ARLINGTON, Texas — The A’s have been raving about Renato Nunez’s power since spring training. He hasn’t had much of an opportunity to show it off in the big leagues, but with the season coming to a close, the rookie finally showed a glimpse of that impressive skill.
After a battle with Rangers starter Martin Perez in the seventh inning that saw him just get a piece of a couple of tough pitches to stay alive, Nunez launched a 1-2 fastball over the wall in right-center for a three-run homer to bring the A’s within two runs in an eventual 5-3 loss on Friday night.
It was Nunez’s first big league home run. His fellow Venezuelan countryman Franklin Barreto stood on the top step of the dugout with his right hand lifted in the air, and Nune was greeted with an endless amount of hugs and high-fives as he made his way back to the dugout.
Nunez found himself in the starting lineup as the designated hitter. Although he had only had 10 at-bats heading into Friday’s game, A’s manager Bob Melvin figured Nunez, who led Triple-A with 32 home runs this season, would find a way to fit in with the club’s future plans.
“You look at his work in Triple-A. We love what we see in spring training. Here recently we’re trying to win as many games as we can but also trying to sprinkle guys in from time to time and get an evaluation on them here in the big leagues,” Melvin said before the game. “He’s one of those guys. Where he fits in next year, we’re not sure yet. But we know he’s a productive bat. The type of bat that you’re trying find a spot for.”
Raul Alcantara finally gave up a run as a starter after turning in scoreless outings in his previous two starts. After allowing two runs to start off the game in the first, Alcantara ran into more trouble in the fifth, surrendering a two-run bomb to Shin-Soo Choo. He was pulled shortly after the homer, allowing four runs over 4 1/3 innings of work.
Alcantara’s recent call up in September was thought to be more of a move to provide the A’s with more depth in the bullpen, but after a couple of strong showings as an emergency starter, his role could expand into something bigger.
Filling in for Jharel Cotton and Sean Manaea within the past two weeks, Alcantara had impressed manager Bob Melvin by turning in scoreless outings in both last-minute starts. Having been a starter for most of his career up until this season, the 24-year-old right-hander has positioned himself to at least compete for a role in the rotation this spring.
“I think he leaves himself open for both. The way he’s handling himself right now, he’s pressed into action twice where he just had to warm up and pitch, and he’s still doing that right now,” Melvin said before the game. “Trying to keep that routine that’s been successful for him and not get into that starter routine where you’re here later. He’s keeping the mindset of a reliever which has worked well for him.”
Alcantara got the start Friday night in place of Cotton as well, only this time he actually had the full four days to prepare for it instead of finding out he was starting the day of. Having pitched so well on short notice the last two times out, Melvin almost wishes they could have waited until the last minute again before letting Alcantara know about the start.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t do that this time,” Melvin said. “We were thinking about how we could do that, but once we announced Cotton wouldn’t pitch, it was pretty obvious who would pitch.”
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