Tony Kemp powers A’s to 7-5 win in Seattle, ending skid against Mariners


SEATTLE — Tony Kemp was a quiet starter in the Oakland Athletics roster last year. The No A batter hit base more consistently. No vestige to this year’s team compiled a superior OPS.

Kemp was not immune to Oakland’s early offensive struggles. He entered Tuesday with a weighted over 75 created points. The metric measures overall offensive value; 100 is the league average. Last season, Kemp scored 127 wRC+, the top 25 among American League hitters.

Kemp remains the A’s leading lead hitter, but woke up Tuesday with a No. 1 .550 OPS. The A’s had the fifth-lowest OPS of the majors from their first hitters. A 7-5 win over Seattle gave reason for optimism — from Kemp and Oakland’s roster as a group.

Top worked by design. Kemp has reached base in each of his first four plate appearances. Three times, Oakland’s second or third batter tackled him. That fueled a 13-hit night for the A’s, which snapped a 13-game losing streak against the Mariners who tied their longest against a team in the Oakland era.

“It just sets the tone, man,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said of Kemp’s night. “Especially when you have someone like Jed (Lowrie) hitting behind him, when you have these two guys going it’s like passing the baton, it just makes it easier for the next guy, the next guy. Tony is a big key for us.

Kemp opened the game with a single and stole second base. Chad Pinder drove a double to right field to score it. In the third, Kemp doubled down another single against George Kirby and scored on a Lowrie double. Kemp had a hit in the fifth. Lowrie followed with a home run.

“Every time you get somebody on base – what was it, four times tonight? – it starts to put pressure on the pitcher to not only handle the bat, but the runner as well. base,” Lowrie said. “That’s the point, getting on base and trying to disrupt what they’re doing.”

Kirby, the hard-throwing Mariners rookie, struck out nine A’s in five innings but had eight hits. Kemp, Lowrie and Pinder combined for six of them.

“He’s got a really good fastball, I didn’t want to get too cluttered with that slider-cutter thing he’s got and he’s got a good change and curveball,” Kemp said. “We just wanted to put some good swings on his fastball and just be able to get him into the zone and I think we did that and kind of passed it on to the next guy.”

Warming trend: The A’s started Tuesday ranked last in the majors in team batting average and OPS. Their 13 hits then tied a season high and extended an encouraging streak. It was their ninth game with double-digit hits this season and four of them have come in the last seven games.

“I think everyone is a little more aggressive right now in the strike zone,” Andrus said. “It’s something we’ve talked about, we know we’ve had a lot of good shots and hit a lot of balls at people lately, but we’re kind of helping each other stay there believing they’re going to fall .”

Andrus hit a .595 OPS in the game which ranked 10th out of 14 qualified AL shortstops. He went on to deliver two huge hits. The Mariners turned a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 lead in their fifth half. Andrus responded with a first homer in the sixth, leading Drew Steckenrider’s 2-1 change to 391 feet left.

“I was kind of fighting with the umpire on the previous batting highs and the way (Steckenrider) threw me, that was pretty high too,” Andrus said. “I was like, OK, you have to hit wherever the strike zone is, and I know they threw a lot of breaking pitches in the top of the zone.”

In the seventh, Sean Murphy walked two out and Andrus hit a one-liner into space at left center. Jesse Winker misplayed it, allowing Murphy to score from first base for the tying run. Luis Barrera threw a brace over the head of right fielder Dylan Moore to score Andrus.

The pitch: Starter James Kaprielian didn’t allow a hit his first time in the Seattle order, but found his second and third corners tougher. Ty France hit a two-out, two-run double in the third inning after Kaprielian walked No. 8 hitter Taylor Trammell and allowed a single to Winker.

Kaprielian couldn’t protect a two-point lead in the fifth. Cal Raleigh and Winker hit singles. France tackled a point with a groundout. Kaprielian retired Adam Frazier on a pop-out before dropping a slider to Julio Rodríguez, who skied him just over the left field wall for a two-run homer.

“Looking back, I wish I had been a little more shaken up for the fastball,” Kaprielian said. “I felt like France, Rodriguez, were both quite behind on a fastball tonight and I felt like I did them a favor by throwing some off-speed throws at them, and that didn’t hurt. weren’t good throws either.”

Oakland’s bullpen provided solid work starting in the sixth. Southpaw Sam Moll had four strikeouts — three by strikeout — to lower his ERA to 0.61 in 17 games. Domingo Acevedo marched France in the seventh, but pulled out Frazier and Rodríguez to block it.

Zach Jackson threw a single and a walk in a scoreless eighth, forcing Raleigh to salute a curveball to end it. Steps are a problem for Jackson, but he hasn’t been scored in 12 of his last 13 appearances. Dany Jiménez secured his ninth save by knocking out Rodríguez on a full break shot.

Matt Kawahara covers the A’s for The San Francisco Chronicle. Email: Twitter: @matthewkawahara


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