A's confidence keeps building with four-game sweep of Yankees

A's confidence keeps building with four-game sweep of Yankees

OAKLAND — The A’s have offered glimpses this season of the top-notch baseball they’re capable of playing.

This weekend provided another of those snapshot moments as the A’s polished off an improbable four-game sweep of the Yankees, sending away a large, vocal segment of New York fans with nothing but disappointment as they filed out of the Coliseum.

The wins grew more impressive as the weekend unfolded. Oakland won in fluky fashion Thursday night on Khris Davis’ blooper-turned-walkoff single. Rookie Matt Chapman delivered the go-ahead single late in Friday’s game for a comeback victory. Then over the weekend, before two of their biggest home crowds of the season, the A’s simply beat the American League East leaders with stellar pitching and some early offense that they made stand, including in Sunday’s 4-3 win.

“This was awesome baseball to be a part of,” right fielder Matt Joyce said, “to see our team go out there and not only keep up with, but beat one of the best teams in baseball.”

Joyce dusted off the “Jekyll and Hyde” cliche to describe Oakland’s play, but nothing more perfectly describes this club. The A’s are 22-13 at the Coliseum but just 9-25 on the road.

But taking four in a row from a Yankees team that leads the league in runs and boasts an MVP candidate in rookie Aaron Judge provides a substantial boost as the AL West-leading Houston Astros arrive Monday for a four-game series.

“This feels really good,” reliever Sean Doolittle said. “To put four games together against a team that’s that good, one of the best teams in the American League, and come away with a four-game sweep is really big for us.”

The topic of the 2012 A’s came up in manager Bob Melvin’s media session before and after the game. That team began a mad rush to the AL West title with help from a four-game sweep of the Yankees at home in late July. That team had young players such as starter Jarrod Parker, right fielder Josh Reddick and All-Star reliever Ryan Cook, who all grew up fast as that season progressed and were instrumental contributors to a playoff team.

Some parallels can be drawn with this year’s crop of up-and-coming players — among them infielder Chad Pinder, Chapman and Sunday’s winning pitcher, Jharel Cotton.

The difference is this year’s team faces a much steeper climb if it’s to make headway in the standings. That 2012 club finished its sweep of the Yankees to improve to 51-44 and was in great stalking position at 5 1/2 games out of first place. The 2017 A’s are 31-38. They’re 15 games off the pace in the division, and though they’re just 4 1/2 games back for the second Wild Card spot, there are nine teams ahead of them. But that’s not the point. With the A’s emphasizing a youth movement, the rest of this season is about the growth and the journey more so than the final destination.

“If you’re a Matt Chapman, a Chad Pinder, a Jaycob Brugman, guys that are just getting here, to know you can have a series like this gives you a lot of confidence, not only in yourself but as a team,” Melvin said.

The A’s finished off their first series sweep of any length since September of last season, and they did it with a mix of veterans and youngsters sharing the load Sunday. Cotton gritted his way through six innings of three-run ball on a day that registered as the hottest at the Coliseum in nine years based on the first-pitch temperature (90 degrees).

Pinder came through with a terrific at-bat in the A’s four-run third, driving a 1-2 pitch to the opposite field for a two-run double. Two batters later, Khris Davis snapped a power drought by hammering a two-run homer deep to center, his first long ball since June 4. That put the A’s up for good, 4-2. And for the second day in a row, with closer Santiago Casilla unavailable, Doolittle slammed the door in the ninth for the save.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's first road sweep of 2017

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's first road sweep of 2017

BOX SCORE

The A’s sprung to life offensively in the late innings Sunday and polished off their first road sweep of 2017.

They scored all five of their runs over the final three innings to beat the Chicago White Sox 5-3, continuing an odd stretch of streakiness. The A’s swept the New York Yankees in four at the Coliseum, then turned around and dropped four in a row to the Houston Astros before arriving in Chicago and taking all three from the Sox. It’s their first sweep on the road since they won four in Kansas City from Sept. 12-15 of last season.

The weekend’s events provided a morale boost for a team that began the series an American League-worst 9-25 away from home. The sweep also featured numerous contributions from a pack of recently promoted young players fresh from the minors.

The A’s had no answer for left-hander Derek Holland through six-plus innings, mustering just four hits off the veteran. But trailing 2-0, they got on the board with Jed Lowrie’s pinch-hit RBI double in the seventh. The next inning, Khris Davis singled home the tying run and Yonder Alonso followed with a go-ahead single down the left-field line to put the A’s up 3-2.

They tacked on two insurance runs in the ninth on back-to-back homers from Adam Rosales and Matt Joyce.

Sonny rebounds: Sonny Gray (3-3) avoided the early trouble that plagued his last start, working seven innings and being rewarded with a victory thanks to the A’s eighth-inning rally. He struck out seven and walked just one. That was a key as Gray had issued seven free passes combined in his previous two starts. Adam Engel hit a 2-1 fastball for a homer in the third, then Jose Abreu scored on a passed ball in the fourth to give Chicago a 2-0 lead. But Gray held the Sox to just four hits over his seven innings.

Sign of things to come? Franklin Barreto got a look as the No. 2 hitter in the order Sunday, a spot that some scouts feel he’ll be well suited for as his career unfolds. He singled to the opposite field in his first at-bat, then struck out looking in his next two trips to the plate. In the eighth, his broken-bat single to left jumpstarted Oakland’s two-run go-ahead rally. Barreto is 4-for-10 in his first two games with the big club.

Joyce provides a lift off the bench: Joyce entered as a pinch runner in the seventh and connected for his 10th homer, right after Rosales had gone deep himself. Joyce became the fourth Athletic to crack double figures in homers, and the A’s improved to 31-26 when they hit at least one home run (they’re 3-16 when they don’t).

Doo does it again: Lefty reliever Sean Doolittle continued to deal since coming off the disabled list. He threw a scoreless eighth with two strikeouts and has allowed just one hit over five innings in six appearances since his return.

An unwanted milestone: The Sox scored their second run on a passed ball by Josh Phegley, which accounted for Oakland’s 50th unearned run, most in the majors. They had just 43 unearned runs all of last season.

Former A's catcher Stephen Vogt claimed by NL Central team

Former A's catcher Stephen Vogt claimed by NL Central team

A new team believes in Stephen Vogt.

The former A's catcher, who was designated for assignment on Thursday, was claimed by the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday.

The A's announced the transaction shortly before their game against the White Sox.

News of the Brewers making the waiver claim was first reported by ESPN.

The Brewers were the only team to place a waiver claim on Vogt, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

Vogt, a clubhouse leader and one of the longest tenured A's, hit just .217 with four home runs and 20 RBI in 54 games this season.