A's rookie Powell has makings of an Oakland crowd favorite

A's rookie Powell has makings of an Oakland crowd favorite

OAKLAND — In a season where mistakes have come in bunches and the losses have piled up, one thing the A’s certainly aren’t guilty of is mailing it in when they fall behind.

Their knack for comebacks and late-game dramatics surfaced once again Friday night in a 9-8 victory over the Astros, who came in riding a seven-game winning streak and having won all six games played between the teams at the Coliseum this season.

Rather than wait for Saturday’s doubleheader, the A’s decided to cram two games’ worth of storylines into one nine-inning contest Friday. Here’s a glimpse of all that went down as they registered their 10th walk-off victory of 2017 …

—Rookie center fielder Boog Powell showed why he’s got the potential to become a fan favorite at the Coliseum in the coming years. He came up with his best all-around game as an Athletic. First came a leaping catch at the center field wall to rob Marwin Gonzalez in the second. Then he hustled out a single with a dive into first base that helped set up Marcus Semien’s game-tying grand slam in the seventh when the A’s trailed 7-3. Oakland trailed 8-7 in the bottom of the ninth when the light-hitting Powell homered on an 0-2 pitch from Astros closer Ken Giles. His hustling, aggressive style of play strikes a chord with the Coliseum crowd, and Powell definitely heard the chants of “Boooog” late in the game.

“One of the most amazing things of my career … so far,” Powell said.

—Semien has been effective getting on base as the leadoff man, but he hadn’t shown much power since coming off the disabled list for a broken wrist. But he turned on a slider from Luke Gregerson and hooked the game-tying slam inside the left-field foul pole in the seventh. The A’s homered four times overall, giving them 201 for the season, the fifth-highest total in franchise history.

“We’ve kind of been living and dying by it,” Semien said. “That’s not necessarily what we want. We want to be able to manufacture runs in all types of ways.”

—After giving up three homers for the second consecutive start, rookie Jharel Cotton wondered aloud if he might be tipping his pitches.

“I feel like what I was throwing, they knew it was coming,” Cotton said. “I gotta figure out if I’m tipping (pitches) or not. I gotta know what I’m doing and that can help me a lot. You can just tell the way they’re taking hacks on pitches I was throwing. I wasn’t fooling nobody today.”

Though he wasn’t using it as an excuse, Cotton has other troubles on his mind right now. His family back in the Caribbean has been hit hard by Hurricane Irma. Cotton said his father lost the roof on his house in Tortola, which is in the British Virgin Islands. His uncle’s house, in nearby St. Thomas, suffered similar damage. Thankfully, Cotton said his relatives were unharmed.

“It’s gonna be on my mind of course. Back home is a total disaster,” Cotton said. “Of course, you’re going to think about that. …They’re holding up. (My family’s) at home still, trying to recover. It’s gonna take a long time, but they’re strong.”

—Daniel Mengden, who starts Saturday’s second game for the A’s, hails from Houston, and though his family’s house hasn’t been affected by Hurricane Harvey, he has friends who have felt the impact.

“One of my buddy’s houses is about six feet deep,” Mengden said. “You can’t really prepare for 50 inches of rain no matter what you do.”

It’s a special event whenever Mengden faces the Astros. He grew up rooting for them and he played on a high school travel team coached by Astros Hall of Famer Craig Biggio. Mengden plans to train with Biggio’s son, Cavan, in the offseason.

A by-the-numbers look at Matt Olson's home run tear


A by-the-numbers look at Matt Olson's home run tear

When it comes to power hitting, rookie first baseman Matt Olson has enjoyed one of the most impressive career-opening stretches in A’s history.

He went deep again in Monday night’s 8-3 victory over Detroit. Although he’s only played in roughly one-third of Oakland’s games this year, Olson has vaulted into a tie for fourth on the team with 22 homers this season.

Here’s a glance inside some of the numbers behind the rookie’s home run tear:

22 — Olson’s 2017 —and career — home run total. Those 22 homers tie Mark McGwire for most in franchise history over a player’s first 65 games.

18: The number of times Olson has gone deep since Aug. 11, which leads the American League.

19 — The number of major league games Olson appeared in before connecting for his first homer. That came June 24. Since then, he hasn’t gone more than eight games in the majors without clearing the fence.

47 — Olson was the 47th overall pick of the 2012 draft, a compensation choice between the first and second rounds. He was one of a trio of high school infielders Oakland took with its first three picks that year. The others were two shortstops — Addison Russell (11th overall) and Daniel Robertson (34th).

At the time the A’s said perhaps they had drafted three-fourths of their future infield. But Russell and Robertson eventually got dealt. Now, Olson is part of a different young infield core that could include third baseman Matt Chapman and second baseman Franklin Barreto along with veteran shortstop Marcus Semien.

2: The number of players in the past 30 years to hit 20 homers in both the minors and majors in the same season. Olson has done it this year. Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton, who’s generating his share of headlines with his own power hitting, did it back in 2010.

103 The number of homers Olson hit over five minor league seasons leading into this year. That included a whopping 37 for Single-A Stockton in the homer-happy California League in 2014. In comparison, the 17 homers he hit each of the next two seasons at Double-A Midland and Triple-A Nashville looked paltry. Olson says he struggled for a while to trust his natural power stroke and not try to alter his approach too much to boost those power numbers.

4: The total number of major leaguers produced by Olson’s alma mater of Parkview High School in Lilburn, Ga. The others were outfielder Jeff Francoeur, infielder Jeff Keppinger and catcher Clint Sammons.

4 (Part II): Number of consecutive games Olson has homered in. That ties the Oakland rookie record for most games in a row with a homer. Dan Johnson also homered in four straight from Aug. 3-6, 2005. Extend it out farther, and Olson has gone deep 14 times over his past 20 games. And speaking of that …

14: Olson is tied with a couple of legends when it comes to most homers in a 20-game span in Oakland history. McGwire (1987) and Reggie Jackson (1969) also had 14 over their own 20-game stretches, and Jackson did it twice that season. (Hat tip to A’s P.R. stats guru Mike Selleck for several of these factoids, by the way).

23: Remember that Olson is just 23 years old. His 22 homers are the most in a single season by an Athletic 23 or younger since Eric Chavez swatted 32 back in 2001. Chavez also was 23 at the time.

Jharel Cotton suffers injury during pregame warmups, scratched vs Tigers


Jharel Cotton suffers injury during pregame warmups, scratched vs Tigers

A’s rookie Jharel Cotton was a late scratch from Monday’s start in Detroit after suffering a strained right groin.

Cotton began his typical pregame throwing routine at Comerica Park. Then cameras caught him grabbing at his leg. Shortly after, he walked off the field and long reliever Raul Alcantara went out to warm up. Alcantara made the start in the opener of a three-game series against the Tigers.

Though there was no indication from the A’s about the severity of the strain, with less than two weeks left in the regular season, it brings up the possibility of Cotton simply being shut down for the season. More detail likely will be given to reporters by manager Bob Melvin after the game.

Cotton is 8-10 with a 5.81 ERA in 23 starts this season.