Athletics

Down on the Farm: Barreto breaks slump with first four-hit Triple-A night

Down on the Farm: Barreto breaks slump with first four-hit Triple-A night

Franklin Barreto, the A's top hitting prospect, came out of the gates on fire this season. The 21-year-old shortstop hit .440 with two home runs in the first week of games this season for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds. 

And then, the young middle infielder hit a wall. Barreto dropped down to a .286 batting average as recently as Wednesday after striking out 11 times in six games. But, on Thursday, Barreto put all his tools together for his biggest Triple-A game in his second stint with the Sounds. 

Barreto went 4-for-4 with a RBI triple in the Sounds' 4-3 loss to the Oklahoma City Dodgers. He started off with singles to left field in his first two at-bats before smacking an opposite-field triple, his second of the season, and finished with a single through the left side of the infield. 

For Barreto's hitting coach, to get him out of his hitting slump it was all about improving his two-strike approach. Barreto took the advice in stride, collecting his first two hits of the night with two strikes. 

"A couple of the two-strike hits were balls that were in that he was able to get a barrel to and get some base hits, Sounds hitting coach Eric Martins told MiLB.com. "He took some pitches that were in the dirt and some pitches that were down that he was chasing before." 

As Barreto keeps improving, Martins wants him to continue his aggresiveness at the plate while also being a smarter two-strike hitter. 

"Barreto's aggressive, but he also has pretty good plate discipline on top of that," Martins said. "He may swing and miss a little bit, but it's something that, with two strikes, it shouldn't bother him too much because of how quick his hands are and how good of a path that he has." 

After his big four-hit night, Barreto raised his batting average 54 points from .286 to .340.

When it was announced A's shortstop Marcus Semien would miss the next two months with a right wrist fracture, many believed Oakland would turn to their biggest piece from their Josh Donaldson trade. Instead, GM David Forst wants more time in Triple-A for Barreto's development. 

“It’s hard to say,” Forst responded when asked for a timetable of Barreto's arrival. “It’s not science, it’s an art, knowing when a player is ready. We’ve had enough guys come through that they’ll tell you when they’re ready. You look at what Healy did last year, his performance told us when he’s ready. You hope that the player forces your hand and says it’s time.”

For the time being, the A's are going with a mix of veteran Adam Rosales and prospect Chad Pinder at shortstop. 

Around The Horn

—Former Cal star Daulton Jefferies is set for Tommy John surgery. Jefferies pitched in two games for the Stockton Ports in Advanced Single-A this season going 0-0 with a 2.57 ERA. The A's drafted Jefferies No. 37 overall in 2016. 

—The A's first-round pick from 2016 in dominating in three appearances for the Ports. A.J. Puk has thrown 12 innings this season and has only allowed one earned run while striking out 20 batters. 

—Matt Chapman, the A's top power-hitting prospect, is still out after suffering a wrist injury on a check swing in the second game of the season. He struck out six times in those two games.

In shadow of controversy, Matt Joyce now drawing attention for right reasons

In shadow of controversy, Matt Joyce now drawing attention for right reasons

OAKLAND — The move from Royals manager Ned Yost came as no surprise to Matt Joyce as he waited in the on-deck circle.

Yost had a lefty on the mound in Mike Minor, who had fallen behind 2-0 to Rajai Davis. The intentional walk was ordered to load the bases to bring up the left-handed hitting Joyce with the A’s trailing by two runs in the eighth inning.

“I kind of saw the cards unfolding,” Joyce said.

He made the Royals pay, drilling a bases-clearing double off the wall in left-center for the go-ahead hit that made the difference in the A’s thrilling 10-8 victory Tuesday night.

In a game where Oakland needed so many big at-bats from so many different hitters, Joyce shined the brightest. He homered to lead off the bottom of the first, then capped his four-RBI night with the clutch three-run hit off Minor.

Earlier this season, it would have been tough envisioning Joyce barreling up a ball off a lefty in such a situation. He was hitting a meager .194 overall in his first 54 games in an A’s uniform. Before Tuesday, just two of his 46 RBI had come off left-handed pitchers.

