Bride's 1st MLB HR evokes memories of his late grandpa

August 27th, 2022

OAKLAND -- While circling the bases at the Oakland Coliseum after connecting on his first Major League home run in the seventh inning of Friday’s 3-2 A’s loss to the Yankees, Jonah Bride couldn’t help but think of his grandfather.

Though Bride was a Brewers fan growing up in Wisconsin, he often found himself watching the likes of Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada alongside his grandfather, Jim, who was a diehard Yankees fan. Homering against grandpa’s favorite team evoked those memories.

“It was special,” Bride said. “My grandpa was always a huge Yankees fan. Growing up, he was always having me watch them. He passed away when I was in middle school. He’s up there watching, for sure.”

The rookie second baseman's solo blast was all the more impressive because it came off five-time All-Star Gerrit Cole.

Heading to the plate with two outs in the seventh and Cole working on a one-hit shutout to that point, Bride was frustrated with himself after fouling off an 0-1 curveball that put him in an unfavorable hole against the Yankees' ace. Five pitches later, Bride got that curveball again on a 2-2 count and didn’t miss, sending it over the left-field wall to get the A’s on the board.

It was the first homer Cole had allowed on a curveball this year, and it was no cheapie. Bride’s 376-foot solo blast would have been a home run in every Major League ballpark, per Statcast, showing he may have more pop than his 5-foot-10 frame lets on.

“I saw [the curveball] earlier in the at-bat, and I was upset that I swung and missed at it, so I’m glad that I was able to get it again,” Bride said. “To hit it off a guy like him, getting that first one out of the way, it was a really cool moment.”

While Bride is considered to have the best fastball-contact ability of any player in the A’s system -- which helped him quickly progress to the Majors after beginning this season at Double-A Midland -- handling breaking balls has been a work in progress. The homer was a step toward improving in that department.

Bride also helped kick-start the A’s offense, which mounted a late comeback attempt in the ninth that saw David MacKinnon come to the plate as the potential game-winning run.

“Jonah actually got the offense going,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said. “We knew what we were up against tonight with Gerrit Cole. He had a lot of strikeouts tonight, but Jonah put a good at-bat together. Got a breaking ball up in the zone and ended up getting a home run out of it to give us some momentum.”

Bride wasn’t the only rookie who impressed Friday. On the mound with plenty of motivation against his former club, JP Sears continued his encouraging start to his A's career. The left-hander allowed three runs on eight hits and four walks (one intentional) against the potent Yankees, who traded Sears to Oakland on Aug. 1. All three runs came on one swing from slugger Aaron Judge, who hit his 49th homer of the season in the fifth.

“Sears’ outing was outstanding tonight,” Kotsay said. “He made one mistake to one of the best hitters in the game, and the result was a three-run home run. But earlier in the game, I thought he had command of all three pitches. He mixed his changeup in well tonight and threw the breaking ball down below the zone. All in all, it was a good start for him.”

Since coming to Oakland, Sears is 2-1 with a 2.53 ERA (six earned runs in 21 1/3 innings) over four starts, quickly earning love from his new teammates for his aggressiveness and his fast-paced pitching style.

“He’s been great,” Bride said of Sears. “He throws three pitches for strikes, and he goes after guys. I’ve really enjoyed playing behind him. He’s going after guys, and he competes really well.”

Of the four players acquired from the Yankees for Frankie Montas and Lou Trivino ahead of the Trade Deadline, Ken Waldichuk, now the A's No. 3 prospect per MLB Pipeline, was viewed as the centerpiece of the package. But so far, the early returns on Sears, Oakland's No. 17 prospect, also appear to be promising.

“He’s a competitor,” Kotsay said. “Nothing seems to bother him. He got [Giancarlo] Stanton to roll over into a double play and came off the mound a little emotionless, but he was fired up once he got to the dugout. He carries himself like a veteran Major League starting pitcher.”