Semien saves day with 4-hit, 2-HR performance

Shortstop knocks in four runs, hits tiebreaker blast in ninth

June 8th, 2019

ARLINGTON -- With the A’s set to play a doubleheader on Saturday, the last thing they wanted to do was play an extra-inning game the night before. One swing of the bat from put those worries to rest.

Already enjoying a season-best performance, Semien made it one to remember as he blasted a 3-2 fastball from Rangers pitcher Jose Leclerc over the wall in right for a tie-breaking two-run homer with two outs in the ninth in Friday’s 5-3 win at Globe Life Park.

“Good thing we didn’t give him a rest today,” said A’s manager Bob Melvin, who is planning to find a break for most of his regulars over the next few days. “There isn’t a game that he’s not ready for. He takes great care of himself. He’s energized every day and rubs off on a lot of our guys in the way he goes about his business and prepares to play. He never wants a day off. It’s fun to watch where he’s come from to where he is now. In a lot of ways, he’s one of our key team leaders as well.”

Leaders tend to step up and carry the load when necessary, and that’s what Semien did by providing most of Oakland’s offense. The two-run shot was his second home run of the night -- he also homered off Rangers starter Lance Lynn -- and capped off a 4-for-5 night with four RBIs for the shortstop. It was Semien’s first four-hit game since Oct. 1, 2016, at Seattle.

The A’s did not arrive to their team hotel until around 7 a.m. CT on Friday morning after playing a late game in Anaheim the night before. Even as they were given a chance to sleep in a couple of hours with no pregame batting practice, most players were still a bit weary-eyed with the two-hour time change as they bussed to the stadium. But that didn’t seem to affect Semien. His eyes were sharp as he connected on the same fastball he missed from Leclerc earlier in the at-bat.

“He beat me with a fastball up in the zone, so I knew he had that in the tank,” Semien said. “The only difference was he used a slide step to beat me and then went high leg kick, so that allowed me to time him a little better.”

pitched his way into a bases-loaded jam in the ninth but induced a game-ending double play from Elvis Andrus to record his 13th save of the year.

Petit puts out the fire
Semien was the ultimate hero with his blast, but A’s reliever gave him a run for MVP of the night with strong effort as the supporting cast.

Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” blared through the stadium speakers as Petit took the mound, which was basically what he needed to jump through as he entered in relief of starter in the seventh with the bases loaded and only one out.

Not a big strikeout guy -- he entered the night with 22 punchouts in 35 innings -- Petit managed to blow a fastball past Logan Forsythe for strike three and induced a flyout against Andrus to keep the game tied.

“Another Houdini act,” Melvin said. “We’ve seen him do it before. When he needs to get a strikeout, he finds a way to do it. That’s the key at-bat of the game against Forsythe to get that strikeout. He’s been doing this for quite a while and nothing really rattles him.”

The strikeout of Forsythe was key, but perhaps more impressive was the at-bat against Andrus. Petit got behind in the count 3-0 before throwing a fastball on the outer half that Andrus looked at for a strike. Knowing he could be looking for that same pitch again, Petit threw another fastball, only this time on the inner half, to induce the fly ball.

“Andrus has seen me a lot and I never usually get to a deep count with him,” Petit said. “But that happened in this game and when I realized he wasn’t swinging at the balls and looking for his pitch, I went inside and got the out we needed.”

Petit put out the fire, and the escape job fired up his teammates as they got back to the dugout, each making sure to give him a pat on the back as he made his way off the mound.

“That’s what he does,” Semien said. “He’s ready to pitch in a big situation, whether it’s being a long guy or in a leverage spot. That’s why he’s so valuable to us. He used to do that to us with Anaheim back in the day, so that’s why we went out and got him.”

Anderson saves the ‘pen
Melvin wanted to give three or four relievers a break with the impending doubleheader, but in order to do that, a quality outing by Anderson was essential. The left-hander provided just that, allowing three runs on eight hits and a walk with five strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings, with a little help from Petit in the seventh.

“You basically saw what we had tonight,” Melvin said. “We needed him to go deep. Even after the game was tied, I let him go back [for the seventh] out because his stuff was good. We absolutely needed him to pitch deep into the game, and he did.”