Athletics

A's Stephen Piscotty makes emotional return to St. Louis vs. Cardinals

A's Stephen Piscotty makes emotional return to St. Louis vs. Cardinals

For the second series in a row, there will be an emotional reunion in St. Louis.

This past weekend, Albert Pujols returned to Busch Stadium for the first time since he left the Cardinals in 2011, as the Angels paid a rare visit to the Gateway City. Now it's Stephen Piscotty's turn to face his former team when the A's and Cards open a two-game series Tuesday night.

Piscotty certainly doesn't figure to receive the massive welcome that Pujols saw -- the latter is arguably the greatest player in Cardinals history -- but considering the circumstances of his departure, he will likely enjoy a similar sentiment.

Piscotty, 28, spent his first three major league seasons in St. Louis, tallying 38 home runs and 163 RBI with a .784 OPS. Following the 2017 season, however, the Cardinals famously traded the Pleasanton native to Oakland so that he could be closer to his mother Gretchen, who had been diagnosed with ALS.

Sadly, she passed away in 2018.

To this day, Piscotty remains extremely grateful to the Cardinals organization for granting his trade request and allowing him to spend that extra time with his mother.

[RELATED: A's prospect Neuse making whole lot of noise in Las Vegas]

Piscotty has already experienced some emotional at-bats following his mother's passing. His very first at-bat resulted in a single, following a lengthy standing ovation from the Oakland crowd. Then, in his first at-bat since returning from the bereavement list, Piscotty homered over the Green Monster in Boston.

It's sure to be another powerful moment Tuesday night when Piscotty steps into the batter's box at Busch Stadium.

Five ways A's have had eerily similar season to 2018 playoff campaign

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USATSI

Five ways A's have had eerily similar season to 2018 playoff campaign

As the late, great Yogi Berra once said, it's déjà vu all over again.

Through 94 games, the A's 2019 season has followed a very familiar pattern, almost perfectly mirroring last year. Both the 2018 and 2019 campaigns saw Oakland get off to a slow start, only to catch fire just prior to the All-Star break.

Of course, the A's still have plenty of work to do if they want to match last year's 97-win total, but to this point, there are a handful of stunning similarities between the two seasons.

Same exact record 28 different times

This year's A's squad has already had the same exact record as last year's team on 28 different occasions. From 1-2 to 31-31 to the club's current mark of 53-41, this season has followed last year to a T.

There have also been numerous occasions where the 2018 and 2019 records have been just a game or two apart. It's really quite eerie examining the two schedules side by side.

Within three games of last year's record the entire season

Perhaps even more amazing than matching last year's record 28 times already is the fact that Oakland has never been more than three games behind or ahead of last season's pace. Even when last year's A's fell to 5-10, this season's team was only two games better at 7-8. And when this year's A's plummeted to 19-25, they were only three games behind last season's 22-22 mark through 44 games.

Now 94 games into the season, the two records have never separated more than that margin.

Nearly identical season-lows

Last year, the A's got off to a sluggish 5-10 start. That ended up being the most games they would fall below .500 all season. This year's low mark was just slightly worse at six games under .500.

Oakland stumbled to a 15-21 start and then hit that number again at 19-25. Since then, the A's are 34-16.

Matching season-highs

On July 12 of last year, the A's beat the Astros to improve to 53-41, getting to 12 games over .500 for the first time all season.

A year later, Oakland completed a three-game sweep of the White Sox to push their record to 53-41, and it once again was the first time they have been 12 games over .500 this season.

[RELATED: Giants, A's move up in MLB power rankings as trade deadline nears]

Mid-June turnarounds

On June 15, 2018, the A's lost to the Angels and fell to 34-36. From there, they would win 19 of their next 24 games to improve to 53-41. This season on June 16, Oakland lost to the Mariners and dropped to 36-36. They responded by winning 17 of their next 22 games to again improve to 53-41.

Will this season's script continue to follow last year's right into the postseason? Stay tuned.

Why Ramon Laureano's power surge doesn't surprise A's manager Bob Melvin

Why Ramon Laureano's power surge doesn't surprise A's manager Bob Melvin

OAKLAND -- Just by looking at Ramón Laureano, you'd have no idea he could crush baseballs as far as he does.

The A's centerfielder stands at 5-foot-11 and is more well-known for his blazing speed, but this season, he has truly become a bona fide slugger.

Laureano, 24, blasted his 18th home run of the year Sunday, helping the A's sweep the White Sox, 3-2. His 18 homers rank third on the team and are three away from passing Coco Crisp for the most round-trippers by an Oakland centerfielder in the last 19 years.

Laureano's power surge might come as a surprise to some, but not Bob Melvin.

"At some point in time, we felt like he had a chance to be a 30-home-run guy," the A's manager said. "Maybe on pace a little sooner than we expected based on experience in the big leagues. But not (surprised) at all if you watch him take (batting practice). He's a strong guy all the way around, whether it's throwing arm, whether it's speed -- he stole a base today pretty easily -- and he's got a lot of power. So understanding the league, making adjustments and so forth, no not a surprise to me."

The power aspect of Laureano's game is relatively new, however. Prior to this season, he had never hit more than 15 home runs at any level of professional baseball. Laureano credits his weight room work -- he added 10 pounds of muscle this offseason -- and plate adjustments for the improvement.

"Over the years, I get older and bigger," he said. "(The power) will come. I just try to help the team win in whatever (way) I can."

Laureano has been especially productive as of late. Sunday marked his fourth home run in the last five games and his 12th since the start of June. He's also shown the ability to hit the long ball to all parts of the field, including center and right.

"Just stay back (on the ball)," Laureano said of his main plate adjustment. "That's it."

Incredibly, Laureano has hit two more homers than reigning home run champion Khris Davis this season. He trails Matt Olson by just one long ball and Matt Chapman by three for the team lead.

[RELATED: A's acquire Bailey from Royals]

Perhaps most importantly, Laureano's increase in power has not caused a drop in any other part of his game. He is still reaching base and using his speed on offense, and of course, his centerfield arm remains spectacular.

We've said this before, but the A's really owe the Astros a nice gift basket for letting Laureano get away.