Athletics

A's play close to perfect game in 17-3 domination of struggling Tigers

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A's play close to perfect game in 17-3 domination of struggling Tigers

It would be nearly impossible to play a better game than the A's did Thursday afternoon in Detroit.

Oakland scored a season-high 17 runs and pounded out 16 hits, including five home runs, en route to a 17-3 shellacking of the Tigers.

Let's break down just how well the A's excelled in all three phases of the game:

Offense

After scoring a total of 18 runs in their previous six games, the A's exploded for 17 on Thursday. Oakland matched a season-high with five homers, hitting for the home run cycle -- Jurickson Profar hit a grand slam, Marcus Semien a 3-run shot, Josh Phegley and Mark Canha two-run blasts, and Matt Olson a solo homer.

Every member of the A's lineup recorded at least one hit, with Phegley going 4-for-5 with a home run and four RBI. His 26 RBI rank second among major league catchers.


Defense

The A's were just as good with the gloves Thursday, making all the routine plays and a couple of great ones. Of course, Matt Chapman had the gem of the day, ranging well to his right and throwing across his body to take a sure hit away from Niko Goodrum.


Pitching

Chris Bassitt pitched the game of his life, tossing eight shutout innings and allowing just four hits and two walks, with seven strikeouts. Bassitt has allowed three runs or fewer in all five of his starts this season while striking out at least six in every game.

The 30-year-old right-hander is finally fully healthy after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2016 and it has shown. Bassitt has notched 38 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings with a 1.93 ERA and 0.92 WHIP.

Detroit did get on the board with two outs in the ninth inning, but the game was long over by then. This was complete domination by the A's, or as the Tigers Twitter account put it:

https://twitter.com/tigers/status/1129116330664366080

Just the icing on the cake.

A's know they must work to catch star-studded Astros despite series win

A's know they must work to catch star-studded Astros despite series win

OAKLAND – Houston’s lineup comes at opponents with a procession of knives and swords and machetes, slashing and hacking until the pitcher begs for mercy. The Astros aim to destroy, and they usually do.

And when they fail, well, they suffocate teams into submission with an imposing starting rotation and gloves galore.

The A’s, however, spent the week squinting and shrugging at Goliath. They were so determined to foil the goal of a club built to win a World Series in October – and maybe two or three Octobers beyond – it wasn’t until Sunday that the Astros recovered from their bruises.

By the time Houston salvaged the last of four games with a 4-1 win at the Coliseum, it had received the message sent by the A’s: Oakland will not fall. It must be knocked down, hard and repeatedly.

Though winning three of four against the mighty Astros is -- by all accounts -- a generally satisfying achievement, utility man Chad Pinder needed a few moments to accept it with grace.

“I was not happy,” he told NBC Sports Bay Area. “I was really not happy. I took a little bit of time sitting at my locker.”

The source of Pinder’s temporary discontent was making the final out. His routine ground ball to shortstop meant the A’s were out of chances to do what they believe they are meant to do.

Win, No matter the opponent.

“Nobody wants to give away at-bats,” Pinder said. “Nobody wants to lose. So, when it comes down to the ninth inning, regardless of the score, guys aren’t giving away anything. When you see the guy in front of you not giving in, you don’t want to be the guy that makes the last out. You don’t want to be the guy that ends the game. You don’t want to be that guy.”

Yet winning three of four against a Houston team whose six highest-paid players combined make roughly the same amount as Oakland’s entire roster, is a huge net gain. It’s the order of the outcomes that left a residue of disappointment.

“Four-game sweeps are pretty tough, especially against a team like that,” manager Bob Melvin said. “But when you take the first three, you have some momentum and you want to take the fourth. We’re a little disappointed we couldn’t take the fourth game."

“But come tomorrow, when we look at three out of four, it’s a plus.”

The A’s under Melvin have made a habit of sticking their chins into the fight with baseball’s beasts. It’s as if coming into this series they ignored their 2-9 record against Houston this season – or maybe dismissed it because it’s mid-August, which is when the stakes start to rise.

The A’s (72-53) missed a chance to pull within 5.5 games of Houston (79-46) in the AL West but reminded themselves what it’s like to play games that matter. They left the ballpark 7.5 games behind the Astros but only one game behind Tampa Bay and two behind Cleveland in the Wild Card race.

