Smoke from NorCal Fires Can't Stop Athletics from Beating D-Backs Again

While the air quality went from OK to noticeably worse from first pitch to last, the Oakland Athletics ran their record to 18-8 behind Sean Manaea and homers from Matt Chapman and Matt Olson.
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Northern California is on fire thanks to a series of lightning strikes earlier in the week.

The A’s have played through the resultant smoke and worsening air quality to play back-to-back games at the Coliseum against the Diamondbacks and have won both, including a 5-1 victory Thursday that saw a full-out Matt Attack, two homers from Matt Chapman and one from Matt Olson.

They did it Thursday without first base coach Mike Aldrete, whose home along the central California coast is near one of the hot spots. The smoke grew heavier from first pitch to last, a trend that if it continues might put Friday’s series opener against the Angels in doubt. The A’s were prepared to postpone the Wednesday game against the Diamondbacks is conditions got bad.

They didn’t and the A’s went on to beat Arizona 10-1 under moderately clear skies, but that the smoke was back Thursday.

Olson, who hit a pair of absolute bombs down the left field line, a solo shot in the first inning and a two-run blast in the eighth, said it was noticeable on the field.

“It was kind of smoky out there today, and it seemed to be worse throughout the game,” Chapman said. “We still played, but being with from California, I know what that means; it just means that the fires are getting worse.

“I know there’s not any rain in the forecast anytime soon, so it’s unfortunate to see that,” Chapman added, saying “we’re thinking about” Aldrete and what he’s going through. “It’s definitely something that’s serious.”

Manager Bob Melvin said “during batting practice you didn’t even feel it at all,”

“And they we went back out there for the game and you started to smell it a little bit, and then kind of see it over the bleachers in right field and as the game went along, even more so,” Melvin said. “We have heavy hearts for what’s going on here right now; it is so sad. It’s just an awful feeling and you know we pray for everybody out there. It’s a right time right now.”

In terms of pure baseball, however, the A’s are doing well enough. After losing two games in Arizona to the Diamondbacks they’ve come home and beaten the D-Backs in what will be the final meetings of the two teams in this 60-game season. They’ve won their last eight games at the Coliseum, smoke or not smoke.

Starter Sean Manaea gave up a solo homer in the fifth inning to Eduardo Escobar, but by that time he had a 3-0 lead thanks to Chapman’s first homer and the two-run shot added in the fourth inning by Olson. It marked the 16th time the pair have homered in the same game since 2017.

The resurgence of Manaea, who got his first win of the year, is of particular significance for the A’s. After four consecutive start where he was out of the game too early for the A’s liking, including a season-low 2.2-inning showing Aug. 10 against the Angels. But he’s gone at least five innings the last two times out, and while he still doesn’t have his velocity back to the 92-93 level he’d like, he’s showing he can hit the corners and get outs.

“There’s going to be a time in your career when you have to find different ways to do it,” manager Bob Melvin said. “So, if he does it differently and he gets out, then (the loss of velocity) is not a concern. He had good movement today and a good changeup and kept the ball on the ground.”

Manaea said he was “trending in the right direction,” but said that he still had a way to go.

He said he was getting a better feel for his slider, and that’s help getting him to the point where he can get back to being effective.”

Before the game, Chapman was saying he felt he needed to get his swing through the strike zone sooner. He succeeded, launched two homers that carried so far that “I kind of surprised myself there.”

“it felt good to be able to drive a few balls today where it felt like I wasn’t trying too hard to do it. It just kind of happened. There were a lot of good swings from the guys today and it was good to bounce back and take two games after dropping the first two is big for us.”

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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