OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Eduardo Escobar has found his hitting stroke at just the right time for the New York Mets.
Escobar hit a grand slam, Chris Bassitt pitched eight sharp innings in his return to Oakland, and the Mets extended their lead in the NL East by beating the Athletics 9-2 on Friday night.
After a stint on the injured list in August, Escobar is playing his best ball at the most important time of year for the Mets. He is hitting .329 with seven homers and 17 RBIs this month.
''It's nice to be able to have those results after working so hard each and every day,'' he said ''But the process hasn't really changed. I'm just happy that we're able to go out there and win games and that I'm helping the team win games.''
Brandon Nimmo and Mark Vientos each added a pair of RBIs to move the Mets 2 1/2 games ahead of Atlanta in the division. The Braves lost 9-1 in Philadelphia.
New York has won seven of eight games to open a little cushion in the tight division race before traveling to Atlanta for three games next weekend. The Mets are also assured of the top wild-card spot if they lose the division, guaranteeing they would host the best-of-three wild-card round if they finish behind the Braves.
Bassitt (15-8), traded by Oakland to the Mets before the season, shut down his old team, allowing two runs and six hits. Bassitt's 2.43 ERA in 41 starts at the Coliseum is third best to Hall of Famers Catfish Hunter and Vida Blue among players with at least 20 starts there.
''I really like this ballpark, just in the aspect that I feel like a lot of guys don't around the league,'' Bassitt said. ''If you don't like being in a spot, I feel it's kind of a big advantage if I do like being there. I love this ballpark. There's a lot of reasons. But I like it a lot.''
Bassitt got all the support he needed in a three-run second thanks to an RBI single by Vientos and a two-run single by Nimmo against Cole Irvin (9-12).
Escobar put it away in the fifth when he sent the first pitch he saw into the left-field seats to clear the bases with his first career slam.
''He's an easy guy to show confidence in because he cares so much and he works hard at his trade,'' manager Buck Showalter said. ''I think it does a lot for a team when a guy like him repays the confidence that his teammates have in him.''
Irvin allowed eight runs and 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings.
The A's matched a franchise record with their 50th loss of the season at the Coliseum, equaling their total from the 1979 season. They have five home games remaining.
Mets hitting coach Eric Chavez was honored before the game by being inducted into the A's Hall of Fame. Chavez spent 13 seasons in Oakland, winning six Gold Gloves at third base and hitting at least 20 homers seven straight seasons.
''It's pretty cool,'' Chavez said. ''The history here in Oakland goes pretty deep and a lot of good players that have come through here.''
Mets: Nimmo was back in the lineup after leaving Wednesday's game following the first inning because an injured left quadriceps. An MRI came back clean and Nimmo tested it out before the game before going into the lineup. Nimmo had three hits before leaving the game early for precautionary measures.
A's: RHP Joel Payamps was placed on the 15-day IL with a strained lumbar muscle. ...Oakland claimed INF Ernie Clement off waivers from Cleveland and recalled LHP Sam Selman from Triple-A Las Vegas.
Jacob deGrom (5-2, 2.32) takes the mound for the Mets after becoming the only pitcher to strike out at least 13 batters with no walks in five innings in his previous start. Ken Waldichuk (0-2, 7.13) starts for Oakland.
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