They are making a spirited bid for October baseball despite the physical perils in their path. Starter Sean Manaea -- the ace of the staff a little more than a year ago -- has spent this season recovering from surgery. Jharel Cotton, a regular in the rotation when healthy, has endured two surgeries. Both pitchers in the midst of minor-league rehab assignments. First baseman Matt Olson underwent hand surgery and missed the first six weeks of the season. 

The team’s main offseason trade acquisition, second baseman Jurickson Profar, has been abysmal, toting the lowest batting average (.204) and on-base percentage (.269) of any regular in either league.

These shortcomings have had little impact on the A’s. Matt Chapman and Matt Olson keep crushing, offsetting Khris Davis’ relatively quiet bat. The pitching and defense have been solid, but the spirit keeps this bunch ticking.

The A’s believe, and keep believing, until the final out. Their nine walk-off wins are second only to the Dodgers’ 10. Since opening the season with a 15-21 record, Oakland is 56-32. 

“They’re fighters,” Melvin said of the A’s. “The Pinders and the Chapmans and the Olsons, these guys won all the way up (through the minors). They have an expectation to win all the time.”

As much criticism as the Coliseum gets, and most of it is deserved, the A’s 40-24 home record is behind only the Yankees (49-19) and Astros (43-15) in the AL. Still, upon arriving at the ballpark Sunday, the plan was to leave with a 41-23 home record.

[RELATED: Zack Greinke continues mastery of A's despite diminishing velocity]

“Obviously, you want to sweep,” Pinder said. “But the first thing we did (in the clubhouse) was put on the music. We had a good series, and you really want to win the series. We did, so we’ll take it.”

Particularly against a team that has kneecapped the A’s more than a few times. The pursuit continues.

Zack Greinke continues mastery of A's despite diminishing velocity

Zack Greinke continues mastery of A's despite diminishing velocity

OAKLAND -- When Zack Greinke won the Cy Young Award 10 years ago with the Kansas City Royals, his average fastball velocity was 94 mph. Now at the age of 35, the right-hander is down in the high-80s, yet somehow just as effective.

Sunday afternoon at the Coliseum, Greinke breezed through the A's lineup for seven innings -- allowing just one run on four hits -- as Houston salvaged the final game of the series 4-1.

"The fastball command was actually really good besides a couple of batters," Greinke said. "The rest was good too, but things were playing off the fastball."

Greinke improved to 7-2 against Oakland for his career with a 2.97 ERA. The veteran painted the corners of the strike zone with all of his pitches, mixing speeds and locations impeccably to keep the A's off-balance all afternoon.

"He just knows how to pitch," said A's outfielder Chad Pinder, who went 1-for-4 in the loss. "He uses every inch of the plate. He's in, he's out, he's mixing his pitches and rarely throwing back-to-back pitches. He just knows what he's doing. He's a great pitcher."

Oakland starter Brett Anderson knew he wouldn't have any margin for error facing Greinke. The A's left-hander took the loss, allowing four earned runs in five innings, and heaped high praise on his counterpart.

"He can throw anything in any count," Anderson said. "I think his range is 66-92 (mph) or whatever, which is incredible. To have all of those pitches come out of the same slot with the same arm speed is a testament -- he's a Hall of Famer in my book.

"Early on, he pitched with mid-90s velocity and as he's gotten older, he's refined his pitches. It's an uncomfortable at-bat because you don't know what you're going to get in any count and any location. He pitched really well today."

Greinke's changeup is actually nearly the same speed as his fastball -- it averages slightly above 87 mph -- but his curveball serves as a true change-of-pace pitch at around 70 mph.

[RELATED: Matt Harvey looks dominant in his first start with A's Triple-A team]

"He does it a little bit differently than a lot of the premier starters," A's manager Bob Melvin explained. "He paints with his fastball. His changeup is almost the same speed as his fastball, yet it dives off the table and goes straight down. (He throws a) curveball for chase, curveball for strike, sliders to the right-handers, and really doesn't give you a whole lot to hit."

Sunday's win marked the 200th of Greinke's illustrious career against just 122 losses. Since joining the Astros at the MLB Trade Deadline, he is 3-0 with a 2.37 ERA. If he can continue to pitch at this level, Houston could find itself celebrating a second World Series title in three years.