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Soderstrom heating up as A’s approach midway point
Tyler Soderstrom
Oakland Athletics' Tyler Soderstrom (21) celebrates with Shea Langeliers (23) after hitting a two-run home run against the Minnesota Twins during the second inning of a baseball game on Thursday in Minneapolis (AP Photo/Abbie Parr).

The weather is heating up across the nation, and so has the bat of Tyler Soderstrom in the midst of an eight-game road trip for the Oakland Athletics.

On Thursday at Target Field in Minneapolis, the 2020 Turlock High graduate blasted a 431-foot, two-run home run to dead center field against Twins starting pitcher and Stanislaus State alumnus Joe Ryan. It was his third homer in the last four games. And despite the A’s riding a seven-game losing streak and dropping eight of their last nine as they fall further into last place in the American League West (26-46), the organization has newfound confidence in the 22-year-old as he strings together arguably the best stretch of his young major league career.

In the last nine games, the 2020 first-round draft pick and former top Oakland prospect has driven in six runs on nine hits, including the three home runs, while batting in the heart of the A’s order. He has been either fifth or in the cleanup spot in the last seven games.

“I think it just goes into the work,” Soderstrom said in Thursday’s postgame media availability. “You get the reps up here with everyday at-bats and keep working hard. The biggest thing is just taking it day by day, working hard and trusting yourself.”

As Soderstrom alluded to, consistency has been a major factor in his recent success at the big league level. Not only has he started Oakland’s last eight games, but he has played each game at first base. A’s broadcaster Dallas Braden explained that having the young ballplayer focus solely on the corner infield instead of having the extra burden of having to block balls and call pitches may be making a world of difference.

“As far as first base is concerned, I think he's come a long way,” Athletics General Manager Dave Forst said on the A’s Cast podcast. “He didn't do it a lot in the minor leagues. Catcher was his primary position… He does a really nice job going down the line and getting those balls… I think we're very pleased with our Tyler's out right now.”

Since being called up from Triple-A Las Vegas on May 8, he has a .224 average (17-for-76) with four blasts, three doubles and 11 RBI. The Athletics front office may also be satisfied with 12 walks, already eclipsing his total in 125 at-bats in 45 games from last year’s rookie campaign.

“I’m just trying to live day by day,” Soderstrom said. “Just put my head down, enjoy being up here and enjoy the process.”

A’s manager Mark Kotsay believes the recent stretch of success shows that Soderstrom has matured at the plate and in his game preparation.

“Tyler’s been able to make an adjustment on some pitches he was chasing,” said A’s manager Mark Kotsay. “He’s done a nice job of shrinking the zone, getting pitches he can handle and putting good swings on them. … Those types of at-bats show the progress he’s making that, ultimately, will lead to a lot of success for him.”

“I'm really happy with the progress Tyler has made from his first call-up last year to where he's at now in his second time in the big leagues,” Forst added. “This is the progress we've talked about… Guys making adjustments. From where he was last year where we probably brought him up before he was ready with only a couple, about 100 AAA at-bats under his belt, to see the reality of the big leagues and how guys got him out to where he is now. I mean, (now he’s hitting) fourth in the lineup… He’s turning into a big league hitter.”

In his postgame presser Thursday, even Ryan couldn’t help but praise the Turlocker and his massive blast on Thursday afternoon.

“I was texting people back home, if anyone on the team’s going to hit it, I’m OK with (Soderstrom), because I watched him in high school  before he got drafted when I was at Stanislaus," said Ryan, who pitched for the Warriors in the spring of 2018 before getting drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays later that year.

On Monday, Soderstrom produced the lone run for Oakland in a 6-1 loss to the San Diego Padres at Petco Park when he blasted a 405-foot shot to right-center field off of Dylan Cease in the second inning. The next day, he channeled his clutch gene when he launched a Enyel De Los Santos four-seater 421 feet to left center field to knot the game at 3 in the eighth inning, a game in which ended in a heartbreaking Kyle Higashioka walk-off home run in the ninth.