OAKLAND - In this season where the A's have sent so many clubhouse veterans packing, Marcus Semien suddenly finds himself a team spokesman.
He's all of 26 years old, in just his third major league season, but Semien now shares the title of longest tenured A's player. On Monday night, following the trade of staff ace Sonny Gray to the Yankees, Semien connected for a grand slam that made the difference as Oakland beat the Giants 8-5 in the opener of the four-game Bay Bridge Series.
Catcher Josh Phegley, starter Kendall Graveman and Semien all joined the A's before the 2015 season. But it's Semien who is the everyday presence in the lineup. And he was the one fielding questions before the game about the departure of Gray, which follows the trade of Sean Doolittle and the exit of Stephen Vogt, who was designated for assignment in June.
That trio was the A's longest tenured group, but now Semien will assume more of a leadership role.
"We've got guys like Jed Lowrie here, Yonder, Joyce, Rajai, Casilla," Semien said. "I still don't feel like I'm the veteran on this team. I just want to lead by example whatever I do out there, no matter what."
He showed the way Monday, belting a 1-1 pitch from George Kontos for his first grand slam as an Athletic, turning a 3-2 A's deficit into a 6-3 lead that they wouldn't relinquish.
HENDRIKS DOES THE JOB: After the Giants scored twice in the seventh to pull within 6-5, Liam Hendriks entered to face Buster Posey with the tying run on third. He struck Posey out on a slider and then delivered a scoreless eighth as well, getting the ball to Blake Treinen, who appears to be the A's current closer with Santiago Casilla having experienced some turbulent times saving games.
STEPPING UP: Making his first start against the Giants, Paul Blackburn delivered another strong outing, his numbers not reflecting his effort. He led 6-3 when he left the game with one out in the seventh, but the Giants got two run-scoring singles off Daniel Coulombe and those runs got charged to Blackburn, leaving five runs on his stat line. He struck out four and walked one and has pitched six innings or more in five of his six major league outings. Surely the Brentwood native faced a couple of hitters Monday that he watched on TV while in high school.
BACK IN THE FOLD: Adam Rosales' trade to Arizona on Monday morning was brought on by the need to create a roster spot for Chad Pinder, who came off the disabled list after missing five weeks with a strained hamstring. Manager Bob Melvin said Pinder will continue serve in a utility role, and it will be interesting to see if the A's experiment at all with Pinder in center field, as Melvin has suggested is possible.
RED-HOT RAJAI: The veteran outfielder spurred the A's go-ahead rally in the sixth with a pinch-hit double off the wall in left-center, helping set the table for Semien's slam. Davis is hitting .375 (18-for-48) over his past 20 games, seeing most of his time primarily against left-handed starters.
GRAVEMAN'S RETURN: Sidelined the past 2 1/2 months by a strained shoulder, Kendall Graveman will return to the A's rotation for Thursday's series finale against the Giants. That's the turn occupied by Chris Smith, and Melvin indicated Smith could shift to a bullpen role.