OAKLAND — Having endured plenty of hard times and misfortune so far in 2016, the A’s are showing some resiliency as the calendar turns to June.
They banked their fourth consecutive victory Tuesday night, 7-4, over the Minnesota Twins, getting production from their middle-of-the-order hitters and another big night from their bullpen.
Perhaps most importantly, the A’s haven’t caved when there were stretches throughout May that suggested their season might slip from their grasp completely. A string of significant injuries, combined with an atrocious stretch of starting pitching, had the A’s on the ropes. They finished May with an 11-17 record but closed the month by winning 10 of their final 18.
“We’ve won four in a row, it’s a good feeling we have in here right now,” catcher Stephen Vogt said. “I feel like we’re playing really good complete baseball. We’re throwing the ball well, playing good defense and we’re coming through with timely hitting.”
Khris Davis and Danny Valencia obviously have been a huge part of what’s been going right offensively, and Valencia enjoyed a three-RBI night Tuesday to lead the A’s charge. His two-run homer in the third showcased his opposite-field power, as he got his arms extended on a 3-1 pitch from Tyler Duffey and lined a ball over the right field wall.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Valencia drives in three, A's win fourth straight]
Manager Bob Melvin was impressed with Valencia’s approach at the plate all night, noting the difficulty for a right-handed hitter to homer to right at the Coliseum.
“It’s not easy here, it’s very hard,” Valencia confirmed. “We try it in B.P. all the time. My first couple of at-bats, everything was away. That made me set my eyes out over the plate. I knew I hit that ball good. Like you guys know, the Coliseum’s a big place, and I’m happy I hit it good enough to get it out.”
But Vogt’s recent emergence has also lifted the A’s. Melvin installed him as the No. 3 hitter shortly after Josh Reddick went out with a fractured thumb May 19. Through May 15, Vogt was hitting .238. But over his past 12 games, he’s batting .357 (15-for-42) and has reached base safely in all 12 contests. He came through with a two-run double in the eighth Tuesday that bumped a 5-4 lead to 7-4, giving closer-for-the-night John Axford some breathing room as he notched his first save with the A’s. Melvin’s plan was to stay away from Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle due to their recent heavy use.
“Tacking on a couple extra in the eighth going into the ninth, it definitely eases my shoulders up a little bit,” Axford said. “You’re not quite as tense. You can attack a lot easier. Tonight I threw fastballs. If it’s a one-run game, you might not able to get away with that.”
The A’s (24-29), still 7 1/2 games behind first-place Texas, will take aim at the sweep Wednesday before heading out on an eight-game trip that takes them through Houston and then interleague series at Milwaukee and Cincinnati. They appeared a beaten team at times throughout May but didn’t go down for the count.
“We’ve been on a roller coaster, and you don’t want to ride the tide either direction too far,” Axford said. “I think this is a pretty good club to keep things as even keel as possible. We’ve got a bunch of fighters in here and guys that want to keep going after it.”