A's Murphy has memorable big league debut

September 5th, 2019

OAKLAND -- sat around patiently for three days as he waited to get his first taste of big league action after joining the A’s on Sunday as a September callup. That chance finally came Wednesday, and he wasted no time making an impact.

Murphy provided a glimpse into what the A’s believe is a bright future behind the dish for the 24-year-old catcher, showing off his power in his Major League debut with a solo blast as his first career hit in a 4-0 victory over the Angels. The win keeps Oakland percentage points ahead of Cleveland for the second American League Wild Card.

The home run came in the fifth inning off Angels reliever Jake Jewell on a 0-1 pitch to put the A’s ahead by two. Murphy belted the fastball left over the heart of the plate at 105.8 mph off the bat, the second-hardest hit ball of the night by either club, and drove it over the Coliseum’s high wall in right-center for a projected 409 feet, according to Statcast.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous,” Murphy said. “But once we settled into the game, and of course a home run helps, I felt much better out there. It’s the same game I’ve been playing, so nothing new.”

While his group of supporters, which included parents Mike and Marge, his girlfriend and brother-in-law all losing their minds in excitement from their seats behind the A’s dugout, Murphy was even-keeled. He calmly chewed his piece of bubble gum with a straight face as he rounded the bases.

It was the sign of a player who knows he belongs here. Knee injuries slowed his progress this season, but A’s manager Bob Melvin knew Murphy, the A’s No. 3 prospect per MLB Pipeline, would find his way to Oakland at some point this year.

“I think he was pretty excited, he just doesn’t show it,” Melvin said. “He’s calm in his demeanor and stoic. He wants to be that captain. But I think he was going crazy inside.”

It should come as no surprise that Murphy’s first hit left the yard. This just continues a trend he began this year at Triple-A Las Vegas, where he bashed 10 home runs in just 120 at-bats, putting together a whopping home-run-per-fly-ball rate of 31.3 percent.

“That’s not the last time you’ll see him hit a home run to [the opposite field] like that,” Melvin said. “He’s got power all the way around the field. In the last couple of years, he really developed the power. He’s a big kid with great leverage. You look at his exit velos and they’re off the charts. I’m glad he got off to a good start.”

For as good as Murphy’s bat is expected to be, it was mostly his defense that led to his third-round selection by the A’s in 2016, and he appeared to settle in quickly behind the plate by catching a shutout in his first Major League start. He displayed a good rapport with , who went 6 2/3 scoreless innings to pick up his ninth win of the season.

Roark and Murphy sat in the A’s clubhouse prior to the previous night’s game to break down what type of pitches to expect and to go over signs. Though Murphy encountered some rough waters in the early going, including a situation in the third where he was crossed up and charged with catcher interference on a would-be strike three to Shohei Ohtani, the battery soon got on the same page.

“The further I went in the game, the more he was quick to say yes to everything, which is what you want to keep that rhythm going,” Roark said. “It’s tough to be working with a pitcher for the first time in the big leagues. As we progressed, he was more aware of what I wanted to throw and had a better feel. Those last three innings, we started rolling with quick outs.”

Murphy leaned on Roark’s seven years of Major League experience as guidance through what he admitted was a nervous feeling as he took the field in the first inning.

“Tanner was great,” Murphy said. “He’s a vet with a guy making his first start back there, and he worked with me every step of the way. He let me know what I was doing and what I needed to do. I’m glad he was there.”

In catching the full shutout, Murphy became the first A’s catcher to do so in his Major League debut since Jack Lapp on Sept. 11, 1908.

“Hit a homer and catch a shutout. Not a bad start,” Melvin said. “I think he’ll probably tell you he’s just as proud of the shutout as he is the homer.”

The best part of the night for Murphy? Contributing to a win in the middle of a playoff race.

“I’m happy about the shutout and happy we won,” Murphy said. “Stepping into a ballclub that’s competing and has to win every night, it’s important that I go out and do my job to win. I could have gone 0-for, but as long as we won, I would have been happy.”

Homer happy

All four A’s runs came via the long ball, with and also getting in on the action with homers of their own. Semien’s two-run blast off Jewel shortly after Murphy’s in the fifth was his 26th home run of the year, putting him one shy of his career-high set in 2016.