Athletics

A's Matt Olson's has long history of power surges in 60-game stretches

A's Matt Olson's has long history of power surges in 60-game stretches

Matt Olson broke the hamate bone in his right hand early in the second game of the 2019 season during an international series with the Seattle Mariners in Tokyo.

The injury was expected to bring about a power outage, even in Olson’s sweet swing. Others returning from the injury saw home run decreases in the short term at least, so the A’s first baseman wasn’t expected to be his typical mashing self after more than six weeks out of the lineup.

He defied expectations, hitting with as much power he has in his career. Olson believed having to keep his hands relaxed allowed him to connect regularly and go on quite a run.

Olson was awesome during the 60 games after his return, with 60 hits, 20 home runs and 40 RBIs during that span.

It wasn’t his first 60 game surge. He played just 59 games in 2017 but hit 24 home runs and 45 RBIs in that run.

The reason for seeking out 60 game hot streaks is obvious. That’s how many opportunities players will have in a shortened season due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

He isn’t the only A’s position player capable of getting scalding hot over a relatively short span. Designated hitter Khris Davis finished the 2018 season strong, with an unreal stat line over 60 games in a stretch that ended with the A’s second-to-last game.

He had 26 home runs and 57 RBIs in that run, hitting multiple home runs several times in that span. That’s the type of output that could carry a team, as Davis has done several times during his A’s career.

[RELATED: Olson most underrated player entering 2020 season]

While position players can have a greater impact while working every day, pitchers can come out strong at the start. Frankie Montas was in a great groove to start the year, with a 7-2 record over 12 starts in a 60-game window – he remained hot in two starts after that -- with a 2.83 ERA and 69 strikeouts to 19 walks over 70 innings pitched.

A positive test for performance-enhancing drugs spoiled that campaign, but a dominant pitcher can prevent prolonged losing streaks and be responsible for a huge chunk of wins in a season where each one comes at a premium.

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

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

The A's return home ending their brief road trip to Seattle on a high note.

Oakland took three out of four from the Mariners, including an 11-1 rout on Monday where they were buoyed by an eight-run inning and Khris Davis' first home run of the season.

The A's (6-4) open a three-game set against the visiting Texas Rangers (3-5) on Tuesday, who are staying in the Bay Area after losing two out of three to the San Francisco Giants over the weekend.

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

Tuesday, Aug. 4

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

Wednesday, Aug. 5

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

Thursday, Aug. 6

When: A's Pregame Live at Noon PT -- First pitch at 12:40 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports California
Stream: MyTeams app

Jesus Luzardo's starting debut beginning of something special for A's

Jesus Luzardo's starting debut beginning of something special for A's

Jesus Luzardo's first career MLB start ended in grand fashion -- literally. After tossing five scoreless innings in an eventual 5-1 walk-off win over the Texas Rangers, A's manager Bob Melvin was effusive in his praise of the rookie left-hander.

"He was terrific," Melvin said. "Comes as advertised. Three plus-plus pitches. Great velocity, great movement. Terrific athlete as you saw the play he makes on the mound. So, really good start for him for his first big league start."

Luzardo used that arsenal of pitches to keep the Rangers hitters off balance, allowing just two hits while striking out five. He had to find his own balance at one point in the second inning after Scott Heineman hit a high chopper that bounced right off of home plate.

He tracked the ball over his shoulder, gloved it in no-man's land behind the mound and fired an off-balanced strike to Matt Olson to end the inning. It was the only play to be made, and Luzardo made it look fairly easy.

It was anything but.

"It was extremely difficult," Luzardo said after the win. "I don't know how I did it."

In Luzardo's most recent relief appearance last Wednesday, he made an errant throw to first after knocking down a comebacker, allowing two runs to score in an eventual 5-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies. He was relieved to put that in the past with his standout defensive play Tuesday.

"I'm glad I was able to do that and finally kind of get last outing's mistake and be able to focus on this one and get that (pitchers' fielding practice) under my belt," Luzardo continued.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

He showed tremendous poise on the play, a theme throughout his starting debut. When asked if he had to say anything to Luzardo leading up to the game to calm his nerves, Melvin explained that wasn't necessary.

"Ha, no," Melvin said with a chuckle. "I don't have much to say to him. He has got a smile on his face, you'd never know it was the day he was pitching. It's his first big league start. Certainly, if there were nerves, he didn't show it. A lot of times the nerves will show up in the first inning and it was anything but. 

"Just throwing bullets. Good changeup, good breaking ball right away. He's special in the fact that he has a lot of confidence at a young age, and if I had that kind of stuff I probably would too."

[RELATED: Piscotty's walk-off grand slam vs. Rangers makes A's history]

Though all seemed quiet on the surface, Luzardo admitted he was somewhat nervous earlier in the day. But once he got into his element, that all disappeared.

"Definitely coming into the game, like leading up to it this morning, I was definitely nervous," Luzardo said. "Just typical nerves. I feel like I get nervous or butterflies before every time I pitch. But once I started getting my routine and once I was out there on the field, even warming up in the bullpen, all that stuff was gone for me."

Luzardo's first career start could not have gone much better. It was worth the wait and looked like the beginning of something special.