'He's just a hitter': Andujar stays hot with 3-hit night

June 20th, 2024

OAKLAND -- Expectations were sky-high for this season based on his impressive Spring Training before a knee injury sidelined him for two months. Since returning, he has somehow managed to exceed those high hopes.

The torrid delayed start to Andujar’s season continued in Wednesday’s 5-1 win over the Royals at the Coliseum, which notched the A’s back-to-back victories for the first time since a six-game winning streak from April 28-May 4. The left fielder went 3-for-5 with an RBI and is now batting .330 (30-for-91).

Andujar’s three singles on the night marked his 10th multihit game. Those 10 multihit performances are the most by a player through his first 22 games with the A’s since Starling Marte, who electrified the club as a 2021 midseason acquisition with 11 multihit efforts through his first 22 games.

This is the talented hitter most projected Andujar to develop into after a breakout 2018 campaign with the Yankees as a third baseman that saw him finish runner-up to Shohei Ohtani in AL Rookie of the Year voting. In the following years, though, bouts with injuries prevented him from getting enough playing time to even get a chance to replicate that level of success.

Claimed off waivers from the Pirates last November, Andujar looked forward to joining a rebuilding A’s club where opportunity figured to be abundant. Now healthy, the 29-year-old is capitalizing on his chance.

“He’s taken advantage,” manager Mark Kotsay said of Andujar. “Injuries really impact performance. … This is the player he would have been, in my opinion, had he not had the significant injuries that he’s gone through in his career. Hopefully, we’ll have the remainder of this season watching him do some special things.”

Andujar’s penchant for putting the ball in play stands out. He’s struck out just 12 times in 94 plate appearances. Despite being a free swinger, he consistently makes hard contact. He registered the two hardest-hit balls of any player on Wednesday, including a scorching 110.3 mph single off Royals starter Cole Ragans in the first inning.

“He’s just a hitter,” Kotsay said. “You don’t see these types of hitters that often currently in the game that really have bat-to-ball skills along with the ability to hit it with some force and exit velo. We talked about the impact he could have once we got him back. He’s a real positive to the middle of the order.”

One aspect of Andujar’s game that the A’s were previously unaware of showed up in the fourth while he was playing defense. On a ball hit by Salvador Perez that sailed over his head, Andujar strategically played the bounce off the left-field wall, anticipating a potential try for a double. Sure enough, Perez dug for second base and was thrown out by Andujar, who fired a 90.2 mph one-hopper to second, where Zack Gelof applied the tag for the first out of the inning.

“Our outfield coach, Bobby Crosby, yesterday was around the cage, and Miguel came to him and said he wanted to do some throwing,” Kotsay said. “Bobby came back to me and said he’s got a really accurate arm. … He works on his defense. He takes pride in it. Moving to the outfield, there’s some comfortability and less thought process. I think that impacts his offense as well.”

Andujar’s hot bat helped Oakland overcome a tall task in Ragans, who in his two previous starts against the A’s shut them down across 13 scoreless innings with just four hits and two walks allowed with 18 strikeouts. While Ragans still fared decently, the A’s pushed across two early runs against the left-hander on a pair of RBI singles by Andujar and Brent Rooker in the third, which was enough support on a night that saw starter Luis Medina and the A’s bullpen keep Kansas City’s offense mostly in check.

“We did a good job being a little more patient tonight,” Rooker said of the offensive approach against Ragans. “We got a few walks and were able to work him deeper into some counts. When you do that, you see more pitches and see the stuff more. You give him more of a chance to make mistakes and put good swings on it.”