Struggling Matt Chapman looks to regain form, hits two homers in Athletics win over Giants

Homer Bailey's ownage on the Giants continues

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Aug. 14: The Oakland Athletic’s Matt Chapman is greeted by teammate Stephen Piscotty after scoring on a 2-run, third inning double by Matt Olson against the San Francisco Giants, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019, at Oracle Park in San Francisco, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
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SAN FRANCISCO — Matt Chapman’s mom has gotten used to the army sergeant buzzcut, but the look alarmed the third baseman’s Postmates delivery guy the other day.

“I kinda snuck up behind him like ‘Matt?’ and he was like ‘Woah!’ Chapman said. “I’ve never had people freak out over a haircut like this before.”

All this attention paid to one haircut might be spent elsewhere if the haircut-to-offensive-production correlation didn’t fit so seamlessly. Since Chad Pinder took clippers to his locks in Chicago, Chapman’s put together a .313 average with three home runs.

Two of those home runs came Wednesday afternoon. His first-inning homer off Tyler Beede and ninth-inning one off Trevor Gott sandwiched the A’s wild 9-5 win over the Giants at Oracle Park, splitting the two-game bout that kicked off the Bay Bridge Series to conclude at the Coliseum on August 24 and 25.

Do fewer hairs on his head alleviate some pressures at the plate?

“I don’t know, maybe,” Chapman said. “Helmet feels a little better on my head.”

He’ll knock on wood when reminded, but Chapman has a five-game hitting streak with a bald head. Surely this is a coincidence (right?), but the A’s star was sure to break out of his strange lull. His world is tilting back to its normal state.

Chapman is still extending through fastballs away — like on that 3-2 fastball Tyler Beede served up that left Chapman’s bat at 106 mph 411 feet into the centerfield bleachers.

But now he’s making healthier contact on breaking balls. Instead of getting on top of Trevor Gott’s two-strike curveball, Chapman barreled it 434 feet into left-center. It was a crucial swing that seemed to take the wheels off a Giants’ attempt to close an early 7-0 A’s lead.

Chapman was thinking small, but went big naturally.

“I didn’t expect to go up there and hit two home runs after I’d been struggling for a little bit,” he said. “You just want to go up there and get good at bats and get some hits.”

Substantial steps out of a slump are worth celebrating until your starting pitcher starts stringing hits together in his third and fourth at-bats of the season.

“He was up there making it look easy and I was getting jealous,” Chapman laughed.

That’s right, Homer Bailey had two hits, including a three-foot RBI single. It fit the type of afternoon the A’s new acquisition was having; in his sixth start for Oakland, Bailey tossed seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits (both to Kevin Pillar) with seven strikeouts.

With it lowered his 8.17 ERA with the A’s down to a more digest-able 6.46. But his home and away splits are more telling.

Prior to Wednesday’s start, Bailey’s road ERA with Oakland ballooned to 20.57 — that includes two starts against the Astros and Cubs in which he allowed 16 earned runs in 6.2 innings total. His home ERA simmers down to a 3.31.

Oracle Park maybe didn’t have that tough road team feel to it, maybe the park sits in some gray area on this scale rendering Bailey’s effectiveness. He’s had tremendous success against the Giants in particular. Since his no-hitter with the Cincinnati Reds back in 2012, Bailey is 5-0 with a 1.21 ERA against San Francisco.

Bailey, fresh off a clunker in Chicago, was working his splitter in the strike zone — just like the A’s had hoped when they acquired him.

“From what we’ve seen, when his split is on he’s a tough customer to deal with,” manager Bob Melvin said.

Next up

Because the Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays all lost today, the A’s move back just two games behind the Rays for the second Wild Card spot.

The Houston Astros also lost, and will be in Oakland starting Thursday afternoon for a crucial four-game series.

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