A's offense finding stride against top-tier pitchers

Melvin on Parker: 'Now you're seeing the type of pitcher that he is'

A's offense finding stride against top-tier pitchers
September 4, 2013, 7:00 pm
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Yu Darvish is the latest ace the A's offense has had no problem solving. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

OAKLAND – A’s manager Bob Melvin would probably prefer his players not over-analyze this hot streak they’re on, lest the joyride get knocked off course.

Brandon Moss went ahead and shared some quality perspective anyway.

Not only have the A’s started clicking offensively over the past two weeks, they’ve done it against some of the American League’s best starting pitching.

That, according to Moss, is the most encouraging factor for an A’s team that’s won nine of its past 12 following Wednesday’s 11-4 bashing of the Texas Rangers. The A’s took two of three from Texas and moved back into a tie with the Rangers atop the American League West.

Over the past 10 games, they’ve beaten Justin Verlander, David Price and Yu Darvish. They combined for 10 runs over 10 innings against Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer.

Those five names represent some of the best starters in the A.L., and the A’s did considerable damage against them all. That’s significant for a team that in recent years has often had its bats silenced when the league’s elite take the mound.

“I think that was the big question for us. Can we beat the Verlanders? Can we beat the Scherzers? Can we beat those guys?” Moss said after Wednesday’s game. “Earlier in the season we weren’t. Last year we really didn’t. When an ace would come along we’d get shut down.

“I think what we’ve done over the last couple of weeks and who we’ve faced and who we’ve beat, it’s done a lot for our confidence.”

Just as a slump can sometimes grab hold of an entire lineup, the good vibes seem to permeate through the A’s batting order right now.

Oakland is batting .286 and has scored 89 runs over its last 17 games, an average of 5.24 runs per game. The A’s entered Wednesday leading the majors in home runs (24) and extra-base hits (57) since Aug. 18.

There’s no doubt Coco Crisp is the leader of this surge. He continued his blistering pace with four RBI from the leadoff spot Wednesday, and he’s hitting .351 with eight homers, 17 runs and 14 RBI over his past 14 games.

But he’s sharing the spotlight.

Moss, fresh off A.L. Player of the Week honors, gave the A’s the early lead Wednesday with his team-leading 26th homer, a two-run shot. He’s 4 for 13 with three homers in his career against Darvish.

First baseman Daric Barton, of all people, has been a key piece. He’s hitting .320 in nine games since his promotion from Triple-A, and his two-run shot jumpstarted a six-run rally that broke Wednesday’s game open in the sixth.

Catcher Stephen Vogt, a 28-year-old with just 49 games of big league experience entering Wednesday, is riding a seven-game hitting streak and producing from the No. 9 spot.

“This is a great time right now for our offense to get it going,” said third baseman Josh Donaldson, who hit his 20th homer. “It takes a little bit of pressure off our pitchers.”

As well as the A’s swung the bats Wednesday, they should be just as encouraged with how second-year right-hander Jarrod Parker performed in his head-to-head matchup with Darvish.

Parker (11-6) gave up two runs over six innings to win his ninth straight decision. Just 24, Parker has emerged as Oakland’s ace over the second half. His nine-game winning streak is the longest by an A’s starter since Dan Haren won 10 straight in 2007.

Parker’s outing wasn’t flashy – he struck out just four – but that’s the point. In a marquee matchup where his heart could have raced, the right-hander remained steady and didn’t walk a batter.

Meanwhile, Darvish issued a career high-tying six walks, got tagged for five runs over five innings and fell to 1-5 against the A’s.

“The stuff’s always been there,” Melvin said of Parker. “He’s just been feeling better about himself, and when you have that kind of confidence, you add that together with the stuff and you’re seeing what kind of pitcher he is.”

Confidence can carry a team a long way. The A’s hope it leads them to a second straight A.L. West championship.

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