OAKLAND — These are great times for the Oakland Athletics. And their winning streak, now 10 games and not to be dismissed, isn’t the only reason.
They’re big news. Not only across the bay — you know, San Francisco — but across the country.
The New York Times has discovered the A’s are trying to build a ballpark down on the harbor, and it has come up with as big an article on team president Dave Kaval as it might on the president of Uruguay.
“Can this man keep the A’s in Oakland?” asks the headline. Below that, we’re told not everyone is lining up behind him. As if in conflicted Northern California that’s a surprise.
But for sure, his team, Oakland’s team, manager Bob Melvin’s team, has enough support on the field. Ten in a row is a very unexpected number in major league baseball — 10 wins in a row, that is.
The A’s, who beat the Angels 8-5 on Monday at the Coliseum, the place from which the A’s are trying to escape — and from which the Raiders are in the process of escaping — are a team in full flight.
The ninth-place guy in the batting, catcher Josh Phegley, leads the team in RBIs. Steve Piscotty has reached base safely in his last 23 games. But as we know, it’s not so much what you do at the plate but what you don’t allow the opposition to do at the plate.
“It starts with the pitching,” said Melvin. “It looked like it was going to be the weak link for us, and it’s been anything but.”
According to the litany, and the records, in baseball, football, basketball, hockey and soccer, it isn’t a matter of you scoring but you keeping the other guys from scoring — and, if you can’t always do that, beating the hell out of the ball.
A point of contrast, if you permit. A week watching the franchise across the bay — remember for a few days the A’s and Giants both were home, going head-to-head, if not in the same ballpark — makes one forget how baseball can be played.
The Giants were notably feeble at bat. Once behind, by a couple runs or a dozen (one game it was 18-2), they were done, losing their last three to Arizona and before that three out of four to Atlanta.
And when the A’s get down? Boom. Ramon Laureano doubles (a hitting streak, 10 games, as long as the A’s winning streak). Jurickson Profar homers. Phegley homers (his seventh and 42nd RBI). Matt Chapman homers (his 14th).
The A’s hit as many home runs in a game as the Giants do in a season. (Not literally true, but you get the idea. So does Melvin.)
“It was a one-run game,” said Melvin. “Those add-ons late in the game end up being huge. Yeah, we’re a little bit relentless.”
An unusual admission from any manager. In theory, all they do is worry. Melvln, although properly upbeat, said he is part of the group.
“I worry all the time,” Melvin conceded, “no matter what’s going along.”
This way, you never get either complacent or arrogant. Why tempt the baseball gods? But also why ignore the obvious? The A’s were in the playoffs last season. They should be there again this season.
“We’re getting consistent outings,” he said of the pitching, “and we’re scoring some runs. We’ve got the luxury of a starter being able to give up some runs. He can throw the ball over the plate. He has the confidence of the team. Every one of our starters can do a great job.”
The starter on Monday was Chris Bassitt. He went five innings and gave up five runs. Acceptable when your team scores eight.
“The fifth was his best inning,” Melvin said of Bassitt, who that inning allowed only one base runner, on a walk, and he quickly was removed by a double play before Melvin removed Bassitt for the first of five subsequent relievers. Bassitt earned the win.
“He kept us in the game,” Melvin said. With that roster and that record, the A’s are in every game.