OAKLAND -- Matt Chapman implemented some changes at the plate before a game against the Indians last week as he entered that series in a 3-for-23 slump. The results immediately paid off as he homered that night, and he’s been on a tear ever since.
Chapman picked up another two hits, including a home run for a third consecutive game, as the A’s defeated the Angels, 8-5, on Monday at the Oakland Coliseum. The win was the 10th straight for the A's, pending the completion of their game against the Tigers on May 19, which was suspended due to inclement weather and will be completed on Sept. 6. Oakland led that game, 5-3, in the seventh inning at the point it was suspended. During the win streak, the A's have jumped back into the thick of the American League West race, moving from fifth (19-25, 9 1/2 games back) to second (29-25, 6 1/2) behind the Astros. They're also tied with Boston for the second AL Wild Card.
The A’s have received contributions up and down the order throughout the streak, which is now their longest since 2006, but Chapman has found himself in the middle of most of the offensive outbursts. He’s 11-for-30 (.367) in his last eight games with four home runs, two doubles and eight RBIs.
“He finds a way to contribute every day,” manager Bob Melvin said. “When he’s seeing it good, it’s tough to get him out. He hits the ball as hard as anybody in the league.”
Chapman’s solo blast off Angels reliever Luis Garcia was one of his more impressive this season. He turned on a 96 mph fastball that was riding inside, and hit a screaming liner that just managed to stay to the right of the left-field foul pole with an exit velocity of 113.3 mph, according to Statcast.
“I knew he had good life on his fastball and I just took a good swing the pitch before,” Chapman said. “I wasn’t sure if I would get to that pitch, it had some run on it. Luckily, I kept it fair.”
The adjustments Chapman worked on with hitting coach Darren Bush in Cleveland involved a repositioning of his hands to go further back in his stance. It wasn’t a major retooling of his swing, rather a simplification of things at the plate -- something Chapman often does over the course of a season to recalibrate himself.
“The season is all about making adjustments, and for me, it’s all about feel,” Chapman said. “I wasn’t feeling right there for a little bit, just because I wasn’t able to find my hands. I was able to bear down, and the way I feel at the plate right now, I’ve just been able to roll with it. I know there will be ups and downs, just have to keep pushing.”
The home run in the seventh to give the A’s an insurance run was Chapman’s 14th of the year and one of three A’s homers on the day, as they’ve now hit 30 in their last 13 games. The other two came from Jurickson Profar and Josh Phegley, both hitters at the bottom of the order who continue to lengthen the offensive production.
“Just like when we score late and take pressure off the bullpen, when the bottom of the lineup gets on base and scores runs, it takes pressure off the top,” Chapman said. “Everyone takes a good at-bat and does their part, which is when everything falls into place.”
Bassitt working through struggles
A’s starter Chris Bassitt surrendered a season-high five earned runs after entering the day having allowed three or fewer in each of his first six starts. He grinded out five innings, which was actually longer than his previous outing of a season-low 3 2/3 frames, but struggled with command as he hit two batters in a game for the first time since 2015.
Bassitt said he’s dealing with fatigue, moreso with his whole body than his arm. It’s an issue he said also affected him in his previous outing, but he does not expect it to last much longer.
“I’m going through a little rough patch, physically,” Bassitt said. “You hit walls throughout the year, and I’m kind of going through one. Luckily, we’ve still been getting wins out of it.
“My arm feels great, it’s more about just my body feeling tired. I didn’t really have it today.”
Bassitt turned it over to the A’s bullpen, which saw five relievers combine to shut the door on the Angels. Blake Treinen picked up his 11th save of the year with a scoreless ninth.
What offensive struggles?
It’s amazing what two weeks can do. In the 23 games prior to their current power surge, the A’s homered just 15 times. Now, they’re starting to look more like the team that clubbed 227 home runs last year, which was good for third in the Majors.
“I think we were talking two weeks ago and people were freaking out about our offense,” Bassitt said. “Now it’s like, ‘Well, here it is!’ We have one of the best offenses in the league. We knew this was coming and it’s here.”
Most of those recent home runs have come without slugger Khris Davis, who is currently on the 10-day injured list. But before the ‘Can the A’s win long term with Davis?’ questions even start, Chapman made sure to shut that potential notion down after Monday’s win.
“This season started out slow and we still don’t have KD back,” Chapman said. “I want it to go on record that we really need him back. That dude’s our best player and we need him back.”
There are multiple streaks within the winning streak the A’s currently ride.
Ramón Laureano extended his hitting streak to a career-high 10 games, hitting his fifth double in the past six games. Phegley’s solo home run off former teammate Trevor Cahill in the fifth was also his second consecutive game with a home run.
Stephen Piscotty, who was back in the lineup after missing the previous two games with a stomach illness, went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs, extending his on-base streak to 23 games. The 23-game on-base streak is the longest active streak in the Majors and also ties his career high.
“It can be a relentless lineup from top to bottom,” Melvin said. “We have a deep lineup when we’re swinging well.”