The Matt Attack is back in Oakland, and couldn’t have come at a better time. A pair of homers from Matt Olson and another from Matt Chapman gave Chris Bassitt and the Oakland bullpen enough to seal a 6-3 win over the Royals Sunday afternoon.
Olson had homers (17, 18) to lead off the third and fourth innings, and Chapman got the A’s (40-27) on the board with a solo blast (7) in the first to give him back-to-back home run games. Bassitt and the bullpen kept the Royals (30-34) quiet enough to clinch the four-game series win.
Olson explained the running joke between him and his corner infield platinum gold buddy:
“We actually joke about it a pretty good bit that when one’s hitting the other one never does. And it’s nice to get a few games where we’re both doing stuff. We obviously don’t actually put weight into that but it seems like it’s sometimes. It’s definitely good to sync up a little bit.”
Chapman put the A’s on the board in his first plate appearance of the game. After taking LHP Kris Bubic‘s fourth pitch and heading to first — thinking he walked on four straight balls — Chapman turned back after home plate umpire Shane Livensparger called a late strike. Luckily for Chapman, since he swung at the next pitch and launched it over the wall in left-center to give the A’s a 1-0 lead.
No one else seemed to think anything of the play but Olson was happy to see his struggling corner infielder homer in back-to-back games:
“I think he thought the pitch was outside, I believe. I don’t know. I haven’t seen back to the video, but yeah it doesn’t work that way a lot, but it was nice for him to stay in the box and hit a homer.”
Chris Bassitt (W, 7-2, 3.3 ERA) took the mound after just four off days as opposed to his usual five. Bassitt had a perfect first but loaded the bases in the second with two outs. Salvador Perez hit a 90 mph line drive that bounced off Bassitt’s leg and rolled towards home plate. Bassitt retrieved the ball and threw to Murphy who wasn’t even standing on the plate, and a run scored.
Bob Melvin joked the ball hit Bassitt somewhere with a lot of cushion, meaning his butt. Bassitt explained the play and was said ‘Murph what are you doing not at the plate’ but it didn’t effect the outcome of the game and gave credit to his catcher for calling a great game:
“It hit me like in the perfect spot. I know that may sound weird, but it didn’t affect me at all. It more just scared me in the moment, just because I didn’t see it. Those are one of those scary ones that you knew the ball was hit, but with how bad the sun is here kind of thing, I didn’t have enough clue where it went until it hit me. Obviously that’s a split reaction, but unfortunately I could have easily went to first base and gotten an out, but it was just like more so of a panic after that.”
The entire A’s lineup from start to finish has sprung to life. Chad Pinder led off the second with a line drive and advanced to third on the second out of the inning. Elvis Andrus started a rally when doubled to left-center to score Pinder which gave the A’s back their lead. Tony Kemp drew a full-count walk and Mark Canha singled to make it 3-1.
Andrew Benintendi hit his eighth home run of the season on an 0-2 pitch to the opposite field in the third to make it 3-2. That was all the Royals could do with Bassitt on the mound. Bassitt was relieved in the sixth with two outs after he hit Kelvin Gutierrez with a 71 mph slider and then walked Lopez to put two on with two outs.
Yusmeiro Petit relieved Bassitt after 104 pitches to face the Royals top of the order and forced a groundout in two pitches. Bassitt threw 5-2/3 innings and allowed two runs on five hits. He hit two batters, walked three — including Perez in the fifth, when he was the tying runner at the plate with two outs and a runner on third — and struck out five.
Olson led off the third with a solo blast 427 feet to right-center to put the A’s up 4-2. Olson’s seventeenth home run of the season tied him with Shohei Ohtani for second-most home runs in the American League. He did it again in the fifth to make it 5-2.
The gold-glove first baseman explained that in previous seasons he was getting digging too deep into video and was super mechanical. He has worked on some things and said he is happy with the results:
“I feel just the quality of at-bat I had been having has been a lot better than previous years. I don’t know what the numbers are, but I feel like I’m using the whole field better. And I don’t feel like I need to force anything going in another way or have to cheat to get to inside pitches. I just feel like I’m up there competing and hitting the ball where its pitch I don’t know numbers are, but I feel like that’s something that, that I’m happy with.”
Olson had back-to-back home runs and Murphy had his first hit of the series before Bubic’s afternoon came to an end. Bubic allowed five runs on seven hits, and three of them were home runs all from A’s players named Matt. Bubic struck out five and walked three before he was relieved by Kyle Zimmer, who left two A’s runners stranded and the game at 5-2 after the fifth.
Melvin said Bassitt is viewed as the teams ace and did a good job. Everyone is talking about Olson being a 2021 All-Star, and Bassitt believes he is more than that:
“Olly’s world-class, every year he should be an All-Star. What he is doing now is not a surprise to anyone in the room… he’s literally an MVP candidate or should be an MVP candidate every single year. Obviously Vlad Jr. is having an unbelievable year at first base too so those two are going to have a lot of fun figuring out who is going to start first base but Oly’s no doubt an All-Star, my gosh, I don’t even know what else you can really say. Gold glove first baseman that will hit for average, hit home runs, I don’t know what else you could possibly want.”
Petit came back out for the seventh with a 6-2 lead and gave up a solo homer (11) to Carlos Santana on a full-count to lead off the inning and closed the gap to 6-3. Santana fouled a ball 112.9-mph off the bat before his homer but retired the next three batters and heart of the Royals order. Petit threw 1 1/3-inning where he allowed one run on one hit, a homer.
Bassitt didn’t have his best stuff but saw his team get the job done on Sunday:
“I know how great our bullpen is and I know how great our hitters are. And its pretty easy to kind of just not do too much knowing how much backup you have. It’s just very freeing, mentally to know a lot of runs are going to be possibly coming and then not only that, you don’t have to go seven innings every time, eight innings. I mean, obviously I want to but we have a pretty damn good bull pen and just eat it as much as I possibly can and then turn it over to Petit and he’s gonna do what he does every single time.”
Jake Diekman threw a perfect eighth and picked up a strikeout in his nine pitches for Oakland. Lou Trivino took the ninth with a 6-3 lead and looked for his tenth save in his twelfth opportunity, and that is exactly what he did. He struck out Merrifield and Santana looking in the process.
LHP Sean Manaea (5-2, 3.09 ERA) has not allowed a run in his last two starts. He currently holds a 15-inning scoreless streak and is one out away from tying his career-high, 15-1/3 innings which was set in 2016. Manaea will take the mound Monday night for the first game of the three game series. The Los Angeles Angels will start Dylan Bundy (1-6, 6.16 ERA) for the series opener set for 6:40 p.m.