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Spring Game #27: Poor Pitching Hands A’s Defeat

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MLB: Oakland Athletics-Media Day Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

You’ve really got to hand it to the offense for hanging in there on a day where the team appeared buried early to make this game interesting until the very end, but ultimately the Reds would emerge victorious in this Spring affair, 11-6.

***Click Here to Revisit Today’s Game Thread***

Sean Manaea didn’t have his best game today. Spring Training is at the stage where starting pitchers are expected to throw at least five innings, and be fully stretched out for the season right around the corner, but against the Reds Manaea could only get through three innings pitched, with six runs allowed on the board. The crux of Manaea’s problems today weren’t a mystery, however, as the power lefty had given up his fifth walk before he recorded his fifth out. Two of those walks occurred with the bases loaded, gifting the Reds two runs. The one strikeout Manaea procured on the day came against the opposing pitcher, Reds’ prospect Amir Garrett.

Fellow left-hander Sean Doolittle also wasn’t as sharp as he could have been today. While Doolittle would strike out the side in his one inning of work while walking none, two runs would cross the plate in between his flashes of dominance courtesy of two doubles and a triple. While it would have been nice for either Manaea or Doolittle to appear sharper with opening day looming, it is important to remember that both pitchers are still making tweaks and adjustments and aren’t guaranteed to display the issues they have been displaying once the games matter.

On the other hand, righties Santiago Casilla and Ryan Madson, and less importantly, Jake Sanchez and Aaron Kurcz, were excellent, combining to pitch four innings while allowing three total baserunners, none of whom would come around to score. Casilla, specifically, made quick work of the Reds in his inning of work and had a one-two-three inning, while Madson successfully navigated around two doubles thanks to some surprisingly good Athletics’ defense.

Key cogs today for the A’s offense were Matt Joyce, Stephen Vogt, and Yonder Alonso. Despite facing a left-handed pitcher in Garrett, Joyce got the start, and continued to do what made him so successful last season by walking three times in four at bats. He would only come around to score once, but he was a constant presence on the basepaths. Alonso would only wind up with a single on his day, but his power still showed through. Coming into spring training with his new swing in tow, Alonso has looked like an entirely different player than he has been for his entire career, and has made the A’s commitment to him for another season look less foolish, albeit during a time when the games don’t matter. His single, in particular, was a screaming line drive that banged hard off of the right field wall that was hit too hard for the first baseman to advance to second. If Alonso could pair his superb defense and clubhouse presence with newfound power, he could wind up being the key signing of the A’s offseason. Vogt would drive in two runs via sacrifice fly while acting as the A’s designated hitter today, and did his part in making Reds’ pitchers work by going deep into the count and looking more like the Stephen Vogt of old.

On the other hand, Rajai Davis, Trevor Plouffe, and Richie Martin had significant performances in today’s game as well. Davis would hit his first home run of the Spring, proving yet again that he can flex his muscles at the right moment, and would also prove that he still isn’t losing any speed with age as he stole second base with ease despite being picked off of first. Batting cleanup, Plouffe swatted an RBI single in the first inning to give the A’s an early, short-lived lead, and would triple and score in the fourth. Martin, getting the start and playing all nine innings due to a Marcus Semien illness, looked great on both sides of the baseball. Not only did Martin net two hits, one of them a speed-aided double on a softly hit ball down the line, he flashed his big-league ready defense by uncorking a perfect throw from the outfield on a relay to gun down a potential run at the plate during Madson’s eventful inning, and used his range and reflexes to take care of anything hit in his direction all game. Martin, like Alonso, has very recently made one of the famed "swing adjustments" that have made guys like Ryon Healy or Josh Donaldson or many, many more ballplayers successful in recent years, and if Martin can have even an average bat at the big league level, he could be a mainstay in the show for years and years.

Despite the good continued strong performances on offense, the poor showings of Manaea and Doolittle, along with a ninth inning rally against minor-league depth pitching, was too much to overcome. The A’s lose their split-squad affair 11-6. The full team plays tomorrow at 1:00 at the Brewers.