BY STEVEN LUKE
The Oakland Athletics have been fans of making their own fireworks on the field all season with late game heroics. The Fourth of July holiday Wednesday afternoon was no different when Stephen Piscotty delivered the boom for the A’s with a two-run eight inning double with the bases loaded to break a 2-2 tie and give the A’s a 4-2 lead over the San Diego Padres. Closer Blake Treinen then shut it down in the ninth to preserve the lead giving the A’s a two-game sweep of the Friars.
It was the A’s eighth win in their last nine games and 14th in their past 17 and improved their record to a season-high nine games over .500 (48-39).
The day was owned by Piscotty on offense who had a great all around game making a jumping play against the wall in the first inning and tying an Oakland record with three doubles in a single game. Piscotty also drove in three of the four A’s runs including the winning runs with a two-run bases loaded double in the eighth inning. The three doubles were his first three hits of the month of July, but continue a hot streak he was on during the entire month of June. Manager Bob Melvin said they expect his hot bat now.
“He’s been swinging the bat really well, not just for a short period of time, but an extended period now,” Melvin said. “It’s taken him awhile to settle in, there’s obviously reasons for that, but we know he loves being at home and there’s a sense of pride when you’re playing in front of family and friends. He got off to a little of a slow start, but now he seems to be right in the middle of everything.”
Piscotty was right in the middle of it against the Padres today and he added to an already impressive hitting line against them for his career. Coming into the match up Piscotty was batting .309 in 20 games against the Padres with 13 runs scored and 17 RBIs. Piscotty doesn’t know why he hits so well against this team, and said he just saw the ball and reacted.
“I saw the ball well today, that’s the biggest thing,” Piscotty said. “I was confident in the swings I was taking and there’s a term that sometimes you black out and it’s just a reaction and you’re not trying to do too much. That’s what happened out there.”
Although Piscotty had the big hit, it was Khris Davis’ double two batters before that set the stage for him. Olson was intentionally walked to load the bases and from there Piscotty made Padres manager Andy Green pay.
On the mound Sean Manaea continued his solid pitching campaign. He got into trouble early in the second inning giving up a leadoff walk to Hunter Renfroe. The next batter was his only big mistake when he gave up a two-run home run to Padres third baseman Christian Villanueva that landed on the top of the scoreboard in left field. Manaea settled down after that and pitched five more innings without allowing a run before Melvin turned to his bullpen. Manaea said he had everything working except for that one mistake.
“Everything was working today except for the one pitch that Villanueva hit,” Manaea said. “Overall the game was really good. The defense was amazing today and the guys came back in clutch form and it was great to be a part of.”
The defense was amazing. Along with Piscotty’s early leaping grab into the wall both Dustin Fowler and Mark Canha, who later replaced Fowler in center after pinch hitting, made running grabs to rob hits. The web gem highlights of the game belonged to Matt Chapman though. Chapman, playing in only his second game since returning from the disabled list, made two plays that Melvin said saved three runs.
“You look at the box score and it says o-fer (0 hits), but for us it’s like he drove in three runs,” Melvin said about Chapman. “There’s two plays there that are going to lead to some runs for sure and one of them turns into two outs instead of one. It’s acrobatic, it’s everything.”
The hitless day might be expected after only a one game rehab assignment, but his defense remains. Chapman said his ability to stay calm when he’s not hitting and still play defense came from lessons learned in college where he got benched for getting too upset when he wasn’t hitting.
“I would get mad when I had a bad at-bat and I would take it out on defense with me, I was young and immature,” Chapman said. “I got pulled out of some games and my college coach taught me how to separate offense from defense and how to make a difference in the game no matter what you’re doing.”
The game wasn’t without its drama in the ninth. With Treinen on the mound Carlos Asuaje singled with one out, and two batters later Freddy Galvis singled as well. With two-outs in the ninth Treinen stopped the rally by getting Travis Jankowski to ground out to end the game. It was his 22nd save of the season and lowered his ERA to 0.84. It continues the best stretch of pitching in his career and Melvin said it has never been a stuff issue.
“There’s a lot of pitchers in this league that wish they had his stuff,” Melvin said. “The change of scenery was good for him. Knowing he was the closer and he was going to be that guy was good for him. He’s been on a roll since, but the stuff is as good as anyone in baseball.”
The A’s now get their second day off this week before heading on a road trip that will take them into the All-Star break and begins Friday in Cleveland against the Indians. In the opening game the A’s will send Paul Blackburn (2-2, 6.46) to the mound. The Indians have yet to name their starter.