Eric Sogard has been a fixture in the A’s starting lineup, and his recent play suggests he plans to stay there.
Outside of the occasional “Face of MLB” contest, Sogard doesn’t draw much attention to himself. In fact, he gets the most notice when it seems his playing time might be in jeopardy. When the A’s acquired Ben Zobrist in the offseason to play second base, it seemed Sogard would be relegated to a utility role if he made the 25-man roster at all.
In past seasons, when the A’s have shopped for a second baseman around the trade deadline, it seemed his status was in limbo. But the A’s recognize the value in their low-profile infielder, and right now Sogard is proving his worth.
He provided the key at-bat in Saturday’s 5-0 win over Tampa Bay when his two-out RBI single in the sixth snapped a scoreless tie and ended Oakland’s dry spell with men on base. Until that hit, the A’s were 2-for-25 with runners in scoring position during the Rays series, including 0-for-6 over the first five innings Saturday.
Sogard’s run-scoring hit opened the door to a four-run inning that gave starter Kendall Graveman some breathing room.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Graveman, offense deliver in A's win vs. Rays]
With Zobrist being sidelined by a knee injury, Sogard has started the past 32 games – 31 at second base and one at shortstop. He’s hitting a very respectable .273, including a 6-for-14 spurt over the last four games.
Manager Bob Melvin said Zobrist is likely to come off the disabled list Monday against Detroit. With Coco Crisp sidelined, and with Sogard playing well, the A’s might consider giving Zobrist more playing time in left field and keeping Sogard in the lineup at second.
“I love being out there every day with these guys,” Sogard said. “I’m able to get in a groove at the plate and have comfortable at-bats knowing I’ll get three or four at-bats each day. It’s been nice having that comfort level.”
And though Sogard entered Saturday hitting just .154 against lefties, his sixth-inning hit came against Rays reliever Xavier Cedeno, a lefty known for having a good curve. With the count 1-2, Cedeno missed location with a fastball and Sogard took advantage.
In a season where the A’s can’t predict what kind of defense they’ll get on a daily basis, Sogard also has provided his typically sure-handed glove work, and he’s mixed in a few highlight-reel plays on grounders up the middle.
The A’s turned in an errorless effort in support of Graveman, who was terrific in throwing six-plus innings of three-hit ball in his first major league start since April 25.
It was a big performance from the right-hander, and one that provides the A’s hope that he’s an answer in the rotation with Drew Pomeranz currently on the DL with a shoulder injury. Graveman’s effort was encouraging in that he seemed to apply some of the things he worked on at Triple-A.
Not known for being a strikeout pitcher, Graveman had six punchouts Saturday. He threw a sinker with terrific movement and mixed in his changeup and curve very effectively as a change of pace.
“He was confident out there,” Sogard said. “He had a plan with every batter. He was hitting his spots, pounding the zone, letting his defense work behind him. He did a great job out there. It’s a great confidence-booster for him.”