Athletics

'Premier guy' Healy continues hot streak with two homers vs Yankees

'Premier guy' Healy continues hot streak with two homers vs Yankees

OAKLAND — Nothing about Ryon Healy’s pregame demeanor suggested he was in for a big afternoon.

The A’s young slugger described himself as especially “grumpy” while taking his morning swings in the batting cage with assistant hitting coach Marcus Jensen.

A few hours later, Healy was in a much cheerier mood while discussing his third multi-homer game of June. That headlined Oakland’s 5-2 victory over the New York Yankees on a sun-drenched afternoon at the Coliseum.

“Marcus, on the walk back up (to the clubhouse afterward) he was laughing saying, ‘All that fuss you did in the cage and you go out and have a day like that?’ Healy explained. “I said, ‘I’ve got to get it out of my system. I’d rather do it before the game than during it.’”

Healy’s 16th and 17th homers helped propel the A’s to their third consecutive win over the Yankees. They can finish off a four-game sweep Sunday, but they’ve already won the season series for the fourth time in the past five years against New York.

This weekend also continues a season-long pattern for the A’s:

Dominance on their home field (a 21-13 record) coupled with their extreme struggles on the road, where they are 9-25.

One couldn’t blame the A’s for feeling like this weekend’s series is being played on the road. They’ve drawn crowds of 30,000-plus each of the past two games, but a large portion in the stands is wearing Yankee pinstripes. And much like a May series in which the A’s took three of four from Boston before a heavy Red Sox fan contingent, playing well in this series has to be extra gratifying.

In fairness, the home fans are making a lot of noise this weekend too, and the A’s are giving them lots of motivation.

Besides the big days from Healy and leadoff man Matt Joyce, who homered and reached base five times, Oakland’s pitching held the Yankees to five hits. Jesse Hahn (3-4) gave up just three hits over five innings, but he ran his pitch count to 105, leaving a lot of work for a bullpen that was short-handed.

Liam Hendriks, Josh Smith, Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle combined for four scoreless innings, six strikeouts and no walks. Smith, a right-hander who usually has been called upon for mop-up duty, earned praise from manager Bob Melvin for his work in a 1-2-3 seventh.

“It was awesome to see the way we pieced it together today and have each guy come in and feed off the guy’s performance before,” Doolittle said of the relief corps. “There’s a lot of confidence for us down there.”

Healy continues to impress in his first full major league season, to the point where Doolittle claimed “you could put him in the All-Star conversation.” It’s not so far-fetched.

Riding a 21-for-56 stretch over his past 14 games, Healy has boosted his overall average to .288. He’s tied Yonder Alonso and Khris Davis for the team home run lead at 17, and his 42 RBI are just one behind Davis.

“He went through a considerable struggle at one point in time this year too, and he made the adjustment,” Melvin said. “That’s what the really good hitters do. … He’s a premier guy.”

Earlier this season, Healy said he hadn’t found his true comfort zone at the plate despite compiling numbers that would suggest otherwise. He maintains that position now, which could explain the batting cage grumpiness.

“I still think it’s getting there,” Healy said. “I’m not satisfied with the consistency of it. There are things I’m not doing well enough on a day-to-day basis.”

The things he’s doing right now suit the A’s just fine.

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.