A's open 2nd half with Lowrie walk-off HR

Veteran connects on 100.5 mph fastball for Melvin's 91st walk-off win with A's

July 17th, 2021

OAKLAND -- The All-Star break provides a chance for players to take a breather in preparation for the stretch run. Nobody could have used that time off more than .

As the eldest member of the A’s offense, Lowrie has already defied expectations with a resurgent campaign after having played a total of nine games in the previous two seasons. After four days of much-needed rest, the 37-year-old second baseman recharged his bat for a three-hit effort and unleashed its power at just the right moment with a walk-off homer that gave the A’s a 5-4 victory over Cleveland at the Coliseum on Friday night.

“Jed continues to come up with big hits,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “In a situation like that, you’re hoping to get one in the gap somewhere on a cold night where the ball is not traveling very well, and he hits one out of the park.

“He’s had a terrific year for us, and certainly had a big night.”

Lowrie’s 393-foot two-run blast, his 11th of the season, would have been impressive under any circumstance. What enhanced its impact was the pitcher he took deep: Cleveland closer Emmanuel Clase.

Entering the day, Clase had allowed just one home run in 36 2/3 innings pitched. The hard-throwing righty can be an uncomfortable at-bat for any hitter, especially for someone like Lowrie, who had no prior experience against him.

Getting a chance to watch from the on-deck circle as Matt Olson popped out for the first out of the ninth following a leadoff single by Elvis Andrus, Lowrie stepped to the box only knowing what he’d seen from Clase in the film room.

“It’s funny how things can look different on video than they do when you’re standing in the box,” Lowrie said.

Lowrie watched the first pitch -- a 100.6 mph fastball -- go by for a ball. He swung through a 100.2 mph cutter on the second pitch. Stepping out of the box for a few seconds to process what he just saw, Lowrie dug back in. This time, he connected on a 100.5 mph heater that was met with even greater strength at an exit velocity of 103.9 mph, sending it over the wall in right-center field for a thrilling walk-off win.

In the pitch-tracking era (since 2008), Lowrie’s homer on the 100.5 mph fastball was the fastest pitch an A’s player has hit for a home run.

“He threw me that first pitch and it had a ton of depth on it,” Lowrie said. “I had to get a good pitch to hit. If you chase out of the zone against a 100 mph cutter, you’re probably not going to have a lot of success.”

Though Lowrie entered the All-Star break on a six-game hitting streak, he was not about to complain about getting some days off after appearing in 86 games over the first half, which is by far his heaviest workload in a season since 2018.

“That’s a lot of games,” Lowrie said. “To have that opportunity to rest the body a little bit, that’s why we have [the All-Star break]. It’s an opportunity to let everything calm down a little bit. Clear your mind to prepare yourself for the push down the stretch.”

After slumping through the first half of July, the A’s viewed the break as an opportunity to hit the reset button. After all, the second half is historically when they’ve done their best work, evidenced by their record of 104-61 in the second half from 2018-20.

Do the A’s have a big second-half run in store for 2021? It certainly kicked off on the right foot. Friday’s win was Oakland’s eighth walk-off victory of the season, continuing an ongoing trend that has come to exemplify the Melvin era. In fact, since he took over as manager of the A’s on June 9, 2011, the A’s lead the Majors with 91 walk-off wins.

If the A’s are going to reach their goal of repeating as American League West champions in 2021, it’s going to require some more of that trademark second-half success. Friday was a good first step.

“It’s huge,” said A’s starter Sean Manaea, who allowed three runs on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings. “Especially off Clase, that guy is nasty. Getting a single and home run off that guy is unbelievable. Huge momentum going forward and a great way to start the second half.”