FanPost

Spring Game #15: Small Ball, Barry Zito More Than Enough for A's

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

For the first four innings this afternoon, the A's seemed quiet once again. It seemed as if the same hex that had been put on the Vegas A's, who almost got no-hit by the Cubs yesterday, had carried over to today's team. Maybe the A's were in another one of those slumps that the fans had gotten to know oh-so-well. Suddenly, the A's managed to break out of their lull, and put together an exciting ball game full of small ball and stellar pitching from unlikely sources.

The game started out well for the A's, as leadoff man (and perennial Spring Training MVP) Billy Burns stayed red-hot in his attempt to win a roster spot, lined a single to left field. However, that was it - Brewers starter Kyle Lohse proceeded to shut down the A's, retiring the next eleven batters he faced in order.

On the other side of the ball, Sonny Gray wasn't bad. He sparkled in the first inning, striking out both Gerardo Parra and Ryan Braun in a 1-2-3 inning. In the second inning, though, the train almost went off the rails. Back to back singles by Khris Davis and Matt Clark set up a Hector Gomez RBI double. Sonny managed to keep his bulldog mentality and fought his way out of the one out, second and third jam unscathed, picking up a strikeout and a groundout. It was 1-0 Brewers, after two.

The third inning wasn't much better for Sonny. All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy took the first pitch he saw from Gray and crushed it for a solo home run. Once again, Gray just barely managed to escape the inning, as a single from Aramis Ramirez and a fly ball of the bat of Khris Davis misread by Sam Fuld left runners on the corners with two away. Sonny induced a line drive to right field, and this time Fuld caught it for the third out of the inning. After a quiet 1-2-3 bottom of the fourth, Sonny's day was over. He finished with four strikeouts and no walks in his four innings pitched, giving up two runs on six hits.

Ron Roenicke decided to stretch out his Opening Day starter and leave Lohse, who had simply been mowing down A's hitters, in for the top of the fifth inning. After a one out walk to Mark Canha, Roenicke pulled Lohse in favor of wicked lefty Neal Cotts against lefty hitter Eric Sogard. Sogie managed to slap a single back up the middle, advancing Canha to second. This set the stage for right-handed Tyler Ladendorf, and his great platoon splits against left-handed pitchers, to battle hard and bloop an RBI single into right field, scoring Canha and moving Sogard over to third. Up again was the diminutive Burns, who hit a fly ball deep to left field. It was caught, but it was more than deep enough to score Sogard and tie the game at two runs apiece.

Next up was Sam "Gulf" Fuld. He also battled hard against the lefty Cotts, and "gulfed" (golfed) one into center field, moving Ladendorf to third. After Fuld stole second, an errant pickoff throw to third from new pitcher Rob Wooten brought Ladendorf home to score the go-ahead run, while Fuld advanced to third base. Brett Lawrie, however, continued his disappointing spring, flying out to end the inning. But the damage had been done - the A's had taken the lead, 3-2.

In the bottom half of the fifth, recently acquired reliever Chad Smith worked a clean inning despite a pretty pathetic error by Eric Sogard. In the top half of the sixth, Stephen Vogt and top prospect Matt Olson managed solid contact off of Wooten, but were retired in order. Then came the bottom of the sixth, and that is when the Barry Zito Show began.

Actually, in that bottom half of the sixth, it was more of the "Middle Infield Defense" Show. Zito induced three consecutive ground balls, all three of which were gobbled up by middle infielders Marcus Semien and Sogard. Semien made a nice ranging play and a strong throw on one of the grounders while The Nerd, well, he did this:

In the top of the seventh, the A's went quietly once more, this time against Tyler Cravy. Second baseman Yadiel Rivera exacted his revenge on Sogard by making a nice stop of his own to rob Eric of a hit. Zito continued to induce weak contact in the latter half of the inning, in the forms of a groundout, a pop out, and a fly out.

In the eighth, the A's added an insurance run. Billy Burns reminded everyone that he is currently hotter than the sun itself by smacking another single, this time off of righty Josh Roenicke. After being bunted over to second by Max Muncy and advancing to third on another errant pickoff attempt, catcher Luke Carlin drove him in with a line drive single to left. Jason Pridie and Andy Parrino took step backs in their respective competitions for roster spots, each grounding out, ending the inning. Barry Zito, on the other hand, continued to step forward in his battle for a rotation spot - in the bottom half of the eighth, he retired the side in order once more, erasing an infield single with a double play.

In the ninth, Matt Olson stepped up to the plate against David Goforth. Olson went ahead (or, should I say, went forth?) and smacked a double the other way, showcasing some of that power we all want to see. After a Mark Canha flyout, Joey Wendle grounded out to advance Olson to third and Tyler Ladendorf beat out an infield single to bring him home and tack on another insurance run. Minor league camp call-up Bobby Crocker struck out to end the inning.

Zito was out once more for his fourth inning of work to try and close things out. He did it in a vary Zito way - fly out, pop out, and a strikeout on that glorious curve of his. Credit Sonny Gray with the win and Barry Zito with the save as the Oakland Athletics beat the Milwaukee Brewers by a score of five to three.

Notables

  • Eric Sogard 1-3, R; Tyler Ladendorf 2-4, 2 RBI, R; Andy Parrino 0-1 - Battling for utility role
  • Billy Burns 2-3, RBI, R; Jason Pridie 0-1 - Battling for potential outfield spot
  • Barry Zito 4 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K - Battling for rotation spot
  • Mark Canha - 0-3, BB, R, 2 Ks - Has 12 strikeouts in 29 PAs this spring, something to monitor
  • Matt Olson 1-4 R, 2B - Top prospect, showing his power, could move quick

On Deck

Tomorrow, the A's take on the Los Angeles Dodgers at Camelback Ranch Park. Your pitching matchup is youngster Kendall Graveman against star Zach Greinke. AthleticsNation user mkclaw22 has your Game Thread and Recap for tomorrow, so best of luck to him!

A huge thanks to Alex Hall for allowing me to host you all today in my audition. Regardless of what happens in the end, I had a great time today, and I wish the best of luck to all of my competition. Above all else, Go A's!

(Editor's Note: This is one of our Spring Training Auditions, with community members trying their hands at recapping games. Feel free to post any polite, constructive feedback/criticism in the comments section, and if you really really like the recap then find the green button at the bottom that says "Rec" to show it some extra love. Click here to revisit today's Game Thread preview.)