OAKLAND – Writing out a lineup is like putting together a puzzle for A’s manager Bob Melvin.
He usually has nine quality pieces to choose from, it’s just a matter of which pieces fit best where.
Melvin was at it again Monday, penciling in Derek Norris as his No. 2 hitter and Jed Lowrie as his cleanup man against the Houston Astros. It all came together to produce an 11-2 victory, and although a huge assist must be given to Houston starter Erik Bedard for his inability to find the strike zone, it was an example of what must continue to go right for Oakland this season.
[RECAP: A's 11, Astros 2]
The A’s will have players shuffling in and out of the lineup on a daily basis. That’s a fact for a team that A) gets hit hard by injuries every season, and B) has so many quality players that deserve playing time. It’s up to Melvin to find a way to plug in the right pieces on any given day and make it all come together.
With Yoenis Cespedes sidelined by a strained left hand, Lowrie stepped up as the cleanup man with four RBI Monday. With Josh Reddick struggling to find his rhythm, Chris Young hit in the No. 3 spot, doubled and scored two runs himself. And rookie Nate Freiman, drawing just his fourth start of the season, crushed a three-run homer as the designated hitter to highlight a six-run first inning off Bedard that essentially wrapped up the "W."
Freiman had been in a 0-for-11 funk, but when opportunity knocked Monday, he stepped up and delivered.
“He’s produced for us in limited action, which is really difficult for a young player,” Melvin said of Freiman.
Think back on the A’s magical 2012 season, and the first things that come to mind are walkoff victories and pies to the face. But one of the biggest keys to last season was Melvin knowing when to call on the right players at the right time.
Part of the reason the A’s had such great chemistry was because every player in the clubhouse got enough playing time to feel like they were a part of the winning formula.
That’s going to have to happen again this season.
If Freiman can keep producing, he’ll give the A’s a nice right-handed power option at first base to complement Moss, much like Chris Carter did last season. Speaking of Moss, he enjoyed a three-RBI night Monday.
“Brandon, he’s the guy,” Freiman said. “He’s earned the right to be out there. He deserves it, so when I can get in there, I want to make sure I help the team.” In a perfect world, Melvin wouldn’t have to play mix-and-match with his batting order so often. He could settle on nine guys, sit back and see if they could pave the way to another division title.
But this is the A’s. We know it’s not going to play out like that. And with so much depth on this roster, particularly in the outfield, it doesn’t have to.
Melvin has a lot of options at his disposal. It’s just a matter of calling on the right ones at the right time.
Some other noteworthy items from the postgame clubhouse …
--Freiman hit his first major league homer but admitted the moment was “bittersweet.”
He hails from Wellesley, Mass., just a short drive from where two explosions killed three people and injured dozens more during Monday’s Boston Marathon. All of his loved ones were safe, but Freiman was still shaken up.
“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Freiman said of his homer. “For my family, I’m, thankful that everyone’s safe. But for a lot of families back where I come from, it’s a nightmare.”
[RELATED: A's reflect on Boston tragedy]
--A’s left-hander Tommy Milone, who pushed his record to 3-0 on Monday, is the first pitcher on an A’s Opening Day roster to win his first three starts in a season since Dave Steart had six wins in his first six starts in 1990.