While the denizens of the A's home Bay Area trudged through another (needed) rainy day, the Oakland A's and Chicago Cubs squared off under the sun at Hohokam Park in Mesa, Arizona, and ended up doing a dance that resulted in a 3-3 tie, representing the Athletics' second tie of the Cactus League season.
The game featured two promising 26 year old right handed starters, Jesse Hahn for the Athletics and Kyle Hendricks for the visiting Cubs, and, while the final score was a tie ballgame, the A's starter lost the early battle, due to an unusually wild first inning on the hill.
The Cubs opened the scoring in the top of the first as Anthony Rizzo belted a leadoff double, followed by a walk to Javier Baez. That is when things got a little extra shaky in Hahn's first set, as he followed with two wild pitches, one moving both runners up to second and third, and the second plating Rizzo for the first run of the game. On the play, Baez also tried to sneak home for a second run, but backstop Josh Phegley fired a strike to Hahn covering the plate that stopped Baez for the first out of the inning. After a Kyle Schwarber K, Hahn allowed a solo shot to Jeimer Candelario, which made the score 2-0, which is where the inning would close on a David Ross groundout.
The A's went down rather meekly vs. Hendricks, as his 4 innings resulted in just one hit, a two out double by Billy Butler in the 2nd, and one walk, a one out free pass earned by Josh Reddick in the 4th.
For Hahn's part, after the wild first inning, he settled in for a much more composed second and third frame, allowing a single base runner via a one out single by Willson Contreras in the second. Hahn would finish with 3 IP, 3 hits, 1 BB, 2 runs (both earned), and 2 Ks.
Click here for a frame of one of his two Ks, this one vs. Kyle Schwarber.
According to Wes Mills, Hahn's fastball sat in the 92-94 range for the outing.
The middle innings featured the Athletics new right handed setup trio, with Liam Hendriks, John Axford and Ryan Madson taking the 4th, 5th and 6th, respectively. The Cubs were unable to plate a run vs. the three armed monster, as Hendriks worked out of of a 1st and 3rd jam by inducing a 1-6-3 DP, Axford struck out two and walked one (par for the course for Axford) in a quick 5th, and Madson himself ended a jam with a 6-4-3 DP started by Franklin Barreto with a notable turn by Jed Lowrie at 2nd. The Hendriks-Axford-Madson order is one that A's fans may get used to this year, and it was good to see them keep the Cubs off the board.
The A's veteran lineup continued to be held scoreless in the 5th and 6th by Cubs LHP Travis Wood. The A's saw a lone single by Phegley in the 5th and a double by Lowrie in the 6th, but that was it versus Wood.
A's presumptive closer Sean Doolittle worked the 7th and yielded the only other Cubs run of the game on a one out homer allowed to John Andreoli on a fastball. Doolittle then allowed a walk and a single before being bailed out by a spectacular wall-crashing catch by backup CF Tyler Ladendorf for the 2nd out, followed by another notable catch on the warning track by Ladendorf. Ladendorf hopes to earn a surprise spot on the opening day 25 man roster, primarily by showing his ability in the field - he has seen time at CF, SS, 2B and LF in the Cactus League - and today's spectacular plays certainly did not hurt his cause.
The A's bats continued to do little in the 7th and 8th sets, with a Khris Davis single and Mark Canha walk being the only base runners.
A's #2 left handed pitching prospect Dillon Overton worked a scoreless 8th and 9th frame, setting them down in order in the 8th, before working through two hits, including a leadoff double, in the 9th, with help from another impressive Cactus League prospect, as catcher Bruce Maxwell gunned down Arismendy Alcantara on a steal attempt with runners at the corners and one out. Jesus Guzman flied out to end the threat. While Overton was one of the first wave of players sent down to minor league camp, his first Big League camp was a success.
While the A's pitching and defense was the most notable story of the game, the A's batters earned their share of the credit for the tie based on a rousing comeback rally in the 9th off Cubs closer Hector Rondon (30 saves in 2015), which was led by the A's wunderkinds. After a Max Muncy leadoff line out, scorching Cactus Leaguer Andrew Lambo singled followed by another Canha walk. Top A's hitting prospect Barreto stepped to the plate and drove in the first A's run with an RBI base hit, and was followed by an RBI base hit by Ladendorf, upon which Barreto made a heads up play to scamper to third base in front of the throw. This proved critical to the tie as Matt Olson hit a high, but short, fly ball to RF Kelly Dugan, which was just deep enough to plate the speedy Barreto from third base for the tying run. Bruce Maxwell struck out to end the game, but the A's youngsters had achieved the rally and enabled the "sister kissing" outcome.
Coming off a defensive clunker versus the Rangers Saturday, the A's showed much better poise and defensive prowess this game, as they did not have an error and made numerous big plays in the field, including multiple double plays, Ladendorf's big run-saving catches, and Maxwell's critical gunning down of a runner in the 9th. It was impressive to see the A's rebound from the adversity of the early weekend.
The A's play next in their first night game of the Cactus League, Monday at 7:05 PM vs. the Cross Bay Rivals. Sonny Gray takes the hill for the A's in his 2nd Cactus League start, facing off against SF's newly acquired Johnny Cueto. The game will be broadcast live on CSN California and aired on flagship station 95.7 The Game. As far as Cactus League games go, this one means more than most, so be sure to tune in and also keep the great conversation going here at Athletics Nation. Tomorrow's game thread will be guest hosted by jacobycarmola. Go A's!