Matt Olson got his revenge on the baseball.
Thursday in Tampa Bay, a batting practice ball bounced off an L-screen and directly back into his left eye. Olson missed three games as his eye swelled badly, but he was back in the lineup Sunday to punish some stitched rawhide.
The sweet-swinging Athletics slugger fell a triple short of the cycle in a 7-5 win over the Baltimore Orioles, going 3-for-5 with this solo shot in the third inning.
And he did it all while sporting a mean shiner on his left eye -- as A’s righty Chris Bassitt noted in the above video.
As bad as Olson’s eye looked Sunday, A’s manager Bob Melvin said it used to look worse.
"That is nothing compared to what it looked like a couple days ago,” Melvin said in his postgame press conference. “... And not only was he able to hit, but he was able to play in the field. That's a big pick-me-up for us, and obviously with him, it's a different game as well.”
The A’s lineup simply doesn’t have the same bite without Olson in the heart of the order. Not to mention he provides the A's with their best left-handed bat for a righty-heavy group.
The first baseman made swing adjustments in the offseason with a focus on his approach to the inside half of the plate. It resulted in a show-stopping spring training and Olson has kept up the momentum in the regular season, where he has traditionally struggled to start the year.
Olson is slashing .314/.375/.628 with seven homers and 19 RBI this season. He has never batted higher than .267 in a season and is a career .249 hitter, so imagining Olson hitting for average is scary.
He’s two homers shy of the MLB lead, while his 12.26 at-bats per home run is the sixth-best in the American League. Olson (1.003 OPS) is also one of eight AL players to have an OPS better than 1.000 and his 18.2 barrel percentage is among the top eight percentile of the league, according to Baseball Savant.
Long story short: Olson is mashing the ball this year.
Olson has also missed time this season after banging his knee on a wall fielding and getting hit by a pitch. He’s on pace for about 39 home runs through 29 team games, but he has all the tools to become the second player in Oakland A’s history to hit 50 homers in a season, as Mark McGwire bashed 52 dingers in 1996.