Athletics

Homer Bailey dominates Giants, making case to keep A's rotation spot

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AP

Homer Bailey dominates Giants, making case to keep A's rotation spot

SAN FRANCISCO -- There must be something about the Bay Area for Homer Bailey.

Since joining the A's last month, the veteran right-hander has been terrific in Northern California and, well, awful everywhere else. That trend continued Wednesday afternoon as Bailey spun seven innings of shutout ball against the Giants, allowing just two hits and a walk with seven strikeouts, leading Oakland to a 9-5 win at Oracle Park.

"I think it was his best stuff of the year," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "He had a great split, located his fastball really well, but really could throw his split in any count. He got some swings and misses with it, just enough side-to-side with his breaking ball. That's the best we've seen him."

In his four starts in either Oakland or San Francisco, Bailey is now 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA. In two starts outside of the Bay Area, the 33-year-old is 0-2 with a 21.60 ERA. Bailey still hasn't been able to determine the reason for his Jekyll and Hyde performances.

"Just pitching," he said. "Make good pitches, have a good game plan going into it and then try to execute it."

Unfortunately, Bailey hasn't been able to do that consistently this year. Even after Wednesday's gem, his ERA for the season is 5.22. Melvin believes the key lies in Bailey's split-finger fastball, arguably his best pitch.

"From what we've seen, it looks like when his split is on, he's a tough customer to deal with because he can throw it for a strike, he can throw it for chase, and it keeps guys off his fastball," Melvin explained.

Bailey agreed with that assessment.

"I think it's any pitcher in general," he said. "When you're able to use more than one pitch, and you can use it to get ahead or to get outs with, more times than not, you're going to have success."

Bailey's strong outing Wednesday certainly came at the perfect time -- his last start against the Cubs saw him allow seven earned runs in 4 2/3 innings. And with Sean Manaea getting close to returning from the injured list, Bailey's spot in the rotation is far from guaranteed, especially considering how well Oakland's other starters have pitched recently.

Mike Fiers has been the ace all season and is locked into that role. The newly-acquired Tanner Roark has pitched well in his first two A's outings and is also secure in the rotation.

Brett Anderson has been reliable all year and has recorded quality starts in seven of his last eight outings. Chris Bassitt has pitched brilliantly over the last month, going 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA in his last six starts.

[RELATED: A's DFA Taylor to make room for Corban Joseph]

That would seem to make Bailey the odd man out, at least heading into Wednesday's masterful performance. The key for him now is consistency. The A's need to know they can rely on him each and every start -- not necessarily to be great, but just to keep them in the game.

Bailey will face a stiff test his next time out, as he is lined up to face the American League-leading New York Yankees next week. We'll just have to wait and see which Bailey shows up.

Astros vs. Oakland A's live stream: How to watch MLB games online, on TV

Astros vs. Oakland A's live stream: How to watch MLB games online, on TV

The A's are rolling.

Oakland has won six straight games as they welcome the rival Astros to the Coliseum for the first time since Houston's cheating scandal was unearthed in the offseason.

The A's (9-4) are coming off a sweep of the Rangers, while the Astros (6-6) lost two out of three to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Here's how you can watch the A's play the Rangers online (download the MyTeams app here!) and on TV:

Friday, Aug. 7

When: A's Pregame Live at 5:30 p.m. PT -- First pitch at 6:10 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports California
Stream: MyTeams app

Saturday, Aug. 8

When: A's Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m. PT -- First pitch at 1:10 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports California
Stream: MyTeams app

Sunday, Aug. 9

When: A's Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m. PT -- First pitch at 1:10 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports California
Stream: MyTeams app

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]
 

Marcus Semien's hard work paying off as he builds A's culture, tone

Marcus Semien's hard work paying off as he builds A's culture, tone

Austin Allen’s single to score Matt Chapman in the bottom of the 13th set the things up for Marcus Semien in the A’s 3-2 win over the Houston Astros on Friday night.

Semien sealed the deal with a walk-off single to center field. Semien smiled celebrated with an ice bath from Tony Kemp. It was a much-need victory over the Astros for both Semien and the A's.

For Semien, the big hit was a long time coming. 

“For me, it’s trying to be on time,” Semien told reporters following the 13-inning game. “I’ve been struggling with my timing a little bit, so just being on time, and same thing with Austin. Like I said, that guy was getting guys to chase up, so anything that is hard and a little lower, just attack it. I put a lot of work in earlier in the day just trying to hit line drives to the opposite field and it’s a good feeling when it clicks because for a while it hadn’t been clicking.”

Semien wasn’t hitting the ball hard, he explained. And when that happens, there’s a reason for it.  

“My stroke feels good, but sometimes it’s approach, sometimes it’s timing -- body position, a lot of things that could be,” Semien added. “That’s what early work is for, cage work. Once you get in the game, you just have to compete.”

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Semien said he has to create habits that work.

“It’s tough because you think you have to tinker with everything,” Semien added.

Semien wasn’t sure what that tinkering would consist of: Would he need to work on his swing? Not necessarily. The timing was definitely a factor, but Semien also believes opposing teams were attacking him differently.

That seems to be the case when he leaves a third-place AL MVP season behind him in 2019.

“They’re being more careful, you saw that with Texas,” Semien said. “I’m trying to take the low pitches, sometimes they’re calling them, and you just find yourself in 0-for-3 like that. I think today was a good day to build off.”

“They know last year I put up some good numbers and you’re not getting as much to hit. You think that you’re just going to get the same pitches that they threw last year and that’s part of it, kind of created some bad habits early on. Even since spring and Summer Camp, just hadn’t really been driving the ball well.” 

Semien said he’s working on that every day. It hasn't gone unnoticed.

“Marcus, I think has set the tone and built the culture here,” A’s starter Chris Bassitt told reporters during his postgame availability. “Obviously I think [Matt] Chapman and [Matt] Olson and those guys have caught on to just the work ethic that Semien brings every single day.”

[RELATED: A's fan creates GoFundMe to troll Astros with 'Asterisks' aerial banner]

Bassitt himself had a good outing, allowing just three hits and one earned run in seven innings. That brings his total to just two earned runs allowed in 16 2/3 innings this season. But this wasn’t about him at the moment despite his solid outing in the 13-inning game. He wanted to give Semien his moment.

“It’s not a matter of when [Semien] walks up to the plate, but whenever he does, you know you are getting the best effort from him every single night,” Bassitt said. “Doesn’t matter what at-bat, what inning. Anytime he walks up with the game on the line, I’m extremely confident in him.”