Laureano's Slump-Breaking Night Carries Athletics into Second Seed in AL Playoff Race
Ramón Laureano, one of any number of A’s whose bats had been in a deep freeze, thawed, and quickly, Wednesday night.
Laureano delivered an RBI single in the seventh, snapping an 0-for-16 skid. And when the two-run lead he’d given the club didn’t hold up, the center fielder came back in the top of the ninth with a two-run homer off former A’s reliever Blake Treinen, giving the A’s a 6-4 win over Los Angeles in Dodger Stadium.
The win had special significance of Oakland, moving the A’s into the position of second seed for the American League playoffs. The A’s had been third, and were looking at facing the Astros, a team they’ve beaten seven times in 10 tries. As the two seed, they’d likely draw the Chicago White Sox or, possibly the Minnesota Twins or Cleveland Indians, if one of those two cools off and the Sox heat up. Oakland hasn’t faced any of those teams this season.
Laureano didn’t realize the A’s had made the move up into the second slot, and with four days and five games on the A’s schedule, it’s less of a priority for the center fielder than just breaking out of the slump.
“We’re just winning games, and I guess it’s going to keep changing for everybody for these next (five) games,” Laureano said. “We’re just trying to win and win and win and win and we don’t care who we play.”
While he said he didn’t know his hitless streak had reached 16 at-bats, Laureano knew he was in a funk. Sometimes he’ll choke up on the bat handle two fingers’ worth when the count gets to two strikes. Against Treinen, looking to change things, he said he choked up a whole hand’s worth.
“It was sort of a battle plan,” Laureano said. “To have a good at-bat and to do something productive. There’s a chance to enter the postseason on a good rhythm. We want to keep competing, carry that winning culture into the postseason.”
The homer was the first off Treinen this year, as was the solo homer that tied the game off A’s setup man Jake Diekman in the bottom of the eighth. Edwin Rios’s game-tying blast ended Diekman’s club-record streak of 18.2 innings without allowing a run and seemed destined to ruin the A’s night.
“With the number of games there are left in the season, you figured he had a chance (to be unscored upon),” Melvin said of Diekman. “It was almost a shock, especially with a lefty (Rios). It’s something that you don’t expect.”
Diekman certainly didn’t expect to get the win after blowing the save, but it was that kind of night for Oakland. After Stephen Piscotty singled off Treinen with one out and then stole second base, Laureano crushed one out to left to give the A’s their margin of victory as Liam Hendriks finished off the Dodgers with a 1-2-3 inning on 15 pitches.
Both the A’s, who’d clinched the American League West title on Monday, and the Dodgers, who’s locked down the National League West crown on Tuesday, played this one for keeps. True, the Dodgers started Joe Kelly, a reliever, but they were using him as an opener for lefty Julio Uriás, a starter who entered the game in the third inning and pitched six innings, allowing just two hits. And both sides used relatively normal lineups, although Matt Olson didn’t start for Oakland.
The first of the two hits off Uriás was a single by Piscotty in the seventh, which got Mark Canha to second base with the A’s up 3-2, setting up Laureano’s first hit and RBI.
There was some breathing room from that extra run for A’s starter Sean Manaea, whose only transgression in the first six innings was a two-run homer from Max Muncy after the A’s defense failed to turn a double play.
“That’s baseball; it happens,” Manaea said. “29 times out of 30 that play gets made. I should have made a better pitch to Muncy, but it happens.”
The Dodgers wouldn’t touch Manaea again until the seventh, when Cory Bellinger led off with a homer that ended Manaea’s night.
“Overall, I though it was a really good night,” Manaea said.
His next start presumably will be in the first game of the wild card playoff series, and he believes he’s geared up for it.
“For sure,” he said. “I’ll go out there and do my best. I feel so good, especially after today. And I’m just excited to move forward.”
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
Click the "follow" button in the top right corner to join the conversation on Inside the Athletics on SI. Access and comment on featured stories and start your own conversations and post external links on our community page.