OAKLAND -- Homer Bailey had a tough act to follow coming into his A’s debut on Wednesday.
Bailey arrived via trade from the Royals on Sunday with the usual high expectations set for a newcomer looking to help out in a push to the postseason. He was also tasked with continuing the strong run by A’s starting pitchers, who combined to allow three runs in the four games back from the All-Star break.
No pitcher wants to be the one to slip up first, and Bailey made sure to keep the good times rolling by limiting the Mariners to just two runs over six innings in a 10-2 victory at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum to help the A’s cap an undefeated five-game homestand and win their sixth straight game overall. The win pulled the A’s to within four games of the Astros for first place in the American League West.
“A little rusty early, and then I was able to find that tempo and where I wanted to be,” said Bailey, who made his first start since July 4. “The way this team fights for nine innings is outstanding. It gives you energy, and I know that if I can keep it close, they’re going to score runs and play great defense.”
The 33-year-old is still trying to learn the new league after spending the first 12 years of his career in the National League with the Reds, but he did come into the day with some familiarity toward the Mariners. The right-hander tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings in Seattle with the Royals on June 18, and though the final line was not quite as eye-opening on Wednesday afternoon, he maneuvered his way around traffic even as he allowed seven hits.
“For a guy that hadn’t pitched in basically two weeks, they got some hits off him early in the game, but he shut it down when he needed to,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Sometimes there’s some nerves with a new team. It was a really good start for him.”
Melvin expected there to be somewhat of a feeling-out process between Bailey and catcher Josh Phegley, but the battery appeared to be on the same page right away. Bailey trusted the signs given to him from Phegley and pounded the zone throughout his start, striking out six and not allowing a walk for just the second time in 19 outings this season.
“He did a great job,” Bailey said of Phegley. “The more we work together, we’ll get more familiar. But I thought for the first time, he was outstanding.”
Phegley came into the day blind in terms of familiarity with Bailey. Not only had he never faced him, Phegley said he had never watched him pitch a single inning, with the two playing in different leagues.
Perhaps having no preconceived notions was the best thing that could have happened.
“The good thing is he’s got a ton of experience and knows what he wants to do,” Phegley said. “It’s always good to combine his knowledge with ours, how he throws his stuff with us knowing these hitters well. It was a pretty smooth transition. His splitter was his out pitch. He got a lot of bad swings on that.
“If that was rusty for him, that’s great. I was excited to see what he brought to the table, and it’s great to have him on the staff.”
The only damage inflicted on Bailey came in the second, when the Mariners plated two runs on a pair of two-out hits, including a triple down the right-field line by Dylan Moore that barely scraped the chalk.
It was a good first impression for Bailey, who had arrived from Kansas City on a strong run. He’s now 4-1 with a 3.31 ERA in his past nine starts, allowing two earned runs or fewer in six of those.
With a potent offense that entered the day tied with Minnesota for the most home runs in the Majors since May 13, the A’s would be ecstatic to get more outings like this from Bailey over the next few months.
“It was great seeing him out there throwing strikes,” said A’s right fielder Mark Canha, who provided some support for his new teammate by blasting two home runs. “He made a good impression, and that’s the type of guy we need, a guy who can give us innings and let our offense get rolling. When he’s rolling like that with the quick innings, it helps. Pitching is going to be important down the stretch, so we’ll take it wherever we can get it.”
Bailey was aided by plenty of support from the A’s offense, which blasted six home runs, including two each by Canha and Jurickson Profar. Oakland has homered in a season-high 17 consecutive games, with 37 home runs over that span. It’s part of a bigger stretch that has seen the A’s put together the best record in baseball since May 16, going 36-16.
Their six homers tied their season high, which they last did on June 18 vs. Baltimore.
“It’s what we do,” Melvin said. “When we’re playing well, we hit homers and put pressure on you. We’re able to hit the ball out of the ballpark, really one through nine. When we’re hitting on all cylinders, it doesn’t matter where we are in the lineup, we have a chance to score.”
Canha had the first multihomer effort of his five-year big league career.
“That felt really good. I’ve always wanted to do it, and it always felt like it eluded me,” Canha said. “I finally did it, so it’s nice to get that monkey of my back.”