OAKLAND -- A's shortstop Cliff Pennington has been one of the weaker bats in a lineup that, before the team's recent offensive surge, has struggled mightily for most of the season. The 28-year-old is hitting just .222 for the year with a .282 on-base percentage.
But just as Oakland's offense has heated up in the last two weeks, averaging 6.4 runs over the team's past 14 games, Pennington, too, has been swinging a better bat. He's hitting .375 with six extra-base hits in his last 11 games after going 3-for-41 in the 13 games before that.
In the first two games of the series against San Diego, Pennington, who's mostly hit last in the order, has reached base in seven of eight plate appearances, including a 3-for-3, two-RBI performance on his birthday Friday. A's manager Bob Melvin said on Sunday that the shortstop's recent success has helped the whole lineup.
"He's a guy that we expect to produce," Melvin said. "He's done it in the two-hole, and he can do it down in the lineup, too. When you have a guy doing that in the nine-spot, your lineup's pretty deep, and at this point in time, the way we're swinging the bats now, we are a deep lineup.
"We feel like we have a chance to score every inning, not just at the top of the lineup or [when] the middle of the order's up."
Melvin said Pennington works as hard as any other player on the team but that sometimes he may put a little too much pressure on himself to perform, which has led to his hitting struggles. But Pennington compensates with steady defense.
"As far as the streaks go, sometimes you talk yourself into those, but he always brings his glove," Melvin said. "At shortstop, that's very important. Depending on the makeup of your team, your roster, some teams do rely on their shortstops to be production guys, but first and foremost he's a defender for us and a leader in the infield."