Athletics

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Athletics' sweep of Yankees

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Athletics' sweep of Yankees

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND — Another day, another tidy and well-rounded performance by the A’s.

They completed a four-game sweep of the New York Yankees with a 4-3 victory in front of a crowd of 34,140, their biggest home crowd of the season aside from an Opening Night sellout.

It marks the A’s first sweep of any series since Sept. 12-15 of last season, when they took four at Kansas City. They hadn’t swept a four-game at home since July 3-6, 2014. And this was just the third time since the A’s moved to Oakland in 1968 that they swept four from the Yankees.

Viewed from any angle, this weekend played out as a shocker. The A’s were coming off a 1-5 road trip, and New York arrived with the American League’s second best record behind Houston. The Yankees are still clinging to a half-game lead in the American League East, pending Boston’s game Sunday night at Houston.

Khris Davis hit his 18th homer, a two-run shot, and Chad Pinder had a two-run double in the third inning, when the A’s got all the offense they would need. Jharel Cotton (4-7) turned in a solid six innings on the mound, and the three relievers nailed things down in the late innings, as the A’s grabbed an early lead for the second consecutive game and made the lead stand.

Cotton gets back in win column: Cotton gave up homers to Matt Holliday and Didi Gregorius but went six innings and helped ease some the burden on an overworked bullpen. He earned his first victory since being recalled from the minors May 27.

A HR for KD: With the A’s offense chugging along pretty well lately, Khris Davis’ recent power outage wasn’t so glaring. The left fielder finally connected Sunday and drove a two-run shot 442 feet that hit high off the green facing in center field. That snapped a 2-2 tie and ended Davis’ 12-game homerless drought, as he moved back into the team homer lead with 18. He added a double as part of a 2-for-4 afternoon, one day after an 0-for-5 day that included four strikeouts and a dropped pop-up that went for a 2-3 putout when Davis never ran out of the batter’s box.

A Doolittle repeat: Manager Bob Melvin stayed away from Santiago Casilla and Sean Doolittle notched his second save in as many days. Casilla got hit by a foul ball while standing near the dugout Saturday and his availability was a game-time decisiion.

Error doesn’t prove costly: The A’s played excellent defense up until the ninth when Chad Pinder committed a two-base throwing error. But that didn’t come back to hurt the A’s as they ran their winning streak to four.

Your ‘What’s It Really Mean?’ stat of the day: The A’s won for just the second time in nine games played on a Sunday. Their 1-8 Sunday record coming into the day was the worst in the majors.

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.