Bryce Harper went off in his first games in Philadelphia. Paul Goldschmidt gave Brewers pitchers nightmares in Milwaukee. Christian Yelich keeps on rolling.
But A’s center fielder Ramon Laureano might have just wrapped up the most impressive series of all.
Laureano notched his third outfield assist in four games against the Red Sox, nabbing reigning American League MVP Mookie Betts at third base in the ninth inning of Thursday’s 7-3 victory. Betts was on first with nobody out when Andrew Benintendi lofted a shallow single to center. Boston’s star was aggressive, going first-to-third without hesitation with his team down four runs, but Laureano charged in 77 feet to field the ball and quickly fire to third for the out.
“I should have known,” Betts admitted. “He’s pretty much thrown everybody out.”
“Betts got a good grip on that ball,” added A’s manager Bob Melvin. “You’re thinking, ‘First and third, no problem.’ [Laureano] comes in and throws it in like an infielder.”
An impressive series victory for the A’s, in which they took three games out of four against the defending World Series champions, had Laureano’s fingerprints all over it. His personal highlight reel began in Monday’s opener, when he fielded Mitch Moreland’s second-inning single on the run and -- with little momentum behind him -- fired a 96-mph throw for a distance of 270 feet, per Statcast, with perfect accuracy to nab Xander Bogaerts at home plate. That was all A’s starter Aaron Brooks needed, as Laureano helped him escape his only serious threat of the night against Boston’s imposing lineup.
The very next night, Laureano had another highlight for anyone who thought there was no way he could repeat that kind of throw. With Oakland clinging to a 1-0 lead in the top of the ninth on Tuesday, Laureano fielded a fly ball off the top of the wall in right-center and fired another powerful throw to retire (who else?) Bogaerts -- again -- at third base.
Bogaerts was visibly frustrated after he was tagged out, not even appealing for a replay review.
“Again, man,” Bogaerts sighed postgame. “I’m like, ‘There’s no way he’ll do that again.’ I didn’t even see the replay, but I knew right away once I dove into third, I felt [Matt] Chapman hit me before I got to the bag, so I already knew I was out.
“How can he do that two nights in a row? The next time, I won’t run.”
Bogaerts didn’t test Laureano again, but Betts learned his own lesson on Thursday. Safe to say the Red Sox will always be aware of Laureano’s presence in center -- from now until the day he retires.
“Ramon, he’s a special talent,” said Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston’s Gold Glove Award winner in center field. “I’ve seen him make multiple plays like that. I’m not surprised.”
This week wasn’t officially Laureano’s coming-out party; that would be his incredible 321-foot throw on an inning-ending double play against the Angels last August, a play that ranks among the best defensive highlights in recent memory. But with more playing time assured in 2019, the A’s newest star is undoubtedly building a resume that could help him join teammates Matt Olson, Marcus Semien and Matt Chapman on Oakland’s Gold-Glover roll call. Laureano already has 12 outfield assists through his first 57 games, making him the quickest player to reach 12 since Jeff Francoeur (52 games) with the Braves in 2005, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Better yet for the A’s is that Laureano’s bat is catching up to his glove after a slow start at the plate. He homered Monday and Wednesday, and then added a single and a stolen base Thursday. That kind of offense is plenty, when it’s backing up the defense this rising star is providing.
“You have to make him make those plays and he made them all,” said Betts. “Tip your cap. He did an excellent job.”