Laureano HRs, pulls one back to seal sweep

June 17th, 2021

OAKLAND -- Ahead of a big weekend series under the bright lights at Yankee Stadium, the A’s got one of their brightest stars back just in time.

was activated from the injured list prior to Wednesday’s series finale against the Angels. In typical Laureano fashion, he immediately flashed his exciting tools to make an impact both with the glove and the bat in an 8-4 victory at the Coliseum, showing no signs of rust after missing Oakland’s previous 17 games.

“You come back after you’re off for a while and you have a little uncertainty because you haven’t had too many at-bats,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “I think he feels pretty comfortable. We get spoiled with his play because we see it all the time, but it’s really good.”

For the A’s, they pushed their MLB-best winning streak to six games, with Wednesday’s win securing a sweep and improving them to a season-high 16 games over .500. Their record of 43-27 is their best through 70 games since 1990, when they went 45-25 and made an appearance in the World Series later that season.

The fourth inning turned into a showcase of Laureano’s many talents. It started in the top half, when he perfectly timed a leap at the wall in right-center to rob Justin Upton of a homer on a ball that was crushed 102.6 mph off the bat. The inning-ending catch kept an early lead the Angels had built up against A’s starter Cole Irvin at 4-0.

About five minutes later, Laureano came up for his at-bat in the bottom of the fourth and got the scoring started for the A’s by crushing a solo shot off Griffin Canning that traveled a Statcast-estimated 404 feet to left.

“I feel like he does that just about every time he robs a homer,” Irvin said. “It’s pretty impressive what he does. He’s able to time it up. When you make a good play, you’re bound to have a good hit after it. He’s just such a good player and it’s good to have him back.”

Laureano finished 1-for-5. More importantly, he appeared to be running at full speed and without issue from the right hip strain that led to him receiving a cortisone shot earlier this month. The homer -- Laureano’s 12th of the year -- also set the table for a late comeback.

Chipping away at the early deficit with another run in the fifth on a force out by Mark Canha, the A’s exploded in the sixth for yet another crooked number against the Angels. Sending 11 batters to the plate, Oakland scored six runs in the frame with a relentless attack of small ball, driving in all six on six singles and an intentional walk.

Chad Pinder, who missed the last two games after being struck in the head by a pitch on Monday night, came off the bench in that sixth and contributed a clutch game-tying pinch-hit RBI single off left-hander Tony Watson.

“He wasn’t 100 percent today,” Melvin said of Pinder. “But we’ll have an off-day tomorrow. With something like that, we wanted to make sure we were careful with him. We gave him some time off and he was ready to go. He was out here early doing some work and ready to contribute.”

The A’s more than just weathered the storm in Laureano’s absence -- they flourished. Compiling a record of 12-5 since he landed on the IL on May 28, Oakland continues to hold the best June record in the Majors, now 12-2. But there’s no question that the return of the club's star center fielder adds an extra element with his all-around game that is impossible to replace.

“It’s extremely important,” Melvin said. “He probably was on his way to being considered for the All-Star Game before getting hurt. He plays a premier position in the outfield and is one of our key bats. It’s hard when you lose a guy like that and awfully nice to get him back.”

Laureano’s return could not have come at a more critical time. Following an off-day on Thursday, the A’s will kick off a big 10-game road trip on Friday night against the Yankees. The atmosphere in New York is sure to be raucous, with Friday marking the first game at Yankee Stadium that will be played at full capacity this season.

“Going into New York, it’s a lot of fun,” Melvin said. “We haven’t been there in a while. That can be a pretty rowdy place. We’re going to enjoy the day off and go into that series fresh with a fairly complete roster, so that’ll help.”