Matt Chapman illustrates immense value to A's when glove, bat get hot

Matt Chapman illustrates immense value to A's when glove, bat get hot

The A’s were in some trouble when Matt Chapman started tracking a ball bouncing down the third-baseline. The Los Angeles Angels had two runners in scoring position with no one out in the fourth inning when Albert Pujols sent the platinum glover into action, but Chapman wasn’t thinking about heroics when deciding what to do with a ball in hand.

“I was looking to keep the ball in the infield, get an out no matter what and try to minimize the damage,” Chapman said. “[Justin] Upton seemed to go on contact on that play. My momentum was already taking me into foul territory on that play and home plate was an easier throw anyways, so I took the shorter throw and saved a run right there. Had he stayed I would’ve been throwing across the diamond. I was just trying to get an out either way.”

Chapman’s description takes some drama out of an important play many don’t make, one that ended up being the start of a pivotal stretch in Monday’s 3-0, series-clinching victory over the Angels at Oakland Coliseum.

Starter Chris Bassitt eventually came out of the inning unscathed, ending a significant threat with a 1-2-3 double play. The A’s could’ve been in big trouble without that and Chapman’s smart play.

“That was a big swing,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “When you have close games, there are always a couple of plays that are big momentum swings. Certainly, that one and the double play, they were huge.”

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Excellent defense is a steady aspect of Chapman’s game. When he combines it with excellence at the plate, it’s easy to see why Melvin believes Chapman will be a perennial MVP candidate.

That was clear on Monday, when Chapman found his offensive rhythm after a few subpar performances. Chapman ended a mini-slump – everything is magnified in a 60-game season – by going 3-for-4 with an RBI against the Angels. His batting average went from .083 to .250 in a flash, following hits in his first three plate appearances.

“With a guy like him, it’s only a matter of time,” Melvin said. “Once he gets the first hit, then he’s a little more comfortable and then he’s off to the races with the types of swings we normally see out of him.”

Chapman looked locked in from the outset. He fouled a ball straight back for his second strike – a sign his timing was right – before lining a single into left field. Then he roped an RBI double over Mike Trout’s head in deep center and followed that with another base hit.

it was a return to form after two off games. He had an RBI triple in the bottom of the eighth on Friday and then went hitless over the weekend. Chapman came back strong, looking dangerous. That’s a good sign for an A’s team trying to stack wins early in a 60-game season.

[RELATED: What you might have missed in A's 3-0 win over Angels]

“I’m getting more and more comfortable,” Chapman said. “In that first game, I felt like I was hitting the ball hard but right at guys. And then in the second and third games maybe I was trying to do a little bit too much. The Angels have some good pitchers. They have seen me a lot and I have seen them a lot and they know how to pitch me. They are the type of team that’s going to make you earn it and chase their kinds of pitches. …I tried to stay within myself and get back to what I was trying to do.”

While he’ll face stiff competition for the American League’s MVP award even with an excellent season – Trout’s always a favorite – Chapman illustrated immense value to an A’s team that needs him going strong offensively with the elite defense he makes seem easy.

That will lead to more successful series like the one the A’s just wrapped and set up the possibility of an ever-elusive hot start to the season.

Dave Stewart calls Astros 'cheaters,' thanks them for Ramon Laureano

Dave Stewart calls Astros 'cheaters,' thanks them for Ramon Laureano

Dave Stewart had one of the most intimidating stare-downs in MLB history. When the A's pitcher turned NBC Sports California analyst gave you that look, it was game over. 

Stewart once again brought the heat Monday night on A's Postgame Live after Oakland's 11-1 blowout win over the Mariners. Everyone loves a good dig at the Astros, and Stewart didn't hold back. 

"He's solid, he is a solid player," Stewart said of A's outfielder Ramon Laureano. "How the A's got this guy is unbelievable. And what it took to get is unbelievable in Houston. Houston, thanks once again you cheaters."

The Houston Astros selected Laureano in the 16th round of the 2014 MLB Draft. Just three years later, Houston traded the outfielder to Oakland in November 2017 for pitcher Brandon Bailey. 

Laureano, 26, made his MLB debut the next season in 2018 and has been an integral player for the A's ever since. He hit .288 with five homers in seven stolen bases over just 48 games two seasons ago, and followed that up last year with another .288 season but this time added 24 long balls and swiped 13 bags. The center fielder is hitting .324 with two home runs and nine RBI through 10 games this season. 

[RELATED: A's eight-run inning vs. Mariners not as rare as expected]

Bailey, 25, made his big league debut this season for Houston out of the bullpen.

The center fielder has one of the best arms in baseball, can knock the ball over the fence and steal a base for extra credit. This was one of the A's best trades in recent memory, and Stewart will remind the Astros as much as he can.

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Khris Davis' first home run of 2020 MLB season thrills A's teammates

Khris Davis' first home run of 2020 MLB season thrills A's teammates

Khris Davis connected for his first home run of the season in the A’s 11-1 thumping of the Seattle Mariners on Monday night.

It was a shot to left centerfield, into the A's bullpen filled with teammates. 

As he rounded the bases, the bullpen stood up and cheered for him. Starter Frankie Montas, in the dugout, looked more excited than Davis was.

“He needed that, you know?” Montas told reporters after the game. “Just for him to be able to have that day today -- it was huge for him.”

Davis had a stellar 2018 season hitting 48 homers, the most in the league that year. He followed that with a tough 2019 and even rougher beginning of the 2020 season. 

This was well-needed.

“All the way around, really good at-bats,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He felt good today, and you could tell he looked comfortable in the box today so it’s a good start. We’ll see where we go from here, but obviously we know this guy is one of the bigger bats that we’ve had in this organization.”

Davis also showed discipline at the plate with a nine-pitch at-bat in the fifth inning during an eight-run outburst for the A’s. He ended up walking after fouling off four pitches. That at-bat was what led outfielder Stephen Piscotty to believe something was about to happen. Well that, and the fact that Davis made a prediction before the game.

[RELATED: A's eight-run inning on two outs, not a rare feat]

“He looked great today,” Piscotty said. “It was funny -- in BP, he said he was going to go off, and he sure did.”

“We’ve been seeing it,” Piscotty said. “He’s been working really hard and putting the time in and it was nice to see it pay off.”

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