Bleday (three doubles) helps A's end skid vs. Royals

June 19th, 2024

OAKLAND -- No matter what pitch comes ’s way these days, he’s finding a way to barrel it up.

In a much-needed 7-5 A’s victory over the Royals at the Coliseum on Tuesday that snapped a season-high nine-game losing streak, Bleday was on everything Kansas City tried to throw at him, becoming the first A’s player since Matt Chapman in 2018 to notch three doubles in a game as part of a 3-for-4 effort with two RBIs.

All three of Bleday’s doubles were roped. Each one also came on a different pitch. The first was tagged 102.6 mph into left-center on a 2-1 sinker from Royals starter Alec Marsh to give the A’s a 1-0 lead in the first inning. The second also came off Marsh, this time sending a 1-0 slider into right at 102.2 mph off the bat. Bleday’s third double registered an exit velocity of 102.4 mph off reliever Carlos Hernández in the sixth on a 1-2 knuckle curve.

“He’s taking great at-bats,” manager Mark Kotsay said of Bleday. “The swing is great. He’s in good hitting position early. … That’s a great sign when you can stay on a [breaking ball] and then also hit a fastball on the same night.”

Bleday’s lone out -- a groundout to second in the fourth -- was his loudest ball in play. The putout was scorched 107.3 mph on a first-pitch fastball from reliever Sam Long, marking the second-hardest hit ball of any player on the night.

For Bleday, the constant hard contact indicates that his approach is on point.

”I’m just ready to attack and ready to be aggressive,” Bleday said. “It feels good. I’m getting good pitches to hit, and it’s been fun to be locked in.”

The 2024 season continues to represent a breakout for Bleday, who is now 14-for-27 (.519) over his last seven games. His 22 doubles are the most by an A’s center fielder through his first 75 games of a season since Ben Grieve, who also had 22 through 75 games in a 1998 campaign that earned him American League Rookie of the Year.

After Tuesday’s performance, Bleday is tied with Yankees superstar Aaron Judge for the American League lead in doubles. Meanwhile, his home runs (10), on-base percentage (.342), slugging percentage (.478) and OPS (.820) all rank second behind only Judge among Major League center fielders.

“He’s so impressive,” said A’s second baseman Zack Gelof, who crushed a three-run homer in the fourth. “He uses the whole field and hits it hard on a line everywhere. He’s been consistent all year. … It’s fun to watch.”

There are a couple of factors leading to Bleday’s success this year. For one, he’s tinkering a lot less. In the past, Bleday was often at the plate thinking about his swing or how his hands were positioned.

“I spent a lot of time this offseason working on my swing,” Bleday said. “Trying to get rid of all mechanical thinking and focus on something I can stick to. Being able to just focus on the approach in the game has paid off this year.”

Endurance is another key, as Bleday is the only A’s player to play in all 75 games this season.

The A’s encouraged Bleday to push himself harder this offseason than he had in his previous two offseasons as a big leaguer. In response, Bleday hooked up with his Vanderbilt strength coach, Walker Grisanti, and switched up his routine. He incorporated more workouts such as bench presses, heavy squats and lunges at heavier weights. That, along with sprinting and other isolated movement-based training, helped him come into Spring Training leaner and feeling more explosive.

“I just feel stronger,” Bleday said. “I couldn’t care less about my body weight. It’s about having your basic strength. … It’s helped me defensively and it’s helped get some strength at the plate this year. I have more range of motion and just overall [am] a better athlete.”

For a rebuilding A’s club focused on developing young players, Bleday is a prime example of the growth it wants to see. After platooning as an outfielder last year, he has earned the trust of his manager as an everyday player near the top of the A’s lineup, regardless of matchup.

“I see him in a similar way I saw Matt Olson [early on] at the big league level,” Kotsay said of Bleday. “Getting some opportunity, not starting maybe against a tough left-hander, but then transitioning into an everyday role.”