Two Weeks (Plus) to Remember Have Athletics on Verge of Great Possibilities

Chad Pinder's pinch-hit homer triggers a nine-run inning as Oakland Athletics complete a three-game sweep of the Giants. Oakland has won 13 of its last 15 games, has the best record in MLB and each day, it seems a new hero emerges.
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Two weeks don’t make a season.

Except, maybe, this year.

After the A’s beat up on the Giants Sunday -- a three-homer, nine-run fifth inning did the trick – they’ve won 13 of their last 15, they are 16-6 overall and have the best record in the Major Leagues.

And with a season cut from 162 games to 60, Oakland might be the first team to be ready to stamp their passport to the post-season.

Their 4½-game lead in the American League West is the biggest in baseball. For a point of comparison, after 22 games last year, the Astros led the AL West by 1½ games with a 13-9 record and the Dodgers led the NL West by two games with a 14-8 record. And those teams went on to win 107 and 106 games, respectively.

The A’s aren’t going to do that, but we don’t know what they are going to do. What is certain is that Oakland has put itself in position to do some exceptional things in what is the strangest season any of them have ever seen – from masks and COVID-19 coronavirus testing to empty seats and cardboard cutouts.

In the space of a three-game weekend, Oakland batters hit nine homers, scored 30 runs and won games after trailing by five runs Friday and three runs Saturday in the ninth inning.

The most troubling thing for the rest of the American League might be is that there seems to be a different point man guiding each win. Friday it was Stephen Piscotty with a game-tying, ninth-inning grand slam. On Saturday it was Mark Canha with a go-ahead three-run homer in the ninth.

Sunday saw Chad Pinder come off the bench to greet reliever Wandy Rodriguez with a tie-breaking two-run homer in the fifth inning. Before the inning was over, the A’s would get additional homers from Piscotty and Marcus Semien, scoring nine times to completely deflate a Giants team that already was reeling from back-to-back losses in games they thought they’d locked up.

“Yeah, it’s awesome,” Pinder said of the roll the A’s have been on. “We don’t have that feeling of down. The dugout doesn’t feel like we’re ever out of a game. We trust each other and we have this gut feeling that somebody is going to step up.

“It’s been a bunch of different people, and that’s been a lot of fun.”

Pinder doesn’t play every day, generally getting starts at second base and left-handed pitching. But the last three-plus years have shown the A’s that he’s a vital cog. He has averaged about 100 games a season since 2017 and has 43 homers in that span, including Sunday’s.

He’s also a capable outfielder, and one of the reasons he doesn’t play more is that Piscotty can be a force in right field when healthy, and Piscotty has come around. He drove in five runs Sunday, matching his career high and had nine RBI in the three-game series. He’s played in five of Oakland’s six games since Monday and is 6-for-19 with three homers and 11 RBI. His Sunday homer carried 454 feet, the best of his career.

“It’s been a lot of fun to see Piscotty healthy,” Pinder said. “After the way he finished last year (left off the Wild Card game roster) to be swinging like this, what that does for everybody. Well, it’s awesome. You go back two years and he was arguably our best player down the stretch.”

Pinder was hitting just .167 when Sunday started and only entered the game as a pinch-hitter for Tony Kemp when the Giants went to the left-handed Rodriguez with a man on in a 2-2 game. Before the day was over, Pinder also added a single and a double, lifting his batting average 68 points.

“That (homer) was the biggest blow of the game,” manager Bob Melvin said. “We kind of added on after that. We know he has been a good approach as a pinch-hitter. He wants to be aggressive and if you get an early-count fastball, go ahead and let it go.”

Pinder did. And added his name to the list of A’s hitters with game-breaking performances in what has been two weeks to remember

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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