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Everybody gets a hit as A's rake, break out bats

@MartinJGallegos
April 24, 2019

OAKLAND -- When the A’s were at their best in their 97-win season last year, most of that success came from a deep lineup that provided contributions throughout the order. Consider Tuesday night’s 11-5 victory over the Rangers at Oakland Coliseum a vintage performance. Every A’s hitter in the starting

OAKLAND -- When the A’s were at their best in their 97-win season last year, most of that success came from a deep lineup that provided contributions throughout the order. Consider Tuesday night’s 11-5 victory over the Rangers at Oakland Coliseum a vintage performance.

Every A’s hitter in the starting lineup recorded a hit as they matched a season high with 14 hits and jumped on Rangers starter Lance Lynn early for eight runs in the first four innings, including a season-high six-run fourth inning that chased the right-hander.

“We knew we had it in there,” A's manager Bob Melvin said. “You go through some lulls over the season and for us, it stands out because we’ve been known to hit some homers and put some runs on the board. It was nice to break out again.”

Matt Chapman provided the thump with a solo home run off Lynn in the first, his seventh of the year, but most of the A’s damage came as a result of keeping the line moving, especially in the fourth when they batted around for the first time in 2019. Stephen Piscotty matched a career high with his second four-hit game of the year and seven hitters recorded an RBI. Marcus Semien, Ramon Laureano and Josh Phegley each drove in two.

The offensive outburst was plenty for Frankie Montas, who worked through some early struggles to turn in another solid outing in what is starting to look like a breakout season for the right-hander.

After allowing two runs in the first two innings -- the first time he’s allowed a run in an opening frame this year -- Montas held the Rangers to three total runs over 5 2/3 innings, despite pitching through traffic in each inning. He never had a clean inning, but his ability to get out of tough situations showed how far he has come along from previous years.

“In a lot of ways, I think this was his best game of the year,” Melvin said of Montas. “When he’s rolling, it’s easy for him. But in the past, when he’s had some trouble, he’s had trouble shutting it down. Pitching around traffic when he had to, I think for him this will be as good of a game for him as he’ll have this year, just knowing he can get through games like that where maybe he doesn’t have his best stuff.”

Montas was in a particularly tough spot in the fourth. He allowed the first three batters of the inning to reach base and appeared on the ropes as he fell behind 2-1 to Logan Forsythe in a tied game. He revved his fastball up to 98.4 mph to induce a 5-2-3 double play, then got Isiah Kiner-Falefa to ground out to escape the inning unscathed before the A’s offense exploded in the bottom half of the inning.

“It was huge,” Montas said of the double play. “I always trust my defense. Chapman is one of the best out there and when I got that ground ball, I knew I was going to get out of that jam.”

“It’s not an easy play,” Piscotty said. “The ball wasn’t like a one-hopper. Chapman had to read the bounce and Phegley had to make a really good turn. They were knocking on the door there and to slam it shut was big.”

Montas allowed a season-high nine hits, but he pitched well enough for his fourth win of the season.

Keeping it low and slow

Originally a pitcher who depended on strikeouts with his blazing fastball early in his career, Montas has developed the ability to pitch to contact and allow his defense to do most of the heavy lifting.

Montas entered the night with a 59.4 percent ground-ball rate, the highest of any pitcher in the Major Leagues with at least 20 innings thrown. Seven of Montas’ nine ground balls induced resulted in outs as opposing hitters are now 8-for-48 (.166) against his grounders. The Major League average against grounders entering the night was .242.

“I trust my two-seam [fastball],” Montas said. “I’ve been getting a lot of ground balls with it. It was just about hitting my spots.”

Chapman turning elite at the plate

We know Chapman can rake. His second-half offensive numbers last year were among the best in in the Major Leagues, and he’s carried that into 2019, as he's batting .318.

Chapman is hitting .400 over his last 11 games with three doubles, four home runs and 11 RBIs. But what has been more impressive is his ability to keep the bat on his shoulders.

Chapman matched a career high with three walks. After recording seven multi-walk games in 2018, Chapman has drawn more than one walk in each of his past three games and has done so four times already this year.

When Chapman was coming up through Oakland’s Minor League system, the club had a feeling his glove and power would translate to the Major Leagues, but high strikeout totals were a concern. Now, Chapman has 14 walks and only 10 strikeouts through 26 games.

“His plate discipline right now is as good as anybody in the game,” Melvin said. “He’s on his way to a ton of walks. It is really impressive to see. He won’t go out of the zone, he knows where his strengths are and it just feels like he hasn’t made an out in a while.”

Messing with Texas

Something about the Rangers seems to get Piscotty going. He extended his hitting streak against Texas to 16 games with his 4-for-5 performance, which included a triple, passing Geronimo Berroa for the longest hit streak against the Rangers in A’s history.

Piscotty has a five-game hitting streak overall, and three of those have been multi-hit performances. All four of his hits on Tuesday went the opposite way to either right or right-center field, which is usually the direction his hits go when he is at his best.

“That’s usually a good indicator for me,” Piscotty said. “I could feel the sense that this was coming. I just had to be patient and trust the process.”

Martin Gallegos covers the A's for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MartinJGallegos.