Whether Zack Greinke signaled his pitch or not isn’t clear, but Athletics center fielder Ramón Laureano certainly hit it like he knew what was coming when he launched a hanging slider for a three-run homer to give Oakland an early lead in Thursday’s Game 4 of the American League Division
Whether Zack Greinke signaled his pitch or not isn’t clear, but Athletics center fielder Ramón Laureano certainly hit it like he knew what was coming when he launched a hanging slider for a three-run homer to give Oakland an early lead in Thursday’s Game 4 of the American League Division Series at Dodger Stadium. The Astros went on to win the game, 11-6, and close out the best-of-five series.
Greinke held up two fingers to catcher Martín Maldonado before delivering his 3-2 pitch to Laureano, a system the two have sometimes employed this year to change the signs or sequence they’re using with runners on base.
“That's just what I've been doing this year for the most part,” Greinke said. “I just switched the pitch so that doesn't waste time shaking off and stuff. It’s just a way to save some time.”
For his part, Laureano certainly didn’t acknowledge picking up any insight from Greinke’s gesture.
“I don’t look at him when I hit,” Laureano said. “I just look at the grass. Whenever he’s ready, [then] I just look at him.”
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Laureano had unleashed a midgame pep talk to fire up the Athletics in their Game 3 comeback win Wednesday, but this time, Oakland’s center fielder let his bat do the talking with his second-inning smash as well as a solo homer in the fourth, though it wasn’t enough to overcome an Astros club that went deep four times en route to the series-clinching victory.
Laureano said he didn’t need any extra motivation in Thursday’s do-or-die game, knowing what was at stake.
“I always feel the same way playing,” said the 26-year-old. “Whatever I did yesterday, I feel like that every single time. It wasn’t something new for me.”
Laureano’s early homer provided enough spark all on its own, though the A’s flame was eventually overwhelmed by the Astros’ own firepower.
“Ramón’s home run felt like a thousand-run homer at the time,” manager Bob Melvin said.
After one-out singles by Matt Olson and Mark Canha, Laureano unloaded a 449-foot shot with a 111 mph exit velocity as he worked the count full and then jumped on an 85 mph slider.
When the Astros answered with five runs in the fourth, Laureano added another homer in his second at-bat leading off the fifth, as he drove another Greinke slider 422 feet into the left-center seats.
In the end, it just wasn’t enough to offset the Astros’ suddenly surging offense, as the A’s came up short of their ultimate goal after winning the AL West and then knocking off the White Sox in the Wild Card Series.
“It’s a bad feeling, but hopefully it doesn’t happen next year,” Laureano said. “We just need to keep our heads up, keep working, keep dreaming about moving forward and winning a World Series. That’s it.”
Laureano’s two home runs raised Oakland’s tally to 12 for the series, and they extended the franchise record for most homers in a postseason series. The prior record was nine, set in a four-game sweep of the Giants in the 1989 World Series.
The A’s broke the Major League record for home runs in a Division Series, topping the previous mark of 11 set by both the Mariners and Yankees in 1995 and the Astros in 2004.
Helped by five homers in Wednesday’s 9-7 victory, the A’s had 15 in seven games this postseason, second only to the 16 they hit in nine postseason games in 1989. They homered in six consecutive games this postseason, breaking the previous club record of five set in '88.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.