Instant impact: Gomes homers in A’s debut

Marte runs wild and Harrison sound on defense as new Athletics have a day

August 2nd, 2021

ANAHEIM -- Among the bevy of deals that were struck just before Friday’s Trade Deadline, the buzz around baseball surrounding the A’s acquisition of paled in comparison to other blockbuster moves. But for an offense in dire need of a spark, Gomes’ impact on Day 1 with his new club sure felt exactly like what the A’s needed.

On a day in which the A’s debuted a new look with all three of their acquisitions in the starting lineup together for the first time, it was Gomes who provided the biggest spark. The veteran catcher collected three RBIs in Sunday’s 8-3 victory over the Angels at Angel Stadium, with two of those runs coming on a booming go-ahead two-run blast in the third that followed Matt Olson’s game-tying three-run homer earlier in the inning.

“You obviously want to come in and make a good impression on the first day, so that definitely helps,” Gomes said. “It was just good to get a game under my belt and a win. This is an exciting team to be on.”

In addition to the strong game with the bat, Gomes’ presence was also felt behind the dish.

With Daulton Jefferies, Oakland’s No. 4 prospect per MLB Pipeline, called up to make just his second Major League start, Gomes utilized his 10-year big league experience to help the rookie navigate through some early turbulence. By game’s end, Jefferies, who allowed three runs through the first two innings, came away with his first big league win after allowing three runs on three hits in five innings.

Because Jefferies’ Major League debut came in the crowd-less atmosphere of 2020 due to COVID-19, Sunday’s start might as well have been his actual first. That’s how Jefferies said he looked at it. The usual pregame jitters were present, carrying over into the early portion of the game as he showed a rare lack of command for his pitches. What might have saved him was a conversation he had with Gomes following the end of the second inning. After that, the right-hander went on to finish his outing by retiring eight of his final 10 batters.

“I knew I was rushing a little bit,” Jefferies said. “Yan came up to me and said, ‘Hey, your stuff is good. Just take a little more time between pitches and breathe.’ My mind was relaxed but my body was ready to go, so I just had to create a little balance.”

With two off-days in the coming week, another start is not guaranteed for Jefferies. A’s manager Bob Melvin said that decision will be largely based on how fast James Kaprielian, who was placed on the 10-day injured list on Saturday due to a shoulder impingement, can return to the club.

“If Kap is healthy and ready to go, we probably get him back sooner than later,” Melvin said. “If not, [Jefferies] certainly pitched well enough to be in the mix for that spot.”

The other A’s newcomers -- Starling Marte and Josh Harrison -- also played key roles in the win.

Showing off his impressive athleticism, Marte reached base four times with three singles and a walk in the third that helped set up Olson’s three-run blast. He also wreaked havoc on the basepaths with three stolen bases, marking his first three-steal game since July 6, 2018, and bringing his total for the season to 26, which ranks second-most in the Majors.

Marte’s electric style of play is something the A’s have missed for several years. He became the first A’s player to record at least three hits and three stolen bases in a game since Coco Crisp did so on Aug. 6, 2011.

“We haven’t seen anything like Marte,” Melvin said. “His athleticism and his stolen-base ability.”

Harrison’s first hit with the club came in the ninth on a single to left, but his defense is what stood out from his A’s debut. With Jefferies facing a critical moment -- holding a three-run lead with one out and a runner on -- in the fifth against Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani, Harrison nabbed a hard grounder at second base and quickly initiated an impressive double-play turn that ended the threat.

Also starting a double play of Ohtani in the eighth, Harrison helped produce what was the first game in which the two-way star has hit into two double plays over his Major League career.

“He’s a terrific defender,” Melvin said. “You don’t see Ohtani hit into too many double plays. Quick transfer, gets rid of the ball and in position, very mechanically sound. He probably covers more of the hole at second base than we’ve seen. We’re just seeing him for a first look, and he does a really nice job at second base.”