OAKLAND — In a season where the A’s have sold off veterans like hot cakes, Jed Lowrie is one of very few seasoned players left that bring experience to a lineup that features mostly rookies and second-year players.
Lowrie displayed some of that veteran prowess on Friday night.
Trailing 4-3 in the eighth with runners on the corners, The 33-year-old second baseman smashed a 2-2 pitch from Brad Bach to the center field warning track that bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double that tied the score and set the table for the go-ahead run on Chad Pinder’s sacrifice fly in a 5-4 win over the Baltimore Orioles.
It was Lowrie’s second double of the night as he now leads the majors with 37. On a team that possesses several young players the A’s are expecting to be cornerstone pieces for the club a few years down the line, Lowrie quietly continues to put together a solid season with multiple clutch hits.
“It shows a lot of character from a young team,” Lowrie said of the comeback. “It shows some of the young guys how it’s done.”
Although the A’s focus at this year’s non-waiver trade deadline revolved around Sonny Gray and Yonder Alonso, there was also plenty of chatter going around about Lowrie possibly being dealt to a contender as well. Lowrie couldn’t help but get distracted by the rumors at the time and even admitted to being surprised that he was still a part of the club after July 31.
Now batting .275 and leading all of baseball in doubles, Lowrie could still get dealt to a contender before September. Whether or not it happens now, Lowrie said he will be more at ease this time around.
“I think before the non-tender it was a distraction no doubt because everyone was talking about it,” Lowrie said. “After the deadline now if it were to happen it just kind of happens. It’s just not a theme that everybody is talking about.”
With baseballs flying out of ballparks in record numbers this season, strikeout totals are also up. Young teams like the A’s, who entered the night with the sixth-most home runs at 157 and second-most strikeouts with 1072, have ability to put on a show at the plate or look foolish on any given day.
The latter turned out to be the case on Friday night as the A’s struck out a total of 12 times.
Ubaldo Jimenez is far removed from his days as a power-pitching Cy Young candidate, but he showed flashes of his old self. Eight of his first nine outs came by way of the strikeout as he finished the night allowing three runs with a season-high 11 punchouts in 5 1/3 innings pitched.
Jimenez entered the night with a 6.31 ERA. A’s manager Bob Melvin, who faced Jimenez multiple times during his stint as manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, said even a diminished Jimenez can be tough for a team of young hitters.
“If you haven’t seen him before sometimes you just caught in between with the amount of pitches he has to work with,” Melvin said. “We did get his pitch count up but obviously our offense was much better in the second half.”
Rookie Paul Blackburn was unable to hold a 3-2 A’s lead in the fifth after allowing a two-run double to Jonathan Schoop. The Brentwood native regrouped and did his best to keep the the A’s in the ballgame. Despite allowing a career-high 10 hits, Blackburn managed to limit the damage to four runs in 5 2/3 innings pitched as he exited the game with the A’s only facing a one-run deficit.
“It was a grind out there tonight. My fastball kind of had its own mind out there,” Blackburn said. “That’s a really good offense over there. I was leaving fastballs over the middle and they were capitalizing on it so I have to tip my hat to them.”
Matt Olson blasted a two-run home run in the fourth to put the A’s ahead 3-2. It was the rookie’s his first big league home run since June 30 and also the first baseman’s first since being called back up from Triple-A last week following the Yonder Alonso trade.
Olson, who hit 23 home runs in Triple-A so far this season, will get plenty of opportunities to seize the void at first base left behind from Alonso’s departure.
— In order to make room on the roster for Triple-A call-ups Boog Powell and Michael Brady, the A’s optioned outfielders Jaycob Brugman and Mark Canha back to Nashville.
A’s manager Bob Melvin believes Brugman could work on his defense by playing more aggressively in the outfield, but said the move was made mostly to get a closer look at the club’s newest acquisition. Powell will take over Brugman’s platoon role which saw him get most starts in center field against right-handed pitchers.
“Jaycob did a pretty good job swinging the bat but we are going to tinker with some moves here a little bit,” Melvin said. “Based on the fact we made a trade, we want to take a look at Boog Powell.”
Brugman was hitting .266 with three home runs and 12 RBI in 48 games while Canha went 5 for 16 with a home run and three RBIs in five games for the A’s.
“We’ll probably see all these guys back in September,” Melvin said. “Certainly I don’t think Brugman did anything to play his way out of here. It’s just a matter of trying to see some different guys.”
— Bobby Wahl will undergo thoracic outlet surgery with his right arm with Dr. Gregory Pearl in Dallas on Monday. Wahl was already on the 60-day disabled list as he continues to deal with shoulder discomfort. A timetable for his return will be given after the surgery is performed.
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