Athletics

Matt Chapman's 455-foot homer highlights biggest game yet with A's

Matt Chapman's 455-foot homer highlights biggest game yet with A's

OAKLAND — Matt Chapman got the pie in the face Saturday that typically would be reserved for walk-off hero Khris Davis.

In the winning clubhouse afterward, the A’s rookie third baseman proudly wore a T-shirt that Yonder Alonso had made up for everyone. In neon lettering, like you might find in the window of a barber shop, the shirt read: “Oakland, Walk-offs Welcome!”

“I thought it was appropriate to wear for this,” Chapman told the gathered media.

Chapman soaked up the atmosphere of the A’s wild 5-3 victory over Cleveland, which came courtesy of Davis blasting a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth off the Indians’ Bryan Shaw.

But Chapman was as responsible as anyone for Oakland’s second win in as many nights against the defending American League champs. While his teammates were befuddled all night by right-hander Corey Kluber, Chapman blasted two homers off the 2014 Cy Young winner — the first two homers of Chapman’s big league career.

He also doubled to complete his 3-for-3 night. Combined with his triple the night before, Chapman is showing major signs of turning the corner from an awful offensive slump since returning from a knee infection that briefly hospitalized him.

He was in a 3-for-27 rut coming into Saturday.

“You wouldn’t know if he was 10-for-10 or 0-for-50, which tells a lot about him,” A’s starter Paul Blackburn said.

Chapman’s own comments on the biggest night of his brief major league career lends some insight into the mature mindset he brings to the ballpark.

“Do I think tonight means I’m just gonna be perfectly fine and never have any struggles again? No,” Chapman said. “But it’s obviously nice to have some sort of success and know you can compete at this level, and that you are good enough to do it. If anything, you just use it as motivation to keep working hard.”

Chapman drilled a 2-1 cutter from Kluber over the wall in left-center for his first homer in the third. Leading off the bottom of the eighth, Chapman sensed that Kluber might try to blow a first-pitch fastball by him. He got a 92 mile-per-hour two-seamer and belted a game-tying blast 455 feet, the ball striking off the base of a luxury suite in dead center.

For that, Chapman received a whipped cream pie in the face from Josh Phegley and two buckets of water over his head from Ryon Healy and Bruce Maxwell as he conducted a TV interview that on many nights would have belonged to Davis.

“He deserved it,” Davis said. “There’s many more to come where he’s going. It won’t be the last.”

A's hire Matt Williams as third base coach

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AP

A's hire Matt Williams as third base coach

OAKLANDThe Oakland A’s named Matt Williams as third base coach on Bob Melvin’s coaching staff for the 2018 season, the club announced today.

Williams spent five seasons on the Arizona Diamondbacks coaching staff as first base coach (2010) and third base coach (2011-13, 16) and also managed the Washington Nationals for two seasons.  He was named National League Manager of the Year by the BBWAA in his first season as manager in 2014, guiding the Nationals to a 96-66 record and an NL East title.  He went 83-79 in 2015 for a 179-145 (.552) record in two seasons as manager.

Williams played 17 seasons in the majors with San Francisco (1987-96), Cleveland (1997) and Arizona (1998-2003).  He was a .268 career hitter with 378 home runs and 1218 RBI in 1866 games.  Williams was a five-time All-Star and won four Gold Gloves as a third baseman.

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Ryon Healy trade has domino effect

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AP

Ryon Healy trade has domino effect

The A’s wasted no time making their first major move of the offseason, and it has a domino effect on how their 2018 lineup will take shape.

The trade of young slugger Ryon Healy to the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday paves the way for left fielder Khris Davis to start getting heavy at-bats as the designated hitter, the spot left vacant by Healy.

It also points to another move the A’s want to pull off — acquiring a right-handed hitting corner outfielder who presumably can eat up those defensive innings that Davis spends as the DH.

It’s a series of moves that isn’t all that surprising given the A’s roster makeup right now. Healy, who hit .282 with 38 homers in 221 games over his first two big league seasons, is capable of playing either first or third base. But Matt Olson and Matt Chapman secured those spots, respectively, with their solid showings as rookies last season.

“We’ve obviously talked a lot since the end of the season about adding to the bullpen,” A’s general manager David Forst said on a conference call Wednesday night. “At the same time, with the emergence of Matt and Matt, on the corners, maybe Ryon needed to be somebody we might have to move ...”

It makes sense for Oakland to find a way to shift Davis from being the everyday left fielder while still keeping his 40-homer bat in the lineup. Opponents have routinely taken extra bases the past two seasons on Davis’ throwing arm, and whether they add a newcomer to play left or shift Joyce or someone else there, chances are they can benefit from better defense in left.

The A’s also feel they got an important chip back from Seattle to help bolster a bullpen that ranked 13th in the American League last season with a 4.57 ERA. They received right-hander Emilio Pagan (along with minor league shortstop Alexander Campos), and figure that the 26-year-old Pagan is someone the A’s have pegged to be an immediate contributor in their ‘pen.

A 10th round draft pick in 2013, Pagan made his big league debut in 2017 and posted a 3.22 ERA over 34 games spread over four stints with Seattle. He endured a rocky first couple of outings but, after being called up for good in the second half, eventually worked his way into a late-inning setup role. Pagan struck out 56 and walked just eight in 50 1/3 innings, numbers that surely popped out to Oakland’s front office.

He’ll likely be called upon in middle relief to help set the table for Chris Hatcher and closer Blake Treinen, as the bullpen currently looks.

Campos, just 17, spent this past season in the Dominican Summer League, and Forst said the A’s were eyeing Campos last summer when they eventually traded Yonder Alonso to the Mariners. Oakland wound up getting center fielder Boog Powell back in that deal.

Did the A’s rake in enough for Healy? As with all trades, it will take time to judge. But it’s fair to say that Healy’s departure will be felt in a clubhouse that is characterized by the emergence of many young position players, and he was a part of that group. In fact, when Healy was called up in July 2016 — knocking Danny Valencia out as the regular third baseman — he became the first of several promising position-player prospects to establish himself in Oakland’s lineup.

He rented a house in the East Bay and eventually took in Chapman, Olson and Chad Pinder as roommates. There’s a fiery side to Healy’s on-field personality that was a positive for the A’s, and watching him play Oakland as a member of an AL West rival will make for entertaining theatre.

Another storyline is how Davis takes to being a regular DH. Forst praised Davis’ approach to his game and doesn’t anticipate any problems, adding that the A’s still want to get Davis some time in the outfield.