OAKLAND — There was Marcus Semien, standing at his locker Tuesday night and discussing all that went right in a game.
That’s been a rare occurrence for any A’s hitter lately. After so many quick 1-2-3 innings, so many rallies that have come up empty, the A’s managed to cash in during a 5-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.
Semien was at the center of it, driving in three runs with a pair of two-out hits in the late innings. It was a gratifying night for Oakland’s shortstop, who snapped an 0-for-15 dry spell with a single in the second before doing the big damage off the Brewers’ bullpen.
“Early or late, we're trying to score runs,” Semien said. “Whatever situation we're brought upon, we try to do the best we can. Yonder had a great at-bat (in the seventh). A couple two-out RBIs, that's big for us. Of course, you want to come up big in situations with less than two outs, but (scoring with) two outs can be devastating for the other team."
The A’s came into Tuesday hitting .164 with just five runs over their last four games. They’d been held to one run or fewer six times over the last 11 games. They certainly had help from some shoddy defense from the Brewers. All three of the A’s runs during a seventh-inning rally that snapped a 2-2 tie were unearned thanks to a fielding error from shortstop Jonathan Villar.
When that not-so-quality defense was referenced in his postgame media session, A’s manager Bob Melvin could only chuckle.
“Earned, unearned, it doesn’t matter to me at this point,” Melvin said. "Our at-bats were way better the last three innings of the game than they were the first five.”
Sonny Gray, coming off one of the most perplexing starts of his career against the Texas Rangers, pitched well enough to deserve a victory. He went six innings, gave up just one earned run and struck out seven with one walk. He’s still winless over his previous eight starts, but you get the feeling that mattered little to Gray after this one.
He was in control against Milwaukee, avoiding the sudden, game-turning sequences that plagued him his previous couple outings.
“No doubt, 100 percent,” Gray said when asked if he’s seeing gradual improvement in his starts. “Even when you look at my last start against the Rangers, it was five of the best innings I’ve thrown all year. I just gave up the two homers in the sixth. If you watched the start, stuff-wise, it was a really good start and then tonight too, I felt great again. Now, I’ve just got to figure out how to get a little deeper in the game. Hopefully that’ll come my next outing.”
Gray praised his hitters. But he also praised the continued excellent work of rookie reliever Ryan Dull, who replaced John Axford in the eighth with a man on second, no outs and the tying run at the plate. Dull extinguished that threat with no runs scoring. He’s now stranded all 30 of his inherited base runners, most in the majors among relievers who have not allowed any inherited runners to score. Only the Giants’ Josh Osich has stranded more overall.
“In the sixth, I saw (Dull) warming up down there,” Gray said. “It’s kind of like you don’t want anyone to come in the game, but if he’s the guy coming in, you’re fairly confident what the outcome’s gonna be.”
For a night, the storylines provided a refreshing change for a team that had dropped 12 of its previous 15. Their three-run rally in the seventh snapped a string of four games in which the A’s never scored more than one run in a single inning.
“We can score one run here and there,” Semien said, “but the big innings are what's going to win ballgames for us and help our pitchers relax a little bit more and make the game easier."