Athletics

Rookies carry load as A's cap off their first doubleheader sweep since 1998

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USATSI

Rookies carry load as A's cap off their first doubleheader sweep since 1998

OAKLAND — The hits came from up and down the A’s lineup, the momentum seemingly transferring from one batter to the next.

It was surprising enough to see the A’s put a second consecutive shellacking on the Houston Astros during Saturday’s doubleheader nightcap. That they did it with seven rookies in the lineup made it all the more impressive.

Much has been made of the A’s young core of talent that’s now logging time on the big league roster. But the 11-4 pounding of the Astros in Saturday’s second game was the most tangible evidence yet of what this young group might be capable of moving forward.

“That was the plan (for the nightcap). We were gonna let the youngsters play, and we were gonna let them go too,” manager Bob Melvin said. “We weren’t gonna do a whole lot as far as pinch hitting. … We wanted to give them a game where they were all kind of together. They showed up and played really well, especially late in the game.”

Chad Pinder hit a go-ahead homer in the seventh, then added a monster opposite-field three-run shot in the eighth, when the A’s rallied for six runs all with two outs. Matt Olson connected on a 446-foot two-run shot earlier in the game. And Franklin Barreto, the A’s top prospect who largely has watched from afar as several of his Triple-A teammates have enjoyed success in the majors, tripled in the seventh to start the go-ahead rally and added a run-scoring single in the eighth.

Boog Powell hit leadoff in the second game and responded with two hits and three RBI, offsetting a dropped fly ball that went for an error. And, not to be overlooked, 24-year-old right-hander Daniel Mengden turned in six solid innings in his first major league start since June 3.

The A’s outscored Houston 22-5 in sweeping Saturday’s twin bill, giving the A’s their first doubleheader sweep since 1998 and scoring their most runs in a doubleheader since 1976.

“It’s really big for the confidence for our team going forward,” Pinder said. “(The Astros) are an incredible baseball team, as you guys have seen all year. We played some good baseball today and I think that’s something to build off of.”

The smile on Barreto’s face after the game showed how much it meant for him to contribute to such a victory. He was 0-for-7 over five games played, just two starts, since being recalled Sept. 1. He spelled Marcus Semien at shortstop for Saturday’s nightcap, and after going down swinging in his first two at-bats, he lined a shot down the right field line in the seventh and flashed his speed in motoring all the way to third. That kickstarted a two-run rally as Oakland overcame a 4-3 deficit.

“He’s an electric player. He’s gonna be an incredible player for a long time, and one of the best people you could play with too,” Pinder said. “… He should know that every single person in this clubhouse has the utmost confidence in him, because he is a huge piece of the puzzle moving forward.”

Barreto was happy to contribute to a victory that wrapped up a crowd-pleasing day at the Coliseum, and he was happy to do so with a group that he’s played so many games with in the minors in recent seasons.

“We’ve been playing together two years,” Barreto said through interpreter Juan Durado. “It’s great to be around them and get good results and get wins.”

Matt Olson breaks Oakland rookie record by homering in fifth consecutive game

Matt Olson breaks Oakland rookie record by homering in fifth consecutive game

The beat goes on for Matt Olson, who set an Oakland rookie record Tuesday by homering for the fifth consecutive game.

That makes it 23 in just 55 games this season for the A’s first baseman, and an astonishing 15 homers in his past 21 games. In his first plate appearance Tuesday, Olson pounded a hanging 0-1 curve from Tigers lefty Chad Bell deep into the right field seats at Comerica Park.

Since Aug. 11, Olson leads all of major league baseball with 19 homers. And his 23 homers are the most in franchise history over the first 66 games of a career.

According to baseball statistician Doug Kern, just three others in Oakland history have ever gone deep five games in a row: Dave Kingman in 1986, Matt Stairs in 1998 and Frank Thomas in 2006.

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

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USATI

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.