University of California, Berkeley alum, said he may take time to reflect on the accomplishment in the offseason, but insisted that it wasn’t a mark he’d previously focused on — or even acknowledged:
“I had no idea, to tell you the truth. Just one more than 599.”
In the American League, with no double-switch and fewer pinch-hitting decisions, in-game managerial impact is diminished somewhat drastically. But that didn’t stop Melvin from appearing to leave his signature on the milestone victory.
Double Steal! And Canha takes home! pic.twitter.com/2TNvSFxARC
— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) August 1, 2018
After the game though, Melvin said it wasn’t a play called from the dugout, rather a decision made on the base paths:
“That’s not a call, it’s Marcus on a green light and Matty (third base coach Matt Williams) and Mark reading it. … Trying to be a little more aggressive when we get a chance on the bases, it’s not really what we do, but it looked good.”
It was Canha’s second credited steal of home since the beginning of last season, one of just two players to have stolen multiple runs in that period joining Javier Báez (3) of the Cubs, and first steal of 2018. For Semien, it was steal No. 11 of the season, leaving him one shy of his career-high, set last year.
Canha called this one, like last year’s, an instinctual play, adding that there was a feeling of deja vu as it unfolded:
“Obviously I’m not one of the faster outfielders but I think my speed is underappreciated. Plays like that, and my outfielding abilities — instincts are undervalued thing is this game. … What I lack in speed I think I make up for in good instincts and smart plays.”
When Oakland wasn’t stealing home, they were capitalizing on a sudden influx in clutch hitting — and opportunities.
Of their six runs, only one was from a home run, offered by Khris Davis (29) in the third. Over the previous four games, of which they lost three, the A’s had gone 5-for-24 (.208) with runners in scoring position — three of those hits coming Monday night. With 17 chances Tuesday, Oakland continued its awakening of the day prior, hammering out five hits (.294).
Davis led that charge as well, collecting two such hits — though one was of the infield variety and did not net him an RBI — but it was Matt Olson who got the A’s party started with a two-run single in the first answering a Kendrys Morales RBI in the top half.
Olson’s two produced runs were the first drop in the bucket for Toronto starter Sam Gaviglio (L, 2-4, 5.10 ERA), who was pulled after 2-2/3 innings having surrendered eight hits, two walks and five runs.
Melvin wasn’t faced with such a predicament. The skipper’s tough decisions were few and far between. His bullpen, though heavily taxed over the past month, was handed a four-run lead by the offense and needed to get just nine outs after another solid effort by starter Trevor Cahill.
Cahill (W, 3-2, 3.39 ERA) has been nearly untouchable in Oakland this season, entering Tuesday’s game having allowed just 19 hits and three runs over 33-2/3 innings spanning five home starts this season. That makes his six-inning, five-hit, two-run effort Tuesday his worst at the Oakland Coliseum this season, matching highs in hits and runs allowed. He also served up his third homer in the East Bay, a fourth-inning solo jack (17) from Justin Smoak.
For Cahill, getting through six inning with a lead is a big deal. And while it isn’t the target, he knows that with the weapons behind him such a start gives his club a chance:
“I know that (our bullpen has) a lot of arms down there and they’re not afraid to use them. But, at the same time, it’s a pride thing with starters, you want to go deep. Being able to go six — you target seven, but six, with our bullpen, I think will play most days.”
It played Tuesday, thanks to three scoreless innings from the bullpen, a three-hit performance from Davis and a solid all-around night from Canha, who sang the praises of his skipper:
“We’re all happy for him. We all love that guy, he’s out fearless leader. It’s a pleasure to play for him, it’s been a pleasure to play for him the last four years.”
Sean Manaea (9-7, 3.46 ERA) takes the hill Wednesday in search of an A’s 7-0 season series sweep of the Blue Jays. He will face Marcus Stroman (4-7, 5.20 ERA), who is decision-less having allowed seven runs in two previous starts in Oakland. Manaea was saddled with a loss allowing three runs in five innings his last time out, his first loss since May 30.
The A’s announced Tuesday that pitcher Daniel Gossett will require season-ending Tommy John surgery. Gossett (0-3, 5.18 ERA in five starts with the A’s this season) has not pitched since June 3. … Blue Jays manager John Gibbons issued a coach’s challenge of the safe call on Mark Canha’s third-inning steal of home. After a 64-second replay review, the ruling on the field “stood.” … Nick Martini finished the game 1-for-3 with two walks from the leadoff spot and now boasts a .531 on-base percentage when starting a game at the top of the Oakland batting order. … The A’s hosted nearly 5,000 Bay Area teachers Tuesday night as part of A’s Teacher Appreciation Night. As part of the celebration, more than 2,000 teachers also signed up to participate in a pre-game Educational Fair at the Oakland Coliseum.