OAKLAND — Being a rookie himself, Chad Pinder understands what third baseman Matt Chapman is going through in his first couple days in the major leagues.
And playing just to Chapman’s left as the shortstop gives Pinder a unique perspective on Chapman’s demeanor and approach. So far, it’s no surprise that Pinder and everyone involved with the A’s is giving a thumbs-up.
Chapman showed some mental toughness in the bottom of the eighth Friday, falling behind 0-2 to Yankees reliever Jonathan Holder before lining a two-run single that lifted the A’s to a 7-6 victory and their second consecutive win over the American League East leaders.
“He’s done a great job,” Pinder said afterward. “I 100 percent expected that just playing with him in spring training, watching how he goes about his business. The stage doesn’t faze him. He just goes out and plays baseball, and he’s pretty dang good at that. And that’s an understatement.”
It was an eventful night, and a rather rough one, for Chapman offensively leading up to the eighth. He appeared to beat out an infield tapper for his first big league hit, which scored a run in the second. A replay reversal on the call at first took away that hit, though Chapman did notch his first career RBI. He flied out and struck out leading into the eighth, then fell behind 0-2 to Holder, taking a slider and then a fastball for a strike.
With the A’s trailing 6-5, he was just looking to deliver a ball to the outfield to bring home the tying run. He hung with a curve down and away and pulled it past Yankee third baseman Chase Headley, scoring Yonder Alonso and Ryon Healy with the tying and go-ahead runs.
“It was exciting to look in the dugout and see my teammates fired up,” Chapman said.
He could hear the A’s portion of the large, bipartisan Coliseum crowd going nuts. First base coach Steve Scarsone, filling in temporarily on Oakland’s coaching staff, came over to congratulate him.
“Trying to still stay in the game while having all that hit you at one time, it was a pretty cool experience,” Chapman said.
Known as a standout defender in the minors, one that the A’s believe will challenge for Gold Gloves, Chapman made a terrific play in the sixth. He made a diving backhand stop, then scrambled to his feet and made a strong throw across the diamond to get Ronald Torreyes.
That play certainly caught the attention of A’s starting pitcher Sean Manaea.
“That was amazing,” Manaea said. “I have not seen something like that in a while. It’s really really good having a great defensive third baseman out there.”
Manaea wasn’t trying to criticize anybody else who’s played the position for the A’s, just acknowledging the excellent tools that Chapman brings to the field.
“He plays really deep and gives himself a chance to get to anything, with a lot of range, because of his arm strength,” manager Bob Melvin said. “We’ll see plenty of that.”
A’s players know the hype that followed Chapman from Triple-A Nashville, they know that all eyeballs are on him. Therefore, they know the pressure that comes with his promotion as he learns the major league ropes and tries to settle in.
On Thursday, Chapman struck out with the bases loaded in the ninth and the game tied. Stepping up with the bases loaded again in the eighth Friday, after the Yankees walked Stephen Vogt to get to him, Chapman delivered.
“He’s fun to play beside,” Pinder said. “He brings a confidence out there. He goes about his business the right way. … It’s not much coming from me because I’m a rookie too. But he’s a special talent.”
The A’s will be announcing a roster move with their bullpen, as Zach Neal was packing his bag and saying his goodbyes to teammates after Friday’s game.