Josh Harrison is no stranger to hitting in the leadoff spot, which is why the veteran utility man sliding into that role with the Athletics recently is proving to be successful.
In seven games batting first in the lineup, Harrison is slashing .321/.345/.357 with nine hits. It’s a small sample size with the A's, but across his career, he has over 1,300 plate appearances in that spot.
“This is not something I’m unfamiliar with,” Harrison said following the A's 8-6 loss to the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on Wednesday night. “I take pride in being leadoff, I did it a little bit in [Washington] D.C. this year and when called upon, I was ready.”
A’s outfielder Mark Canha took over the spot this season after the A’s didn’t re-sign Marcus Semien over the winter. Canha liked the idea of getting into the pitcher’s head right away, but his numbers weren’t as solid. That’s fine, of course, as it appears Canha is finding his stride at the plate after being moved down in the lineup.
Harrison mirrored the sentiments of Canha, as he also liked getting into the pitcher’s head, but listed other factors.
“Well, part of it is the team’s looking for you to be a spark,” Harrison said. “Whether that’s get on base, having a good at-bat, you get a chance to get things started.”
It’s helping, too. The top of the A’s lineup has been productive as of late. Harrison’s face lit up when he was asked about the scenario of him being on base with Starling Marte and Matt Olson batting right behind him.
“At the end of the day, as long as we’re having good at-bats, one through nine and, as you mentioned, being the leadoff man, top of the order, getting things started, Oly came through a nice clutch double, Marte hit a home run," Harrison said. "More than anything, it’s going to take one through nine, if we can jump out early and set with hitters up front, I think -- I don’t want to say it makes the job easier -- you still got to play 27 outs, it’s all about getting to that pitcher and getting to that bullpen.”
Harrison led off the game Wednesday with a single to center, and went 3-for-5 with two runs scored. That's the kind of production the A's need in front of Marte and Olson as they make a push for an American League playoff spot.