Burns' first-pitch strategy keeps paying off

Burns' first-pitch strategy keeps paying off

SEATTLE -- For as many unpredictable happenings that have occurred during a tumultuous season for the A's, there are certain events that have simply come to be expected.

Billy Burns swinging at the first pitch is one of them.

The rookie leadoff man has put the ball in play on the first pitch 94 times in 437 plate appearances this season. Three times he did it in Wednesday's 8-2 loss in Seattle, including the first inning, when he launched the first pitch of the game from Mariners ace Felix Hernandez over the center-field wall for his third home run of the year.

"Just looking to see the ball out of his hand and put a good swing on a pitch I feel like I can drive," Burns said. "Fortunately he threw a fastball middle-in and I just got the barrel to it."

Hernandez admitted, "It was a bad pitch."

"I knew he was going to swing there, and he put a good swing on it," the Mariners pitcher said. "He's swinging at the first pitch all the time. The first pitch of the game, I'm not going with a breaking ball, I'm going fastball, but I should have located it better and it shouldn't have been a homer."

"It doesn't matter who it is, it's just special when I can get one out," Burns said. "I didn't really know if it was going out. I thought it would hit the wall or skip the wall or something, so I was running for a triple out of the box."

Burns' three home runs surpass his total in 1,513 Minor League at-bats (two), and his 123 hits are most among American League rookies.

His newfound aggressive approach, implemented into his game at the end of last season, has resulted in 46 first-pitch hits for a .489 batting average in such situations, which ranks eighth in the AL.

"I feel bad for the No. 2 guy a lot of times," manager Bob Melvin joked before Wednesday's matchup, "because if he swings at the first pitch and makes an out, it puts a little bit of pressure on the No. 2 guy to maybe see a couple of pitches or at least one.

"It's not like the other teams don't know he swings at the first pitch. As long as he's having success and he's not going out of the zone and making first-pitch outs consistently, it's a strength."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.