Athletics

How A's Matt Olson has sustained power surge after breaking hamate bone

How A's Matt Olson has sustained power surge after breaking hamate bone

OAKLAND -- Matt Olson came to the plate for a third time Wednesday and, like clockwork, Minnesota’s defense shifted accordingly. The A's first baseman already had a hit swallowed by the defensive alignment, but didn’t get mad by increased resistance on his pull side.

He simply squared up, and bunted against the shift. Olson has done that four times this year, willing to take an essentially free base in the right situations.

The Twins gladly took that over the alternative, which is Olson reaching the cheap seats. The first baseman is in a serious power surge, with 17 home runs since May 12. That’s MLB’s highest clip in that span. He’s also averaging a home run every 11.6 at-bats, which ranks ninth in the major leagues among those with at least 200 plate appearances.

None of those numbers come from a small sample size.

Olson’s on an extended tear, one that seems sustainable.

“I feel good at the plate right now,” Olson said in an interview with NBC Sports California. “I’m taking good at bats, and I want to keep it going as long as possible.”

The odd part about all that, this productive streak started shortly after his return from a surgery to repair a broken right hand. He suffered a hamate fracture in the season-opening series in Japan and had it removed back in the U.S., starting a six-week rehab that normally comes with a significant loss of power.

Olson feared the worst, but that side effect never showed up.

“I heard from everybody that power was going to be an issue coming back,” Olson said. “Recovering from an injury like that was something you can’t force. You just have to let it happen. And, honestly, when I started swinging, I never really felt weak.

“I felt like the power was there, almost from the start. I had my progression building up swings and I had to get stronger, but once I was 100 percent I felt like the ball was going just as far.”

Olson believes his swing and style have helped him drive the ball well upon recovery.

“I don’t know if that’s because I’m a guy who likes to be a little looser on the bat anyways as opposed to gripping and swinging as hard as I can,” Olson said. “I don’t know if that was the case, but, yeah. I was shocked at how quickly the power came back.”

Hand strength has helped the ball travel, but there’s something else that has sustained a .293 batting average and .369 OBP over the last 15 games, where he has hit safely in 11 games with six home runs and 12 RBI.

“It’s a product of the at-bats I’m having,” Olson said. “I’m swinging at good pitches, and I’m getting the barrel to the ball with more consistency than I have in the past. My swing is tailored to driving the ball, and when that’s the case and you’re having good at bats and swinging at good pitches, the extra base hits are going to happen.”

Olson's right. According to Statcast, Olson is barreling 17.4 percent of his batted balls, which ranks in MLB's top-two percent. A total of 53.2 percent of his batted balls are considered hard hit, an elite figure in the 100th percentile.

That means he's following the A's credo. Hitting coach Darren Bush wants his guys focused on hitting the ball hard, not far. That Olson is doing both is no shock. Bush and Olson don't want to overanalyze this hot streak, but they work to keep his swing compact from start to contact.

The other part is staying mentally locked in.

“You have a checklist, and you make sure he’s thinking the right way,” Bush said. “The mechanics of his swing will clean up when he’s thinking right. There are little things to check and make sure he’s seeing and feeling and anticipating certain things, but at this point, we’ve been working together a long time. It’s pretty easy to fix things when he’s not feeling something.”

[RELATED: A's using returning Treinen in extras vs. Twins backfires]

Olson’s feeling good now and was even after the longest rehab of his career, leaving him on pace for a career-high home run count despite missing so many games. Olson’s goal now is maintenance, avoiding slumps and working the details required to stay locked in.

“You have to do what you can to keep the good feeling,” Olson said. “Taking the time to realize what you’re doing well is crucial, especially to compare it to when things aren’t. You try to focus on the positive things you’re going and keep it going as long as humanly possible.”

Tanner Roark continues to pay off for A's, stymies Yankees in 5-3 win

Tanner Roark continues to pay off for A's, stymies Yankees in 5-3 win

The A's were rumored to be in the mix for some of the star pitchers available at the MLB trade deadline last month. Instead, they ended up with Tanner Roark.

And, as evidenced in their 5-3 win over the Yankees on Thursday night at Oakland Coliseum, one could make the case the A's are better off.

Roark posted his third consecutive quality start, limiting the Bronx Bombers to seven hits and two runs over 6 1/3 innings while striking out seven. The end result? The completion of a sweep of the best team in the AL.

The A's finished off that sweep without closer Liam Hendriks, who got the night off after completing a five-out save Wednesday. Perhaps even more impressive, Oakland did so without the aid of a single home run.

The sweep comes on the heels of another impressive series, in which the A's took three of four from the AL West-leading Astros, who sit just a single victory behind New York for the league’s best record.

Six wins in seven games -- well, it's actually seven in eight -- is impressive enough. To do so against top-level competition is difficult to overlook.

"It shows what kind of clubhouse we have, what kind of guys we have in here," Roark told reporters after the win. "Sticking together and trusting one another that if someone doesn't do the job the first time, someone else will pick them up the next time. That's what it's all about."

To acquire Roark from the Reds, the A's had to part with top-10 prospect Jameson Hannah. It likely would have cost considerably more for Oakland to land one of the available stars, but even that price might have seemed a little steep at the time.

Not anymore.

In each of his four starts with the A’s, Roark has gone at least five innings without allowing more than two earned runs (for a total of seven). In his previous four starts with Cincinnati, he never once topped five innings, and never allowed fewer than two runs (for a total of 16).

With the A's completing the sweep, and the Indians suffering a three-game sweep at the hands of the Mets, Oakland jumped into the lead for the first AL wild-card spot, just percentage points ahead of Tampa Bay. The Reds, on the other hand, won't come close to sniffing the playoff.

[RELATED: Khrush hopes opposite-field homer can break brutal slump]

Clearly, Roark has responded well to his new environment, and should the A's succeed in their pursuit of a wild-card spot, one has to imagine he'll be a lot happier than he would’ve been had there not been a trade.

If Roark keeps this up, you can bet the A's will feel the same way, too.

Watch A's Prize Patrol surprise lucky fan Jason M. with $5,000

Watch A's Prize Patrol surprise lucky fan Jason M. with $5,000

For Jason M., it literally paid off to watch Wednesday's A's broadcast on NBC Sports California.

Jason is the second winner of the A's Prize Patrol contest and won $5,000, which was presented to him on Thursday evening.

Additionally, the A's will match the $5,000 prize and donate it to Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area.

So what did Jason have to do in order to win the $5,000 grand prize? On Wednesday, he tuned in to A's-Yankees game, and when a secret code was revealed, he went to https://www.nbcsports.com/bayarea/prizepatrol  and filled out the form.

Five random finalists were selected on Thursday, and each was asked to write 50 words on what makes them such big A's fans.

“We’re a family of true Oakland A’s fans," Jason wrote. "I’ve started teaching my 4-year old to bat and he insists he’ll play for the A’s someday. And, I kid you not, my wife and I even watched the A’s games from our hospital delivery room for both of our children!”

A's In-Stadium host Kara Tsuboi, mascot Stomper, A's Prize Patrol and NBC Sports California surprised Jason at his home on Thursday night.

If you want the chance to follow in Jason's footsteps and win $5,000 for yourself and a charity, you have two more chances this season.

Watch these two upcoming game broadcasts for the secret code:

Sept. 3 vs. Los Angeles Angels
Sept. 6 vs. Detroit Tigers

Once the secret code is revealed, you can enter the contest here.

The A's Prize Patrol was created as a way for the team and NBC Sports California to reward fans for tuning in to A's broadcasts. Watch the A’s to win and support your community.