Oakland manager Bob Melvin held new Home Run Derby participant Matt Chapman out of the lineup for a long-planned rest Sunday. It didn’t matter for the surging Athletics.
Matt Olson hit his second home run in two games to spur a 5-0 first inning in a 7-4 win over the Seattle Mariners on Sunday.
Marcus Semien and Ramon Laureano added solo shots to help the A’s push their home run streak to 12 games. They’ve hit 24 home runs during that span and extended their team record for homers before the All-Star break to 145.
“That’s the strength of our team offensively,” Melvin said. “Up and down our lineup we can hit home runs and we can put runs up in a hurry, which is what we did.”
The win gave the Athletics their seventh victory in nine games, and ninth in their last 12. They are 18-8 since June 9 and reached 50 wins Sunday. Things are starting to feel a lot like 2018 when Oakland went 63-29 over the final 92 games to earn an AL wild-card berth.
“I don’t think that we’ve played our best baseball, honestly,” Olson said. “To be where we’re at is good, to still have a chance for the division and to be in the race for the wild card, that’s where we want to be. We want to be in contention for the postseason, a playoff run.”
Olson’s 19th homer, a three-run shot to right field off opener Matt Carasiti (0-1) in the first, and Semien’s leadoff solo homer in the second helped the A’s carve out a 6-0 lead. Laureano added his 16th homer, off the left-field foul pole, in the eighth — though replay appeared to show the ball carry foul.
Olson has rebounded nicely since returning in May from a broken hamate bone in his right hand in March. The lanky first baseman has six homers in his last 10 games.
“It feels like he’s got a homer every other day,” Melvin said. “You hear a lot about the hamate injury and the strength not coming back for a while. But when you look at his home runs per at-bat, I can’t imagine it’s not right at the top of the league.”
The Mariners had been fairly effective using an opener until Sunday. The A’s jumped on Carasiti from the start, dropping Seattle to 5-7 with an opener on the mound. Semien singled to start the game, Robbie Grossman drew a walk and Olson made it 3-0 before many fans were seated.
After a strikeout, Carasiti gave up a double to Mark Canha and a single to Laureano, prompting manager Scott Servais to go to bulk-innings pitcher Wade LeBlanc earlier than planned.
LeBlanc gave up a run-scoring single to Chad Pinder and left fielder Dylan Moore compounded the mistake by allowing the ball to skate past him to the warning track. Laureano turned that bungle into a run for the 5-0 lead.
Carasiti had been sharp in the opener role in four previous appearances, allowing just five hits and one run. But on Sunday he gave up six hits and five runs — four earned — on 28 pitches, immediately taking the pressure off A’s starter Daniel Mengden (4-1).
“I just feel like I’m pitching my game and throwing strikes,” Mengden said. “And getting a crooked number in the first inning is never a bad thing. Getting five runs in the first inning, you can’t want anything better than that.”
Mengden was sharp against the Mariners, with the exception of Omar Narvaez. The catcher hit his 13th home run in the second and came up with run-scoring singles after leadoff doubles by Domingo Santana in the fourth and J.P. Crawford in the sixth to cut the lead to 6-3. Mengden, who allowed six hits and struck out six in 5 1/3 innings, served Narvaez “edible pitches,” he said.
Narvaez added his second solo shot in the eighth inning against reliever Joakim Soria to finish 4 for 4 with four RBIs. It was his first career multiple homer game and his 14 home runs are a team record for a catcher before the break.
“Omar can really hit,” Servais said. “He’s certainly earned everybody’s respect in the batter’s box there.”
Behind Narvaez, the Mariners didn’t fold after giving up that early 6-0 lead. They had a few critical plays go against them, though. Dee Gordon was stranded in the third inning after a leadoff triple and the umpires appeared to miss the call on Laureano’s homer. Twice, thought Servais, after they failed to overturn the homer on review.
“That’s a horrible call,” Servais said. “I know replay was put in really for two reasons: the catch, if guys are diving for balls and catching, and boundary calls. That should not be (a) miss. On the field, it’s tough, I get it. But when you’re looking on replay, that should not be missed on replay. That’s a bad call.”
The Mariners got good news when reliever Dan Altavilla’s MRI showed a flexor strain in his right elbow and no ligament damage. Altavilla felt pain in his forearm near his elbow during a relief appearance Friday night and feared a UCL injury. He’ll still be out for several weeks, manager Scott Servais said. … Mariners RF Mitch Haniger will not travel with the team after the All-Star break as he continues to recover from testicle surgery. Servais said Haniger will remain shut down until a scheduled doctor’s visit next week. Haniger was sent home from the team’s last road trip when he pushed his rehab too quickly. Servais has no timetable for the 2018 All-Star’s return.
Mariners reliever Sam Tuivailala pitched a scoreless inning of relief in back-to-back appearances Friday and Saturday at Double-A Arkansas and could rejoin the team after the All-Star break. Tuivailala is working his way back from muscle soreness that shut down his rehabilitation from Achilles surgery. … Servais believes closer Hunter Strickland is a few weeks away from his return from a lat strain. Strickland threw a successful 20-pitch bullpen session Saturday. Servais says he’ll travel with the team to Los Angeles where he’ll throw another bullpen session, then live batting practice before a minor league rehab assignment. … Felix Hernandez (lat strain) will throw from the mound when the team returns from the break for the first time since shutting down his rehab two weeks ago due to muscle fatigue.
Athletics: Oakland has yet to name its starting pitcher for Friday’s home game against the Chicago White Sox.
Mariners: Mike Leake (7-7, 4.32 ERA) will take the mound Friday when Seattle travels to the Los Angeles Angels.
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