It was evident early on that this season might be a little different for Oakland third baseman Matt Chapman.
The winner of the Platinum Glove the last two seasons as the best defensive player of any position in the American League, Chapman made a throwing error on opening night. It led to a go-ahead run for the Angels. The A’s ultimately won in extra innings.
A week later, in Seattle, another throwing error led to a run that put the A’s down 3-0 in a game Oakland would lose 5-3 to the Mariners.
So, on consecutive Friday nights, Chapman had two errors. Compare that to last year, when he began the season with 18 consecutive errorless games. And after that streak ended, he immediately started another streak of 17 games without an error.
It turns out that the errors are the anomalies.
Lest you think Chapman is losing polish on his defensive game, however, those two throws are outliers. He’s been as good as ever, ranging side to side, playing deep and charging grounders as needed. That includes Friday night. He made a terrific stop going to his left, and the subsequent throw in the 10th inning Friday with the obligatory man on second base, saving a run and extending the game until the A’s could win in 13 innings.
“Every situation he does is eye-popping over there,” reliever J.B. Wendelken, Friday’s winning pitcher, said. “It’s absurd what he does half the time. “I can’t remember if it was last night or the night before, there was a popup down the line and he was in a shift and it was like he ran seven football fields to get over there. And then he almost caught it.
“He’s a magician over there. He’s absolutely unreal to watch.”
And even in the opener, the seventh-inning error notwithstanding, Chapman’s defense saved the day. In the 10th inning, with the A’s and Angels playing for the first time with the new rule that has a runner automatically at second base to start each half inning in extras, his glove stood out.
With the swift Shohei Ohtani at second base, first baseman Matt Olson charged a sharp grounder, then flipped a throw to Chapman at third. The throw was in the dirt, but Chapman made like a third baseman, picked the ball out of the dirt and caught Ohtani in a rundown. Just like that, there was no runner in scoring position, which meant when the Angels’ Tommy La Stella followed with a single, the Angels didn’t get a run. And then Olson won the game in the bottom of the inning with a walkoff grand slam.
“Those two have been talking about that play for a long time,” manager Bob Melvin said that night. “You don’t think a guy like Ohtani, based on his speed, would be the guy for that, but nothing surprises me. Chapman made a great pick on it. It was a game-saver.”
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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