CHICAGO -- The home run has been embedded in the A’s DNA for a few years now. But their ability to hit balls out of the yard this season is downright historic.
Stephen Piscotty launched a three-run blast into the left-field bleachers during the fourth inning of Tuesday night’s 11-4 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field, giving the A’s a franchise-record 10 players with 10-plus homers this season.
“This team, we’ve got guys that can thump,” Piscotty said. “It’s fun when everyone is taking part in it and contributing. There’s been injuries here and there and guys are stepping in and rolling with those opportunities. It’s not a surprise to me.”
With Dustin Garneau also blasting a three-run shot off Cubs ace Jon Lester as part of an eight-run second inning, the A’s now stand at 180 big flies for the year, seventh in the Majors. Only the Twins (11) have more batters with 10-plus homers. The Major League record is 12, set by the Yankees in 2018. Next closest to double digits on the A’s is Robbie Grossman with five home runs.
“That’s kind of who we are,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “We hit a lot of home runs. … When you have that many guys up and down the lineup that can do some damage, it means you’re one swing away from several runs.”
Piscotty would have likely reached double digits earlier in the season, but a sprained right knee kept him out of action for over a month before returning from the injured list Saturday. The right fielder was 3-for-10 in his first three games back, but Tuesday’s homer off Lester -- which was projected by Statcast to travel 381 feet and registered as the hardest-hit ball of the night by an A’s batter with an exit velocity of 108.4 mph -- was his first since June 18.
Missing time is never an ideal scenario for a ballplayer, but mired in a bit of a slump before the injury, going on the injured list actually served as a nice opportunity for Piscotty to hit the reset button. Batting .242 at the time he went down with the knee injury on June 29 in Anaheim, Piscotty told the A’s he wanted to take some time during his rehab to work on some hitting flaws. He was given 23 at-bats over five games with Triple-A Las Vegas and hit .304.
Since he’s been back in the Majors, that success has translated. Melvin noted that Piscotty appears to be “flailing less” at pitches, with more balance during his at-bats. The outfielder agreed with that assessment.
“When I was down there, I was trying to get my timing back and work on some things, to the point where you’re going into the at-bats not trying to not do well, but you can test a few things and if you strike out, it’s OK,” said Piscotty, who drove home the first run of the eight-run frame with a bloop single. “I was able to do that a few times on some different things, and I’m starting to feel more like myself up there. It’s not a finished product yet, but I’m in a better place than I was heading into the injury.”
Piscotty hit the third-most homers (27) on the club last year, so a return to form would boost the A’s chances of reaching the postseason for a second consecutive season. They currently sit a half-game back of the Rays for the second American League Wild Card spot.
Chasing Lester after just four innings, not only did the A’s hand the left-hander his first loss at Wrigley Field since May 23, but the 11 runs were tied for the most he’s allowed over his career, last doing so July 22, 2012.
“That’s very hard to do. I don’t know if he’s had an inning like that in his career,” Melvin said. “Made him work and drew some walks. Obviously Garneau’s home run gave us some distance. Pretty impressive.”
Anderson makes A's history, with his bat
On top of limiting the Cubs to two runs over six innings to pick up his first win against his former club, lefty starter Brett Anderson also contributed on offense with two hits, including one that kept the second-inning outburst going.
Both hits were singles and came in his first two at-bats against Lester, leaving his teammates quite impressed.
“We’re all joking about it. It’s like Babe Ruth up there,” Piscotty said. “Hitting to all fields and polished, it’s pretty funny.”
“We’ll probably look for a position for Brett Anderson to play tomorrow, being that he’s hitting, what, like .700 for the year or something?” Melvin said. “It’s not that easy. The guys are giving him a little grief about being able to hit line drives the other way off Jon Lester.”
It’s not exactly a .700 average, only .667 for the 31-year-old veteran. Anderson became the first A’s pitcher with two multihit games in a season since the designated hitter was introduced in 1973, and his five career hits with Oakland are the most of any A’s pitcher in the DH era.
“The first two at-bats, my thought process was, ‘Just don’t look like an idiot,’ and I end up getting two hits,” Anderson said. “The third one I was like, ‘All right, I might try to hit one hard,’ and then I swing way over my head. Lester is a tremendous pitcher with a tremendous career.
“I told Chapman I’ll be down at the cages early tomorrow to give him some pointers. It’s kind of a running joke. I couldn’t really draw this up. I’ll take it, though.”