Athletics

A's takeaways: What you might have missed in 5-1 loss vs. Rockies

A's takeaways: What you might have missed in 5-1 loss vs. Rockies

The A’s had every right to feel good after winning three of their first four games against the Los Angeles Angels. They had timely hitting, solid defense and some excellent relief pitching to start the season well.

Puffed-out chests can turn to shrunken shoulders in a flash. That happened in less than 24 hours, when the A’s lost both halves of a two-game set to Colorado. The Rockies secured a mini-sweep with Wednesday’s 5-1 victory over the home team at Oakland Coliseum.

While finishing a homestand .500 is no reason to slouch, losing winnable games hurts more in a shortened season. You’ll quickly tire of hearing how 60 games will play much differently, but fatigue won’t take away a simple truth that every game matters more.

The A’s didn’t lose over lack of opportunity. They had plenty on Tuesday and a ton more Wednesday, when they went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

Defense abandoned the A’s a bit to expand Colorado’s lead late, but a lack of offense ultimately brought about a second straight loss.

Here are three takeaways from the final contest of a six-game homestand:

Upon further review: A’s hurt by replay

Nolan Arenado might have forgotten how many outs there were when he threw home in the A’s half of the fourth inning. That’s odd for the Rockies’ Gold Glove third baseman, who declined the easy force out at first for a close play at the plate.

Matt Olson left on contact with two outs, charged hard and slid away from the tag, but still was called out. The A’s disputed the ruling, asking for a replay review. They got one, which allowed NBC Sports California cameras to dissect the play from every angle.

It sure seemed like Olson’s foot touched home before Rockies catcher Tony Wolters applied the tag on Olson’s upper thigh, but those making final decisions disagreed. The on-field call was confirmed -- there needs to be indisputable evidence to overturn a call on the field -- and the Rockies got out of a tight spot as Arenado’s odd choice didn’t cost the visiting team.

The decision hurt the A’s in a one-run game where every player crossing the plate safely is key. It’s tough to fume over a close call, even if it seems like the A’s lost a run they should’ve scored. In a shortened season where every win is important losing decisions like that hurt a lot more than they would in normal circumstances. If Olson’s safe, there are runners at first and third with Vimael Machin at the plate and the A’s have another chance to rally and take the first lead of the game.

Officials reviewed a key play in the ninth inning, when Jesus Luzardo lofted an errant volley a bit too high to first base that allowed an infield single. That call looked right on the field, and upon review, and cost two runs.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Luzardo likely makes last relief appearance

Jesus Luzardo was available Wednesday for the first time since an excellent relief appearance four days prior. He took the ball after Frankie Montas went five innings, and while he wasn’t perfect, Luzardo’s stuff predictably was electric.

The 22-year-old phenom allowed three runs, one earned, and had five strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings in what should be his last time working out of the bullpen. He started the season there because he wasn’t ramped up enough to take his place in the rotation after missing two weeks in quarantine with a positive coronavirus test.

A’s manager Bob Melvin said before Wednesday’s game that he could start one of four upcoming road games in Seattle. He’s certainly ready for it after throwing 67 pitches in this one, a count that should go up by 15 or so his next time out.

That could come on Aug. 3. Including a Thursday off day, he could start the series finale on regular rest.

Right now, Daniel Mengden is scheduled to make that start. He likely would be the first to come out of the rotation if Luzardo’s ready.

Luzardo looks ready, which is great news for the A’s. He would give the Green and Gold another dominant arm in the rotation, which has been a smidge shaky to start the season while getting bailed out by excellent bullpen work.

[RELATED: A's hitting coach explains how Davis can break out of slump]

Chapman giveth, Chapman taketh away

Matt Chapman is on something of a hot streak. The A’s third baseman reached base in six of nine plate appearances this series, the last of which was a first-inning home run that fired off the bat like a laser beam.

That particular shot out of the park put him in exclusive company among players with elite offensive and defensive capability. He became the first third baseman to hit 75 home runs and have 75 runs saved through his first four seasons, a feat accomplished a few games into this campaign, per baseball analyst Ryan Spaeder.

The preseason MVP candidate joins Mookie Betts, Andruw Jones and Barry Bonds in that 75/75 club, exclusive company for someone who works the bat and glove well.

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 stares 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 Seattle Mariners. Everyone loves a good dig at the Houston 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 and has been an integral player for the A's ever since. He hit .288 with five homers and seven stolen bases in just 48 games in 2017, following it up with another .288 season last year. Laureano also 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.

Laureano 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.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

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.”

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]