A slide, leap & robbery: Laureano hits trifecta

August 13th, 2020

Anticipating a decision on the appeal of Ramón Laureano’s six-game suspension, A’s manager Bob Melvin wrote out a backup lineup card without the outfielder on Wednesday morning just in case. But Laureano was able to play, and he provided perhaps his best all-around performance of the season.

Laureano’s defensive prowess was on full display in Wednesday’s 8-4 win over the Angels at Angel Stadium to prevent the A’s from being swept. On what looked to be a game-tying homer from Brian Goodwin in the seventh inning, Laureano perfectly timed a leap above the center-field wall to snag a ball that was crushed 398 feet.

“I don’t know what happened. I was waiting up until the last minute. I didn’t hear anything,” Melvin said of a decision on Laureano’s appeal. “My guess is [the suspension] will probably start the day after tomorrow. It was nice to have him in the lineup today. He was big for us.”

A dejected Goodwin -- who broke into a home run trot halfway to second base -- sighed in disbelief after witnessing Laureano’s inning-ending grab before heading back to the dugout.

“We obviously wish he had started serving his suspension today,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s a good baseball player. He swings the bat well, works good at-bats, doesn’t chase, he’s good on defense. He was probably the biggest difference in today’s game.”

Laureano wasn’t done there. After the robbery of Goodwin, the center fielder came up with a clutch two-out two-run single in the eighth to provide some insurance runs for the A’s bullpen.

“With [Mike] Trout, [Anthony] Rendon and those guys coming up, it was huge,” Melvin said of Laureano’s eighth-inning hit. “Anytime you’re in a one-run situation against those guys and you can extend [the lead], it feels like more than one run. He made big plays all the way around. It was a nice day to have him in the lineup.”

Angel Stadium has quickly become one of Laureano’s favorite outfields to patrol. It’s the site where in 2018 he produced one of the greatest defensive feats you’ll ever see, when he raced back 76 feet in 4.4 seconds for a catch on the run before firing a 92.1-mph throw that traveled 321 feet to first base for an unreal double play.

“Any stadium in our division, I get pretty familiar with,” Laureano said. “The outfield here is pretty short in left-center. I always feel good playing here in the outfield.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Laureano’s game-saving grab was his third defensive highlight of the contest. He also made a nice diving catch in shallow center to take away a hit from Jo Adell in the fifth and robbed Tommy La Stella of extra bases with a leaping catch at the center-field wall in the sixth.

Both of those defensive gems came to the delight of A’s starter Chris Bassitt, who looked out to center in awe from the pitcher’s mound as they helped him earn win No. 2 on the season after limiting the Angels to four runs on five hits over 5 2/3 innings.

“He’s a Gold Glove center fielder, no doubt. He won us the game defensively,” Bassitt said. “I know we won it by a couple of more runs, but he definitely saved us.”

With such a vast library of defensive highlights built up over the past few years, it can become easy to take Laureano’s defensive excellence for granted. Though Laureano made the robbing catch of Goodwin look casual, Melvin was adamant that that type of play is anything but.

“Anytime you leave your feet and take the ball back from what would have been a home run, it’s not an easy play. He just makes it look easy,” Melvin said. “Ramón tracked it the whole way and knew exactly where it was.”

Homers by Matt Olson, Robbie Grossman and Stephen Piscotty highlighted a four-run effort by the A’s offense through the first four innings. Olson’s towering blast off Griffin Canning in the first was particularly impressive. The solo shot traveled halfway up the right-field bleachers an cstimated 454 feet and registered an exit velocity of 111.1 mph on Statcast, which ranks as the hardest-hit homer by an A’s hitter this season.

Melvin said Olson’s homer was a jolt of energy to begin the game, something that was needed on offense after the A’s were shut out by Dylan Bundy and the Angels' bullpen in Tuesday night’s loss. The home run was also the fourth longest of Olson’s career.

“Olson doesn’t get many cheap home runs,” Bassitt said. “When he gets them, he gets them. It’s definitely fun to see, especially in the first inning.”

The win ensured the A’s a happy flight back to Oakland, where they’ll arrive to a much-needed day off on Thursday after playing 13 days in a row. Snapping a two-game skid on Wednesday that followed a Major League-best nine-game winning streak, the A’s will look to carry the momentum into Friday night’s three-game series opener against the Giants in San Francisco.

“It’s always good to get a win on the getaway days and build off that,” Laureano said. “Hopefully we build another winning streak.”