Noda, Harris give A's 'happy flight' out of Pittsburgh

June 7th, 2023

PITTSBURGH -- The term "happy flight" is baseball lingo used when a team picks up a victory on the final game of a road series. For the first time in 2023, the A’s get to experience that joyous atmosphere as they make their way to Milwaukee.

In a 9-5 win over the Pirates at PNC Park on Wednesday afternoon, the A’s ensured a continuation of those good vibes with an early knockout of starter Roansy Contreras in a seven-run first inning that saw them send 13 batters to the plate. Oakland was 0-9 in series finales on the road.

After Monday’s frustrating loss, the A’s rebounded by taking two of three from Pittsburgh. They notched just their third series win of the season and second on the road, carrying some momentum as they embark on the final leg of a three-city, nine-game road trip that will finish with a three-game weekend set against the Brewers.

“We talk a lot about being great at the fundamentals, and Monday night was not great,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said. “To understand that, recognize and get better shows resiliency. People ask, ‘How are you staying positive?’ The optimism creates that. Our ally is the time we have to change the narrative. To beat a first-place team and win a series, it’s a positive.”

1. is establishing himself
The decision by the A’s to designate veteran slugger Jesús Aguilar for assignment on May 29 sent a message about the amount of trust they have in Noda, and the rookie first baseman has responded with his best stretch at the plate as a big leaguer.

Noda, a Rule 5 Draft selection from the Dodgers this offseason, emphatically capped an impressive series by reaching base four times in the finale. He worked a pair of walks and launched his seventh homer of the year -- sending a 361-foot opposite-field solo shot to left in the seventh.

Finishing 6-for-11 with a homer, two doubles, four RBIs and five walks over three games in Pittsburgh, Noda is now 20-for-64 (.313) with four home runs, 13 RBIs and 14 walks over his past 20 games.

“We’re getting there,” Noda said of how he’s feeling at the plate over the hot stretch. “We’re getting close. I’m just trying to battle and get the next guy up. Trying to start a train. … I’m starting to get pretty comfortable.”

Since the A’s moved to Oakland in 1964, three players have led the American League in on-base percentage: Rickey Henderson in 1990, Mark McGwire in 1996 and Jason Giambi in 2000 and '01.

Noda is making an early push to join that vaunted group. Through 59 games, his .415 OBP ranks highest among qualified AL batters.

“It’s tough when you’re a Rule 5 kid to feel comfortable,” Kotsay said. “Being in the big leagues for the first time and knowing a team took a chance on you creates expectation. For how he’s handled that and now to see the confidence, it’s a good sign.”

2. ’ first ‘W’
After encouraging outings while following an opener out of the bullpen, Kotsay rewarded Harris with his first Major League start. In turn, the left-hander grabbed hold of an early offensive outburst and limited the Pirates to three runs on four hits and three walks with two strikeouts over five innings to earn his first win.

“For only his fourth time out on the mound in the big leagues, he kept his composure,” Kotsay said of Harris. “When he got in trouble, he stayed relaxed and executed pitches.”

Harris, Oakland’s No. 21 prospect, has found a groove over his past three outings, with five runs allowed and 12 strikeouts across 15 innings. After the game, he was the recipient of a celebratory beer shower courtesy of his teammates.

“The beer shower is definitely very cool,” Harris said. “It’s also something I’m happy I’ll probably only have to live through once. A moment I definitely won’t ever forget.”

3. Another standoff
For the second day in a row, A’s reliever Austin Pruitt and Pirates reliever Jose Hernandez engaged in a national anthem standoff. Pruitt, this time joined by bullpen mates Sam Long and Shintaro Fujinami, once again came out victorious.

“If you’re the last one off the line, you start the game 1-0,” Pruitt said. “I was standing there and seeing if everyone got off their line, and one dude was standing there. I was like, ‘All right, so we’re doing this.’ I had all the support that I needed. I was in it for the long haul.”