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Improving defense in second half critical to A's

MLB.com

SEATTLE -- Despite being shut out on two hits in a 4-0 loss to the Mariners on Sunday in the A's final game before the All-Star break, Oakland finished the first half with optimism for the second half.

Matt Chapman's highlight play the second inning is one reason why, as he ranged far to his right and made a backhand play on Nelson Cruz's ground ball, then throwing him out at first.

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SEATTLE -- Despite being shut out on two hits in a 4-0 loss to the Mariners on Sunday in the A's final game before the All-Star break, Oakland finished the first half with optimism for the second half.

Matt Chapman's highlight play the second inning is one reason why, as he ranged far to his right and made a backhand play on Nelson Cruz's ground ball, then throwing him out at first.

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The third baseman said the team is gearing toward improving its defense moving forward.

"We're starting to get some athletic guys, whether it's Chapman or Marcus [Semien] back in here," manager Bob Melvin said. "We were very one dimensional last year and at the beginning of this season, too. Those are areas ([ielding and baserunning] that we need to improve in. And I think we can."

At the break, the A's are dead last in the MLB in Defensive Runs Saved, according to FanGraphs.com, at minus-51, with the next closest team being the Giants at -35. The A's finished last in defensive runs saved last year at minus-71.

But a young core is doing its best to improve Oakland defensively, especially Chapman.

Chapman has had a tough time at the plate since being called up on June 15 from Triple-A Nashville, slashing .132/.214/.184 after 38 at-bats. But even with his offensive woes, he's already tied for the team lead in defensive runs saved with plus-3.

It gives Melvin incentive to write Chapman on the lineup card, and Chapman showed that value on Sunday.

"That's something you're going to have to get used to," Melvin said. "Our defense hasn't been great this year. But he makes plays like that fairly routinely. We saw it in spring and knew that even if he got here and struggled a bit to start offensively, which he's done at every level, his defense was going to be out there regardless.

"He's just cutting his teeth offensively right now but he'll figure it out here, but defense shows up every day."

Josh Horton is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle. He covered the A's on Sunday.

Oakland Athletics, Matt Chapman