“He’s been facing some (more) lefties, so he’s got some confidence against them,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s been hitting some balls hard against them and using the whole field and tracking it — seeing it the other way. He put a really good swing on that one” in the eighth.

Joyce grabbed headlines for the wrong reasons on the A’s last road trip, drawing a two-game suspension from the commissioner’s office for directing an anti-gay slur at a fan at Angel Stadium. He gave a heartfelt apology afterward.

That mistake has overshadowed the fact that he’s turning in a very strong August, resembling more of the offensive presence the A’s envisioned when they signed him to a two-year $11 million contract last winter.

Joyce is still batting just .234 overall. But he’s a .314 hitter this month (11-for-35). With 17 homers, he’s on track for the first 20-homer season of his career. At 50 RBI, he’s also within reach of his career high in that category (75) with 42 games to go.

After Tuesday night’s victory — when the A’s allowed five runs in the top of the eighth to relinquish a lead, only to score six in the bottom half to re-claim it — Joyce was most interested in talking about his teammates.

“I'm so proud of these guys,” Joyce said. “Obviously it's tough to give up the runs and give up the lead there late in the game. But to be able to come back and battle and have good at-bats and start a rally and just come away with the win, it speaks a lot to these guys’ ability to keep playing the game, not give up. It's really fun to watch a lot of these young, really talented guys play the game and play it the right way.”

With the A’s dedicating so much playing time to young guys, it would serve Joyce well to finish strong and show he’s an important piece of the outfield puzzle looking ahead to next season.

On Tuesday night, in one of the A’s most unpredictable victories, no one proved more essential.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as A's score six in eighth to beat KC

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AP

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as A's score six in eighth to beat KC

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND — Why win a baseball game conventionally?

That was the A’s M.O. on Tuesday night, when they scored six times in the bottom of the eighth to register a come-from-behind 10-8 victory over the Kansas City Royals.

Actually, the A’s had to fall from ahead before they could come from behind.

The Royals homered three times in the top of the eighth to erase the A’s 4-3 lead and go up 8-4, only to see the A’s storm back with an offensive barrage of their own that included four hits in a row to start the bottom of the eighth.

All told, the teams combined for 11 runs in the eighth inning alone.

Matt Joyce delivered the key hit in the winning rally, clearing the bases with a three-run double that put Oakland up for good, 9-8.

Fitting that these two teams would stage such a back-and-forth affair in the late going. The A’s and Royals entered the night tied for the major league lead with nine wins when trailing after the seventh inning.

BIG GAME AT THE TOP: Joyce led off the bottom of the first with a homer off Royals starter Jason Hammel, his fourth leadoff homer of the season. He finished with four RBI.

SMITH DENIED ‘W’ — AGAIN: For the second time since joining the A’s rotation, Chris Smith left a game in line for a victory only to have his bullpen cough up the lead. The 36-year-old veteran has registered just one victory in his major league career, and that came back in 2008. He has yet to win as a starter. He steadied himself after giving up three runs in the first before he recorded a single out. But Kansas City would get just one more hit off of him before he left the game after 5 1/3 innings.

THREE OF A KIND: The A’s commanded a 4-3 lead on the strength of a homer in each of the first three innings. Joyce’s blast was followed by Matt Olson’s in the second (his fourth homer in five games) and Khris Davis’ two-run shot in the third.

ADVENTURES OF SANTIAGO: Santiago Casilla had found a bit of a comfort zone since being demoted from the closer’s role. He entered Tuesday not having been charged with a run in seven consecutive outings. But he allowed Alex Gordon’s leadoff walk in the top of the eighth, then a two-run homer to No. 9 hitter Drew Butera that put the Royals ahead 5-4.

A’s closer Blake Treinen would enter with one out and give up Eric Hosmer’s two-run homer, then Mike Moustakas’ solo blast two batters later made it 8-4. But after the A’s rallied, Treinen came back to pitch a scoreless ninth to register the victory.

ANOTHER OPTION FOR THE ‘PEN: The A’s acquired right-handed reliever Chris Hatcher from the Dodgers for $500,000 in international bonus money. The 32-year-old has a 4.72 ERA in 193 career appearances, all out of the bullpen. The team made no announcement on whether Hatcher would join the big club or go to the minors.