OAKLAND — You have to go back nearly three years, to the days Yoenis Cespedes was still anchoring the batting order, to find the last time the A’s had a better two-game offensive stretch than their current one.
They scored nine runs for the second consecutive day in turning back the Seattle Mariners 9-6 on Thursday. It’s their first time scoring nine or more runs in back-to-back games since July 23-24, 2014, roughly a week before Cespedes was dealt to the Boston Red Sox.
For all of the offense Thursday night, it figures that the first player manager Bob Melvin mentioned in his postgame press conference was … a pitcher?
Melvin credited starter Cesar Valdez for not letting things spin out of control after a rough beginning to Valdez’s first start in the bigs since 2010.
Melvin could have just as easily singled out Ryon Healy for his three hits and two RBI, Trevor Plouffe for a three-run homer that gave the A’s breathing room or any number of relievers that took care of business on a night that Oakland had a lot of people chip in for the team’s third win in a row.
“We’ve got a lot of confident guys right now putting really good swings on the baseball,” center fielder Rajai Davis said. “We’re not missing mistakes, we’re hitting them.”
The one damper on the evening was the news of what Melvin called a mild left hamstring strain for Davis, who was replaced on defense for the top of the ninth. He won’t be in Friday’s lineup, Melvin said, and there should be a better read on his status when he shows up to the ballpark.
Davis said he felt his hamstring grab when he extended to the first-base bag while trying to beat out a sixth-inning grounder. He hobbled down the line in the eighth when he hit into a double play.
“I think I hit first base awkwardly, lunged for it,” Davis said. “I just grabbed it. I don’t think it’s too serious though.”
A better sign for the A’s is the revival of Healy at the plate. He’s 7-for-9 over the past four games and looks more comfortable at the plate after a 6-for-40 stretch that prompted Melvin to sit him for two games.
“It wasn’t a concern,” Melvin said. “Everybody goes through these things. Sometimes it’s a little harder for younger guys to go through them. But he swung the bat really well” Thursday.
Valdez, making a spot start in place of the injured Kendall Graveman, gave up three runs over the first two innings but then delivered two scoreless frames and left with the score tied 3-3.
“Valdez got it under control after giving up 3 quick runs,” Melvin said. “We’re in a tie game and he really does his job.”
The only previous big league experience for the 32-year-old Valdez came back in 2010, when he posted a 7.65 ERA over nine games (two starts) for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Since then he’s pitched in the Pirates’ and Astros’ organizations as well as for two teams in the Mexican League to go with a stint in the Venezuelan Winter League. He signed a minor league deal with the A’s this winter, and he had just finished a bullpen session earlier this week when Triple-A Nashville manager Ryan Christenson delivered the unexpected news of his promotion.
“It was something unbelievable, I couldn’t explain it,” Valdez said. “But for me it’s kind of been that road. Ever since my Dad passed away in 2015, I’ve kind of used that strength guiding me to keep moving forward. That has helped me channel all this energy to get to this level.”
The A’s received the unfortunate news that minor league right-hander Daulton Jefferies needs Tommy John surgery. Jefferies, who played at Cal, was a sandwich pick (No. 37 overall) between the first and second rounds of last summer’s draft, joining A.J. Puk and Logan Shore as part of a promising trio of college pitchers the A’s took high in the draft. Jefferies had made two appearances for Single-A Stockton this season, one starting and one in relief.
The A’s have a private workout scheduled with Cuban outfielder Luis Robert on Friday in the Dominican Republic. The 19-year-old Robert has been declared a free agent by Major League Baseball and made eligible to sign with any club, according to a tweet Thursday from Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. MLB.com reported that May 20 is the earliest Robert can sign.
Baseball America rated Robert one of the five top players coming out of Cuba back in January, and the White Sox also are among several teams expected to go after him. The A’s shelled out $3 million to sign another highly rated Cuban outfielder last summer in Lazaro Armenteros, but their farm system could use a further infusion of outfield talent. Since the A’s have spent more than their allotted bonus pool for signing international players for this signing period, and have already incurred the max penalties for that, they could feel inclined to make a run at Robert.