Told you not to panic! Whilst losing six games in a row at home to start the season is no one’s idea of a positive experience, if you doubted the character and sheer quality of the A’s on the back of a six-game run then you haven’t been paying attention to Bob Melvin’s boys over the past three seasons.
And let’s put BoMel’s name front and centre here. A half-dozen games doesn’t tell you a lot, but it did raise the question as to who was going to keep things on a level after yet another off-season in which key players in the clubhouse (Semien, KD and Hendriks) moved on.
The ‘trick’ is that BoMel is an excellent leader and he creates an atmosphere in the camp that makes everyone feel comfortable. It’s happened too many times for it to be a coincidence. Of course you miss guys like those mentioned, but the culture at the A’s means other players are always able to come to the fore, whether existing players stepping up into a leadership role or new recruits immediately being able to settle in and share their wisdom.
Elvis Andrus is a great example of someone who is hitting into bad luck at the moment, yet numerous players (not least Laureano) are quick to note that he’s still having a positive impact on the team. All players go through ups and downs over a season and being able to put your own struggles to one side and still be a good teammate is a hugely underrated attribute.
Coming into the home series against Detroit on the back of four wins on the spin, there was a clear opportunity to keep the good form going against a team still in the process of rebuilding. You could see that in Game One on Thursday when the Tigers made several plays in the field that showed there is plenty of development needed for them to get back challenging in the AL Central.
However, it’s the beauty of MLB that every game is different. The Tigers sent José Ureña to the mound to start Game Two last night and he pitched really well for them, keeping the game close through seven very solid innings. Thankfully we were able to match it and more.
Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas laid the foundations for back-to-back wins in Houston and they’ve done it again in this series, leading from the front with both pitching six strong innings. Watching the second game back this morning, Frankie was slightly off with his command in the first two innings but still was able to keep pounding the inside part of the plate against the Tigers batters hitting from the left-side. When Montas is pumping in 95-MPH fastballs at will, and working off that with his secondary pitches, he is able to be dominant and that’s what we saw last night.
Some credit should also go to Sean Murphy for his pitch-calling too. He always seems like such a steadying presence behind the plate and it’s easy to forget he is only 72 games into his Big League career. There’s a lot of development still to come from Murphy, both defensively and at the plate, and he has all the makings of being a true first-class catcher.
It may be an over-reaction, but I’d like to see him behind the plate for Jesús Luzardo’s next start as he’s struggled to find any rhythm on the mound in his three starts and all have come with Aramis Garcia catching. Garcia has a good defensive reputation, so it’s not a knock on his ability, more that a change might be worth trying. Needless to say, I have complete trust in BoMel making the right call.
Alongside the starting pitching, it was great to see us take the lead on Friday with some good two-out hitting. Mitch Moreland and Sean Murphy both did exactly what you want in that situation; they didn’t try to do too much and just put a good swing on the ball. Do that regularly in those pressure situations, rather than trying to force the big blast, and it will work out well more often than not.
Add on Petit, Diekman and Trivino all pitching relatively uneventful innings and it was as good a 3-0 win as you could wish for.
Now is the time to be greedy, though. We’ve got two day-games this weekend, so great for us to watch live here in the UK (first pitch Saturday and Sunday is 21:07) and a great opportunity to really show what we’re made of.