The key behind Machín's September spark

September 23rd, 2022

OAKLAND -- Earlier this month, Vimael Machín was intrigued by a bat with a larger-than-usual knob that was abandoned inside the A’s hitting cage, so much so that he picked it up and tested it out for few swings. Little did he know, he’d just discovered a tool to unlock another level on offense.

In the A’s 9-5 loss to the Mariners at the Coliseum on Thursday, Machín sparked a five-run third inning with a leadoff double against George Kirby. The two-bagger was his seventh of the month, tying him for the fourth-most doubles among American League hitters in September.

All seven doubles have come while using the new bat, which turns out to belong to Machín’s teammate Ramón Laureano, who ordered the bat but was unsatisfied with how it felt in his hands.

“I was just walking to the cage one day and I saw it,” Machín said of the bat. “I grabbed it and was like, ‘Whoa, this feels nice.’ I saw Ramón and asked him if he likes the bat, and he said no. I was like, ‘Hey, I like it. Can I have it?’ He was like, ‘Yeah, go for it.’”

Machín limited the bat’s usage solely to cage work for a few days before deciding to break it out in competition for a game against the White Sox on Sept. 8. Perhaps uncoincidentally, he hit his first double of the month that day. Machín is 11-for-38 (.289) with seven doubles and seven RBIs since then.

“Not being superstitious or anything, but since then, I feel a big difference,” Machín said. “I feel like that bat is more balanced. It’s weird. You kind of know when you’re rolling over and your swing is not right, because you feel like the knob tells you. I started using it and it makes me get quicker to the ball and shorter, not trying to do too much.”

Machín noted that the bat has helped him get his swing path right at the point of contact, leading to a much better quality of contact. It’s certainly showing in his exit velocity readings that have spiked up as of late, continuing Thursday with his double that was tagged 101.4 mph off the bat. Through his first 54 games of the season before the bat, Machín had just five doubles.

“I feel like having that swing path and letting my hands work has been helping me,” Machín said. “Both increasing my exit velo and [hitting] the ball farther.”

The increased offensive production is catching the attention of A’s manager Mark Kotsay, who has been penciling in Machín as the No. 2 hitter more frequently over the past month.

“He’s aggressive in the zone right now,” Kotsay said. “He’s really swinging the bat aggressively when he’s got count leverage, which is good to see. It’s not a passive at-bat anymore. He’s finally figured out when he can fire his good swing and not be afraid to miss. That aggressive mentality has really helped him with driving the baseball.”

With 65 games under his belt this season, Machín has far surpassed his total of Major League games played (39) from 2020-21. As the playing time has increased with each month, so has the success. After hitting just .183 in July, he bumped that average up to .246 in August. Through 17 games in September, he’s now batting .281 (16-for-57), aiming to leave a strong lasting impression that could lead to an even bigger role on the club come 2023.

“It means everything to me,” Machín said. “I want to end on a good note to let them know I’m ready for next year and that I belong here. Having more playing time makes me feel more confident and comfortable. I don’t have to worry like, ‘Oh, I have to get the job done’ like years before. It’s a matter of just showing up and having fun.”