Trailing in a game does little to affect the Oakland A’s right now.
They’re operating with supreme offensive confidence, able to overcome deficits with a combination of power, plate discipline and sheer tenacity with each individual at-bat.
It was on display again Wednesday, when they trailed at Yankee Stadium for the second straight night only to come back and notch a victory. This one ended 7-4, as the A’s erased a 4-1 New York lead and ran their winning streak to five games.
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In the majors’ most high-profile market, the A’s (37-22) are showing just how they’ve built the American League’s best record. They’re so diverse in the way they can score runs, and that provides a sense that they’re never really out of a game.
To be sure, Oakland’s big boppers have delivered in the first two games of this series. Brandon Moss hit two homers in Tuesday’s 5-2 victory. Yoenis Cespedes added two more Wednesday and Josh Donaldson’s solo shot in the seventh snapped a 4-4 tie.
But it hasn’t just been about the power. The A’s grind out at-bats and draw walks, running up the pitch count and whittling down a pitcher’s patience. Alberto Callaspo didn’t notch a hit in five plate appearances Wednesday, but he turned in two of the most important trips to the plate in the game.
Leading off the fifth, he fell behind 0-2 to Yankees starter Vidal Nuno but battled back for a walk. Callaspo eventually came around to score on Jed Lowrie’s sacrifice fly to cut the A’s deficit to 4-2.
His next at-bat came with the bases loaded and no outs in the sixth, with Oakland trailing 4-3. He engaged Matt Thornton in a nine-pitch at-bat, fouling off five consecutive pitches at one point, before lofting a sacrifice fly that tied the game.
That’s been a trait of Callaspo’s in recent games, and it’s winning the switch hitter playing time, whether it’s at first base, second base or designated hitter, as was the case Wednesday.
A’s manager Bob Melvin and hitting coach Chili Davis talk a lot about “passing the baton” and not trying to do too much, allowing teammates to be the heroes. It can sound cliché and hokey, but it also rings true in so many games with the A’s, who lead the majors with 315 runs scored (5.34 per game).
Six different players drove in runs Wednesday, and five different ones scored themselves.
By winning the first two of this three-game series, the A’s go into Thursday’s finale gunning for the sweep against tough right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, but knowing they’ve already captured a series to begin this nine-game road trip.
No doubt, there was more to Wednesday’s story than offense. Right-hander Jesse Chavez shook off a three-run homer he allowed to Jacoby Ellsbury in the third inning and lasted through six. He left things in the hands of a bullpen that has yet to allow a run in 6 2/3 innings this series.
Chavez’s defense also came through for him on his very first hitter, when center fielder Craig Gentry raced into the alley in left-center and made a fearless diving grab to rob Brett Gardner.
It helps when all components of your team are contributing to wins. It also helps when you’ve got so many ways to jump back into a ballgame, as A’s opponents are learning all too well.