A's 2018 schedule includes unique free-admission game vs. White Sox


A's 2018 schedule includes unique free-admission game vs. White Sox

BOSTON — The A’s 2018 schedule features some unique twists, including an afternoon season opener at home for just the second time in 41 years.

Oakland will host the Los Angeles Angels in a 1:05 p.m. game to open the regular season on March 29, a Thursday. That’s the earliest that Major League Baseball has ever begun its regular season, the exception being some occasional, isolated games played outside of the United States.

The A’s haven’t played a home opener under the sun since 1994.

Another noteworthy item from the early-season schedule. The April 17 home game against the White Sox — on the 50th anniversary of the A’s first game at the Coliseum — will be free admission to all fans. The A’s are promoting that as one of the first of its kind in major league history.

Also, the Bay Bridge Series will return to a six-game format, with each team hosting three. The A’s-Giants rivalry series will bookend the All-Star break, with the Giants hosting games July 13-15, and the series shifting to the Coliseum on July 20-22.

The A’s play the National League West in interleague competition. They’ll host Arizona (May 25-27), San Diego (July 3-4) and the Dodgers (Aug. 7-8). Oakland travels to Dodger Stadium (April 10-11), San Diego (June 19-20) and Colorado (July 27-29).

Compared to past seasons, the A’s also score a bit of a break on the travel miles they’ll rack up. A frequent complaint of team officials has been that, since the Astros joined the American League West, the MLB schedule makers never have grouped the Rangers and Astros together on the same road trip for the A’s. That’s meant six separate trips to the state of Texas and some challenging routing adventures in the A’s road schedule.

Next season, the A’s at least catch one break on that front, as they get the Rangers and Astros together from April 23-29.

Matt Olson breaks Oakland rookie record by homering in fifth consecutive game

Matt Olson breaks Oakland rookie record by homering in fifth consecutive game

The beat goes on for Matt Olson, who set an Oakland rookie record Tuesday by homering for the fifth consecutive game.

That makes it 23 in just 55 games this season for the A’s first baseman, and an astonishing 15 homers in his past 21 games. In his first plate appearance Tuesday, Olson pounded a hanging 0-1 curve from Tigers lefty Chad Bell deep into the right field seats at Comerica Park.

Since Aug. 11, Olson leads all of major league baseball with 19 homers. And his 23 homers are the most in franchise history over the first 66 games of a career.

According to baseball statistician Doug Kern, just three others in Oakland history have ever gone deep five games in a row: Dave Kingman in 1986, Matt Stairs in 1998 and Frank Thomas in 2006.

A by-the-numbers look at Matt Olson's home run tear


A by-the-numbers look at Matt Olson's home run tear

When it comes to power hitting, rookie first baseman Matt Olson has enjoyed one of the most impressive career-opening stretches in A’s history.

He went deep again in Monday night’s 8-3 victory over Detroit. Although he’s only played in roughly one-third of Oakland’s games this year, Olson has vaulted into a tie for fourth on the team with 22 homers this season.

Here’s a glance inside some of the numbers behind the rookie’s home run tear:

22 — Olson’s 2017 —and career — home run total. Those 22 homers tie Mark McGwire for most in franchise history over a player’s first 65 games.

18: The number of times Olson has gone deep since Aug. 11, which leads the American League.

19 — The number of major league games Olson appeared in before connecting for his first homer. That came June 24. Since then, he hasn’t gone more than eight games in the majors without clearing the fence.

47 — Olson was the 47th overall pick of the 2012 draft, a compensation choice between the first and second rounds. He was one of a trio of high school infielders Oakland took with its first three picks that year. The others were two shortstops — Addison Russell (11th overall) and Daniel Robertson (34th).

At the time the A’s said perhaps they had drafted three-fourths of their future infield. But Russell and Robertson eventually got dealt. Now, Olson is part of a different young infield core that could include third baseman Matt Chapman and second baseman Franklin Barreto along with veteran shortstop Marcus Semien.

2: The number of players in the past 30 years to hit 20 homers in both the minors and majors in the same season. Olson has done it this year. Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton, who’s generating his share of headlines with his own power hitting, did it back in 2010.

103 The number of homers Olson hit over five minor league seasons leading into this year. That included a whopping 37 for Single-A Stockton in the homer-happy California League in 2014. In comparison, the 17 homers he hit each of the next two seasons at Double-A Midland and Triple-A Nashville looked paltry. Olson says he struggled for a while to trust his natural power stroke and not try to alter his approach too much to boost those power numbers.

4: The total number of major leaguers produced by Olson’s alma mater of Parkview High School in Lilburn, Ga. The others were outfielder Jeff Francoeur, infielder Jeff Keppinger and catcher Clint Sammons.

4 (Part II): Number of consecutive games Olson has homered in. That ties the Oakland rookie record for most games in a row with a homer. Dan Johnson also homered in four straight from Aug. 3-6, 2005. Extend it out farther, and Olson has gone deep 14 times over his past 20 games. And speaking of that …

14: Olson is tied with a couple of legends when it comes to most homers in a 20-game span in Oakland history. McGwire (1987) and Reggie Jackson (1969) also had 14 over their own 20-game stretches, and Jackson did it twice that season. (Hat tip to A’s P.R. stats guru Mike Selleck for several of these factoids, by the way).

23: Remember that Olson is just 23 years old. His 22 homers are the most in a single season by an Athletic 23 or younger since Eric Chavez swatted 32 back in 2001. Chavez also was 23 at the time.