OAKLAND -- A’s manager Bob Melvin has stated multiple times that he believes Marcus Semien deserves to be in the American League MVP Award discussion. With seven games remaining, the shortstop is only strengthening his case.
On a night when plenty of A’s hitters padded their stats, Semien led the charge by reaching base in all six of his plate appearances in a 12-3 victory over the Rangers on Saturday at the Coliseum. Oakland remains two games ahead of Tampa Bay for the top AL Wild Card spot.
“It is not premature to talk about [Semien] in the MVP race,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “You don’t have to knock in 100 runs to be an MVP, especially when you’re in the leadoff spot. But everything he’s done, from getting on base to hitting homers, knocking in runs, playing defense, having leadership qualities, he’s on pace for 162 games. I don’t know that anybody has been more important to a team than Marcus has.”
Semien became the first A’s batter to reach base six times in a game since Matt Olson on April 18, 2018. He singled to lead off the first, which started a seven-run rally for Oakland during which he also drew a walk. In the fifth, Semien hit his 32nd home run of the season off Texas reliever Shawn Kelley.
It was a performance that showcased Semien’s all-around talent, as he went 3-for-3 while also drawing a season-high three walks that raised his career-high walk total to 82. Semien is flattered by the comments from Melvin, but he doesn’t spend much time trying to decipher where he stacks up, numbers-wise, against fellow AL West stars like the Angels' Mike Trout or the Astros' Alex Bregman.
“It feels great to hear that. But we don’t really talk about it [in the clubhouse],” Semien said. “We just talk about the playoffs and what we need to do to make it.”
Of course, offense is only half of Semien’s game. His defense has also been excellent, putting himself in good position to win his first Gold Glove Award as he entered Saturday with a career-best .980 fielding percentage. It’s quite the turnaround from his first season in Oakland in 2015, when he led the Majors with 35 errors.
“He’s been consistent throughout the whole year. His offense has been incredible, but I think his defense has been the biggest thing for me,” said A’s starter Sean Manaea, who tossed 5 2/3 innings of two-run ball. “Just watching him grow the last couple of years and putting it all together has been fun to watch.”
Round-number milestones are always good to help an MVP case, and Semien has one attainable: 200 hits. The shortstop sits at 181, though he won’t go out of his way to chase the feat, which hasn’t been done by an A’s player since Miguel Tejada in 2002.
“It’s not a goal I set out for myself. I never thought I would get close to that,” Semien said. “Anything can happen, but I just want to have a good approach. I know I take a lot of walks, and a lot of guys who get 200 hits don’t walk as much.
“I just want to get on base. If 200 hits happen, I’ll have to get three or four hits for a long stretch of games. But anything is possible.”
What concerns Semien more than personal stats these days is how Oakland’s competition in the Wild Card race is doing. He admitted to checking the scoreboard during Saturday’s game, finding out that the Rays capped off an extra-inning comeback victory over the Red Sox while the Indians lost to the Phillies.
“I look at the scoreboard every inning,” Semien said. “I was kind of shocked when I saw Boston lost today, but the Rays are tough at home and they fought to the end. All we can do is control what we can control.”
Messing with Texas
Semien has punished Texas pitchers this season, as he's now on a 15-game hitting streak against the Rangers during which he's batting .410. Semien is 29-for-74 with eight home runs, six doubles and 22 RBIs over 18 games against Texas this year. He's also scored 22 runs in those games, surpassing the previous season high by an A’s player against the Rangers of 20, set by Nick Swisher in 2007.
With Mark Canha also going deep, the A’s have 35 home runs against the Rangers, the most they've hit against a single opponent in one season.
“It’s definitely hard facing them,” said Rangers starter Brock Burke, who was tagged for seven runs in only two-thirds of an inning. “They’re a really good hitting team and if you’re not perfectly on, they’re going to make you pay, and the last two games I’ve had some off games and they made me pay.”