Athletics

Bob Melvin angry A's lost replay review, thought Matt Olson was safe

Bob Melvin angry A's lost replay review, thought Matt Olson was safe

The A’s had two close calls decided by replay reviews Wednesday afternoon, and lost them both. They produced a three-run swing, taking one away and giving the Colorado Rockies two in a 5-1 A's loss at Oakland Coliseum.

It was one of several irritants following a second straight loss where defensive lapses and quiet bats cost the A’s dearly, but losing both decisions bothered manager Bob Melvin nonetheless.

“Over the years, we feel like we’ve had a tough time with close calls on replay,” Melvin said. “You know what? It didn’t decide the game, but it can be frustrating.”

The first replay review must have driven Melvin nuts. Matt Olson was called out at the plate after Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado inexplicably threw home with two outs over making an easy force out at first, with catcher Tony Wolters tag coming high on Olson’s thigh.

That wasn’t crystal clear watching it live, but Olson obviously was safe when viewing the close play slowed down and from multiple angles.

Melvin challenged the play upon advice from staffers watching replays, but league officials surprisingly upheld the umpire’s original call.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Olson was called out (again), ending what could’ve been a two-out rally. The run would’ve tied it 2-2 with a runner on third and Vimael Machin at bat, but an A’s half inning ended harmlessly instead.

Melvin was asked in his postgame press conference about what prompted him to challenge the call and what he thought of the decision. He answered the question with another one.

“We didn’t get a really good replay at it on the scoreboard,” Melvin said. “What did it look like to you?”

The reporter paused for a beat and then said what everyone else was thinking: "He looked safe.”

“Yeah,” Melvin said. “That’s what we thought.”

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The next call was less certain, following an easy play made difficult in the ninth inning. Relief pitcher Jesus Luzardo lobbed a volley to first base too high and arching to produce an out, an act ruled an error that allowed two runs to score and put the game essentially out of reach.

While the play was close, there wasn’t indisputable evidence from this vantage to overturn the safe call on the field.

“I don’t have an excuse for it,” Luzardo said. “I didn’t have a good grip on the ball, and I didn’t want to throw it away. I thought I had more time than I actually did.

"That was my fault.”

How softball player Paige Halstead fared vs. Frankie Montas in live BP

How softball player Paige Halstead fared vs. Frankie Montas in live BP

A’s starter Frankie Montas was an absolute workhorse during the MLB hiatus. He lifted a considerable amount of weight, threw bullpens and simulated games. He also had to face Paige Halstead for a batting practice session.

Halstead, whose brother Ryan plays in the Giants organization, is used to male competition. She practices with Ryan quite a bit, but her résumé isn’t something to be ignored. 

A 2019 graduate of UCLA, and workhorse herself, Halstead also was a member of Team USA for three summers where she medaled multiple times. She also will be competing in a newly formed professional softball league, Athletes Unlimited, that begins later in August. 

Halstead had never seen Montas throw before. She had seen Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer previously, who also was throwing batting practice to her in the Arizona desert, but Montas was different.

“Honestly, I didn’t know much about him,” Halstead said on an episode of Momentum’s ‘Cork’d Up’ podcast. “I didn’t even know how hard he could throw.”

“I was waiting to hit off of him, one of the hitters there was like, ‘Dude, you know he throws like 100, right?’ I was like ‘What?’ ” Paige laughed. “I had no idea, I think, knowing that, going up there, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m just going to swing as hard as I can.’ ”

Sometimes, that’s all you can do. 

During the hiatus, Montas also was throwing those triple digits to a high school kid. He used every outlet he could find to stay active. Whatever he was doing worked, as he got the Opening Day nod and continues to dominate on the mound.

In three games this season, Montas boasts a 2.25 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 23 innings. The velocity on his fastball hasn’t quite hit that 100 mark yet, but that will come with time. 

[RELATED: Montas goes from "dark place" to A's Opening Day starter]

“The first pitch [Montas] threw, I blinked, and it was gone,” Halstead said. “He throws gas, but I just try to close my eyes and swing as hard as I can.”

“He was super nice about it,” Halstead said. “He likes to talk trash too, so that was fun.”

How Tony Kemp has become everything A’s hoped for when he was acquired

How Tony Kemp has become everything A’s hoped for when he was acquired

The second base position was a big question mark for the A's heading into the 2020 MLB season.

Prior to spring training, the team’s main need was a lefty infield bat, particularly to platoon with Franklin Barreto who, if he figures it out at the major-league level, could be a game-changer for an entire lineup.

But Barreto hasn't gotten much of a chance this season, not with Tony Kemp around. He changed everything. Through two-plus weeks of the season, it appears those second base questions have been answered.

On Saturday, Chad Pinder got the start at second just as he did on Opening Day, but Kemp has done a sensational job of filling in when needed, and not just as a runner on second base when the A’s find themselves in extras innings -- which has been the case lately.

In 10 games this season, Kemp is slashing .316/.500/.316 with two stolen bases, and that on-base percentage is boosted by a 25.9 percent walk rate. Not to mention, in the month of August alone, he’s gone 6-for-12 with a 1.147 OPS and is batting .500.

“Tony’s playing very well too, so we’re comfortable with both of those guys,” A's manager Bob Melvin told reporters after Saturday’s 3-1 victory over the Houston Astros.

Before the season, Kemp was one of a many options vying for time at second base for the A’s, and now he's splitting time with Pinder.

Even with prospect Jorge Mateo traded to the San Diego Padres, it looked to be a difficult decision to make with Kemp being thrown into the mix with Barreto and Rule 5 addition Vimael Machin also there.

But Melvin hasn’t forgotten about them.

“Barreto and Machin are the guys that aren’t getting a ton of at-bats right now, but at some point in time, they’re going to be called upon whether it’s injury, whether it’s days off, and they’re both working hard to stay ready,” Melvin said.

Beyond the production at the plate, Kemp has blended in beautifully with the team as a whole.

[RELATED: Marcus Semien's hard work sets tone, culture for A's]

Only with the A's for a brief period of time, Kemp noticed the A’s wanted to learn about the “+1 Effect” campaign he launched, and his fun, playful personality lines up perfectly with the tone the team has always set. The productivity is an added bonus.

 “At this point in time, we like how we’re doing it with Tony and Chad,” Melvin added. “They’re both contributing to wins on both sides.”