'Human highlight reel' Laureano fuels A's win

May 3rd, 2021

OAKLAND -- 's passionate style of play reached the national stage during last year’s postseason when word got out of his fiery speech to lift the A’s to a win in the American League Division Series.

So, of course, with the A’s battling through a slump over the past week, it was Laureano who ignited them to a 7-5 win over the Orioles on Sunday.

Engaged in a back-and-forth contest, Laureano perfectly timed a leap at the Coliseum’s wall in left-center to snag a ball that was crushed 103.3 mph off the bat of DJ Stewart for an inning-ending catch in the eighth. The incredible catch prevented Ryan Mountcastle, who doubled earlier in the inning, from breaking a tie game by scoring the go-ahead run. The highlight-reel play also generated an exuberant outburst from the A’s bench, with reliever Yusmeiro Petit, who was on the mound for the play, pumping his fist as he walked off the mound before embracing with Laureano upon his return from the outfield.

Given his extensive library of defensive highlights built up over the past few years, it’s hard to calculate where Laureano’s catch on Sunday ranks on the list of defensive gems. Given its importance on Sunday, A’s manager Bob Melvin said it belongs near the top.

“If he had to flip over the wall to get it, he was going to flip over the wall,” Melvin said. “He was not going to be denied on that play. He’s just got a will to compete.”

A dejected Stewart -- who surely thought he’d get at least an RBI and extra bases on a ball that traveled 394 feet with an xBA of .890 -- stood halfway between first and second with his hands slumped to his waist, a look of disbelief on his face as he gazed at the wall in center.

"That play Laureano made will be the No. 1 play on ESPN tonight, probably,” said Orioles outfielder Austin Hays.

But Laureano wasn’t done there.

About five minutes later, Laureano came up for his at-bat in the bottom of the eighth and crushed a go-ahead two-run homer off Travis Lakins Sr., providing the final jolt the A’s needed on the afternoon.

Tagging the laser shot at 105.9 mph off the bat for an estimated 385 feet to right-center, according to Statcast, Laureano screamed “Let’s go!” into an A’s dugout that once again exploded in elation over the big moment.

“That’s just taking over a game,” Melvin said. “It’s taking away two and giving you two. I don’t know what the criteria is for WAR. But if that’s not a 1 WAR on its own in two plays, I don’t know what is. That’s pretty dramatic stuff.”

Sean Manaea, who was in the trainers’ room after departing from his start of four runs allowed in five innings, caught a glimpse of Laureano’s home run on one of the TVs inside. The homer -- Laureano's fifth of the season and fourth against Baltimore -- was powerful enough to end a conversation Manaea was having with reliever Jake Diekman. The two pitchers immediately dropped the exchange to shout with joy.

“The guy is a human highlight reel,” Manaea said. “Each time, he just impresses you a little bit more, which is crazy because the bar is already set really high.”

The A’s were starved for this type of offensive effort. They had dropped five of their last seven games, scoring no more than four runs in any contest over that stretch.

On the strength of Laureano’s late heroics and the impressive return of Matt Olson, who after sitting out the previous three games with a swollen left eye turned in a three-hit day that included a two-run homer in the third, the A’s got their bats going again as they prepare to welcome the Blue Jays for a four-game series that begins on Monday.

“We haven’t played at our level the past couple of games. But we really don’t worry about that stuff,” Laureano said. “Oly came back and it was like he never left. The whole team contributed today.”