OAKLAND – Danny Valencia served a role he’s unaccustomed to Saturday and filled a batting-order spot he normally doesn’t fill. That’s life for a player picked up on waivers, when he’s cut loose from one team and lands in foreign territory with another. Since being claimed by the A’s on Monday, the former Blue Jay has found the best way to fit in:
Valencia impacted an A’s victory for the second day in a row, lining a two-run double to provide all the offense required in a 2-1 victory over the Houston Astros. Drawing a start at designated hitter and batting cleanup, which are both unusual for him, Valencia went 2-for-4. He’s now 4-for-7 with three RBI and a homer in the past two games, 5-for-12 overall in three games with Oakland.
The idea was for the right-handed hitting infielder to play third against lefties and provide some versatility off the bench. Thanks to his fast contributions, his role figures to expand on a team that’s in the market for a consistent offensive spark.
“He’s been great, knocking in runs, and that’s what you want guys in the middle of the order to do,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “… We want to give him some opportunities here against righties. We gave him a big one today, and he came through for us.”
Asked if he envisions Valencia getting more starts against right-handers, Melvin replied: “I do.”
[INSTANT REPLAY: Valencia, Chavez lift A's to win over Astros]
That playing time could come at third base, since Brett Lawrie has shown the ability to handle second base adequately, albeit in a very small sample size. Or it could come at DH as it did Saturday, with Billy Butler on the bench.
Two productive games is hardly enough to get worked up about. But a strong showing from Valencia through the end of the season could set him up to be part of the 2016 plans, wherever that may be on the diamond. He’s also played first base, second base and the corner outfield spots, though third base is by far his most comfortable spot.
Valencia, 30, is under team control for the next two seasons and won’t break the bank through arbitration, meaning he fits the profile the A’s like.
“You just go out there and play your game, whether you're in there or not, stick to your routine, try to have quality at-bats,” Valencia said. “This game's hard. You're not going to get hits every day, you're not going to do well every day. Obviously, the more you're out there the better you feel.”
The A’s mustered just five hits Saturday, but it was enough thanks to seven solid innings from starter Jesse Chavez (6-11) and a reliable performance from the bullpen. Edward Mujica took over for setup man Drew Pomeranz with a runner on and no outs in the ninth. He wound up stranding the tying run at third to collect his first save with the A’s.
“That’s a game that we have not done very well in, and you have to resist the thoughts of, ‘Oh, here we go again,’” Melvin said, a reference to his club’s 12-26 record in one-run games.
Chavez notched just his second win since June 23, and he completed seven innings for the first time since June 17. He came in with a 6.23 ERA over his previous seven starts, leading one to wonder if his days in the rotation might be numbered.
Chavez said he worked on a flaw at the top of his windup, when he was leaning backwards before getting his momentum moving toward home plate.
“That's something you don't want to do as a pitcher, is pitch off your heels,” he said. “That was what happened and it led to things being flat. Today was better misses -- down and not up.”
Left fielder Coco Crisp left the game due to illness after two innings. Melvin said Crisp experienced nausea, a side effect of medication he’s been taking.
“I plan on playing him (Sunday) at this point,” said Melvin.