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Resilient A's bounce back: 'It's a tough group'

Oakland has not lost back-to-back games since June 8
@MartinJGallegos
July 20, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- Most teams would find it difficult to brush off a loss as brutal as what the A's experienced in the opener against the Twins at Target Field, but as they’ve shown time and again, there’s something different about this club. Oakland knocked off Minnesota, 5-3, on Friday night,

MINNEAPOLIS -- Most teams would find it difficult to brush off a loss as brutal as what the A's experienced in the opener against the Twins at Target Field, but as they’ve shown time and again, there’s something different about this club.

Oakland knocked off Minnesota, 5-3, on Friday night, rebounding from Thursday’s punch to the gut that was delivered by a late Eddie Rosario pinch-hit go-ahead home run. It’s something the A’s have had a knack for doing this year, including over the past month as they have not lost back-to-back games since a doubleheader in Texas on June 8.

“It seems like almost every time, we come back and play a good game,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “There are some tough ones over the course of a season. Yesterday was pretty rough, and our guys bounced back in the first inning. It’s a tough group.”

Box score

It took all of three pitches to put the previous night’s game in the rearview mirror, as Marcus Semien led off the game by swatting a 1-1 fastball from Twins starter Jake Odorizzi into the left-field bleachers.

Friday’s performance in many ways encapsulated why the A’s are able to shake off a rough loss. There was no individual standout performance from their side, just a bunch of gutsy performances, like starting pitcher Chris Bassitt, who on a muggy night that was 91 degrees at first pitch labored through five innings to keep the A’s in the game despite not having his best command.

“I think we all kind of felt the hot. It was dripping wet out there, to say the least,” said Bassitt, who kept the Twins to three runs (two earned) on five hits, two walks and two hit by pitches. “It kind of ruins your offspeed. You have no grip on the ball.”

It takes performances like the one turned in by the A’s bullpen, the same one that was responsible for Thursday’s loss yet bounced back with Ryan Buchter and Joakim Soria combining for 2 1/3 scoreless innings before a five-out save by All-Star closer Liam Hendriks.

“Liam was rested, so I wasn’t going to let the tying run come up [in the eighth inning] and not use him,” Melvin said. “Buchter did a good job for us in that he had to face some righties. We were down [Yusmeiro] Petit today, and being a five-inning game from Bassitt, we needed some outs from him.”

So what is it that has instilled such resilience in these young A’s? Bassitt can pinpoint the exact moment things changed for the organization.

“Matt Chapman and [Matt] Olson came up and changed the culture around here,” Bassitt said. “You can easily go back and say, ‘Hey, when did this all change?’ All these young guys changed the culture here.

“There’s not a day we come to the field thinking we’re mismatched. You know it’s going to be a fight and a tough battle. Everyone heard in the Minors they were constantly winning. They kept winning and brought it to the big league level.”

Perhaps it’s no coincidence why in Chapman and Olson’s first full season last year, the A’s were able to reach the postseason and end a brutal stretch of three consecutive seasons in which they finished last in the American League West. They certainly seem to be heading on the same trajectory this year, as Friday’s win moved them into sole possession of the second AL Wild Card spot.

Davis getting on track

The A’s offense has been posting huge power numbers over the past couple of months despite Khris Davis struggling to find his groove. But a sleeping giant can only be kept down for so long, and the signs are pointing toward an awakening for Davis.

Knocking in a pair of runs on two hits, Davis registered his first multihit effort since June 21. Davis, who has mashed more home runs than any player in the Majors since the start of the 2016 season, is still homerless since June 18. But with more nights like Friday, where even his flyout to center in the fourth was clocked with an exit velocity of 107 mph according to Statcast, Melvin believes it’s only a matter of time before the slugger ends that drought.

“He’s seeing it a lot better and seems like he’s feeling better about it,” Melvin said. “He wants to contribute for his team. We’ve been holding down the fort for him for a while but at some point in time he’s going to break out of it. Hopefully today was a step in the right direction.”

It’s a little scary to think how good the A’s offense might be once Davis does get back on track. They lead the Majors in home runs since May 16, with Semien, who finished a single shy of the cycle, adding to that total with his home run off Twins starter Jake Odorizzi to lead off the game and give them 104 in that span. Davis has only been responsible for four of those, but as his track record shows, he’ll add more than his fair share before year’s end.

Martin Gallegos covers the A's for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MartinJGallegos.