Younger infielders give A’s, Royals cause for optimism

Two of the American League's best junior center-infielders face off for the second year in a row as Bobby Witt Jr. and the Kansas Metropolis Royals Get a rematch with Zack Gelof and the host Oakland Athletics at Tuesday evening.

Both Witt and Gelof hit historic home runs to open the series on Monday before Oakland's Brent Rooker hit a two-run walk-off home run in the ninth round for a 6-4 win.

The A's, who have the worst records among the majors, defeated them royals in three out of four conferences this season.

Witt's home run was his twenty-fifth of the season. The 23-year-old has 45 in his two-year career and reached his RBI record for 2022 when he turned 80 on Monday.

The star shortstop, which was a disappointment early in the season and only hit .222 in March/April and .234 in May, quickly improved to .280 in June, .327 in July and now .375 in August.

Seven of his house runs are available across 19 games this month.

Along with Barry Larkin (1996), Alex Rodriguez (1998), Jimmy Rollins (2006, 2007) and Hanley Ramirez (2007, 2008), Witt was the only shortstop to hit as many as 25 home runs and 35 steals in a season.

“It's an extra motivation to try to keep these things going,” Witt said after the defeat. “I have a feeling you might be on the list, but you just managed to keep going and persevering.”

The home run was his second in three games against the A's this season. He had just one home run in six games against Oakland last season.

Exactly which starter of A's is dealing with Witt to start the second game of the series is not expected to be announced until Tuesday.

Meanwhile it is royals have earmarked left-hander Angel Zerpa (1-1, 6.08 ERA) for his second consecutive start after four straight defeats following his promotion to the big leagues earlier this month.

The 23-year-old didn't have to make a decision in Thursday's 6-4 loss to Seattle, despite holding the Mariners on at least one run in four innings with six strikeouts.

The third-year major league player has never faced the A's.

Seeing new faces wasn't a problem for Oakland's Gelof, who on Monday became the fastest player in A's history and hit nine house runs in a career. He has played in just 32 major league games.

The rookie second baseman has hit base in 18 straight games, a streak that includes two four-hit games. His batting average has gone from .218 to .304 over time.

“This kid has to play day after day,” said Mark Kotsay, A's manager, after Monday's win. “He keeps putting data here, opening his eyes and making a press release to which he belongs. Not only does he belong, but he also wants to stay here for a long time and lead these people.

“The way he goes about his work, the quiet boss he's becoming, that's something I enjoy.”

Gelof confronted that royals for the first time in his career on Monday. When the A's played three games in Kansas City in May, he was yet to be promoted from the minors.

The 23-year-old made his major league debut on July 14.

—Theme stage media

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