Pinder capped off a 2-for-5 day, his third consecutive multihit game, with a walk-off single against Chris Martin that drove home Stephen Piscotty and secured a three-game sweep for Oakland. It was the A’s first series sweep of the year and Pinder’s first career walk-off hit.
The hit came on a 1-1 slider from Martin down in the zone that Pinder poked into shallow center field. After striking out in his previous two at-bats, Pinder made an adjustment by shortening up his swing, and it paid off.
“I was just trying to stay short and put a good swing on a pitch I could handle,” Pinder said. “The previous two at-bats, I had kind of expanded and put myself in a hole.”
Pinder continues to make his case for more of a regular starting role, as he is now batting .320 over 75 at-bats this year and .362 with three home runs and 10 RBIs in his last 19 games. Coming out of Spring Training, most of the right-handed-hitting Pinder’s playing time was expected to come against left-handed pitchers. But as he’s shown against righties the last two games, matchups aren’t necessarily always the be-all and end-all.
“It’s nice. When you get consistent at-bats, it gets you on a roll,” Pinder said. “It’s been a good stretch for me.”
Pinder’s success on Wednesday wasn’t just limited to his work at the plate. He also shined on defense in the fifth with an impressive diving catch in left field to rob Shin-Soo Choo of extra bases.
“He contributes,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “If he has a slow offensive day, he contributes defensively. He gets big hits. He does timely things, as you saw again today.”
Matt Chapman continued his impressive tear at the plate by homering for a second straight game. His solo home run off Jesse Chavez in the fifth was his eighth of the season and put the A’s ahead by a run.
Chapman has now reached base safely in his last seven games. He has also reached base in 15 of his last 29 plate appearances, going 8-for-20 (.400) over that stretch, with three home runs and six RBIs.
“I’d say he’s one of the better players in the league, and you’re going to be talking about him in MVP conversations for years to come,” Melvin said. “He’s an elite player.”
Marcus Semien got the scoring started for Oakland in the second by blasting a three-run homer off Kyle Dowdy. His 2-for-5 day upped his batting average to .311, as he has now turned in seven multihit performances over his last 14 games.
Aaron Brooks gave up two home runs, but both were solo shots as he managed to limit the Rangers to three runs over five innings.
It’s been a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde-type season for Brooks. After a strong performance in his season debut, holding the Red Sox scoreless over six innings, Brooks has had two outings in which he’s allowed five runs coupled with two starts where he has limited opponents to three runs. With a potent offense, the A’s will gladly take more like this one from the right-hander.
“He got off to a little bit of a slow start,” Melvin said. “At the end of the day, he comes out after five and we score runs that inning, so he ends up leaving with the lead. Maybe not his best outing, but kept us in the game.”
The small details
To enable Pinder’s heroics, Piscotty positioned himself to score by stealing second base just moments before.
The A’s are not known for their speed, nor do they steal many bases. They finished last in the Major Leagues with 35 stolen bases in 2018 and entered Wednesday’s game with eight. But when you see an opportunity, you take it.
In this case, both Piscotty and A’s coaches noticed that Martin had a slow delivery. The steal sign was not necessarily on in that situation, but Melvin said all it took was a look from Piscotty at first base to know he was going.
“Certain times, if we feel like we have a chance, we’ll take a chance,” Melvin said. “We felt like [Martin] was a little bit slower to the plate and Stephen knew it. We were on the same page.”
The A’s had the series victory secured after taking the first two games, but there was more of an emphasis on getting a sweep after what transpired in the previous series.
In what had been a rarity at the Oakland Coliseum, the A’s were swept by the Blue Jays in three games over the weekend, marking the first time they lost any series at home since June 12-14 last year to the Astros.
“We always say, 'Just win each series,' but when you take those three losses like we did with the Blue Jays, there was a little bit of a sense of urgency,” Pinder said. “We needed to clean it up a little bit at home. This is a place where we play well, and to get swept at home leaves a sour taste in your mouth.”
After finishing the eight-game homestand at 4-4, the A’s will travel to Toronto, looking for some payback as they begin another three-game set with the Blue Jays on Friday, one that will generate plenty of buzz with the expected Major League debut of Blue Jays top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Managing a taxed bullpen
The A’s were already down Lou Trivino, who is dealing with a minor right thumb injury, and Ryan Dull, who had pitched multiple innings each of the last two night, entering Wednesday’s game.
Yusmeiro Petit, Joakim Soria, J.B. Wendelken and Blake Treinen each worked an inning of relief following Brooks, and though Soria gave up the lead on a wild pitch that allowed Jeff Mathis to score the game-tying run in the seventh, it was still a strong collective effort by the relievers with four innings of two-run ball.
Melvin found himself squirming at the idea of the game potentially going extra innings as it was tied entering the ninth. The plan in that scenario would have been for Treinen to throw another inning, followed by two innings from Fernando Rodney before having to go to starter Mike Fiers in an emergency situation. Luckily for the A’s, Pinder ended it and sent them on their way to a much-needed off-day on Thursday.