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Spring Training Game 7: A’s Belittle Giants

MLB: Spring Training-San Francisco Giants at Oakland Athletics Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

For today’s affair, the A’s once again handily defeated their rivals across the bay in an all around strong effort on both sides of the baseball, stars and scrubs alike.

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Unusually, the same starters from the previous contest for each team were slated to take the mound in the rematch between the two rivals, as Kendall Graveman was set to take the mound against Jeff Samardzija. In the first game between the A’s and Giants, Graveman was able to get the best of Samardzija as he pitched a scoreless inning in which he was forced to navigate out of a minor two-out jam, whereas Samardzija was in trouble early and often in his one inning versus the A’s, in which Matt Joyce hit a homerun and Khris Davis scored after working a walk.

Command would be key for Graveman in his two innings of work. He began his outing with a strikeout, something Graveman would like to do far more often in this upcoming season, getting Denard Span swinging over Graveman’s hard and heavy offering. The next two Giants wouldn’t have any luck against the sinkerballer either as they each pounded the ball into the ground for easy ground outs. In Graveman’s second inning of work, Graveman got another groundout followed by an infield single by Brandon Crawford to give the Giants their first baserunner of the day, but Graveman was able to catch Crawford napping with a slick pickoff move to retire him regardless. Though Graveman would walk the next hitter, he ended his outing with an easy flyball out and finishing out two relatively painless innings.

Kendall Graveman was relieved by Ryan Dull, who wasn’t really sharp in his one inning. The A’s relief ace was a bit erratic in his first appearance of the spring, walking two Giants’ batters, but was able to induce weak contact and get easy outs in order to navigate around his control issues.

The A’s offense, meanwhile, started strong against Jeff Samardzija yet again. The former dominant reliever turned mediocre starter was in the hot seat from the first batter of the game as Alejandro de Aza kickstarted the A’s offense with a leadoff double. De Aza would fail to come around to score, as over-aggression on the basepaths resulted in him been retired on a fielder’s choice at third, but considering how generally slow and lumbering and un-athletic the Athletics were last season, it is incredibly refreshing to see A’s players trying to make a difference on offense with their legs, in addition to their bats. The A’s would fail to score in the first, but the offense would keep on pressing.

Healy and Alonso, the to-be-semi-platooned first basemen, would draw first blood for the A’s. As the Giants were putting up a whole-lot of goose eggs against Graveman and Dull, the "has-power-but-doesn’t-know-how-to-use-it" Yonder Alonso muscled an opposite field home run off of Jeff Samardzija to give the A’s the lead in the bottom of the second inning. While Jeff Samardzija settled down a bit after the home run, and managed to nearly finish up the third inning without giving up any more damage, once he was removed from the game the A’s offense lit up once again. In this case, it was Healy going deep off of Chris Stratton, also to left field, in the fourth inning to double the A’s lead. And with the way that the A’s were continuing to pitch against the Giants, a two run lead felt insurmountable.

Equally strong as Healy and Alonso in today’s game was the pitching in the middle innings. Liam Hendriks would replace Dull in the fourth inning, and he had an effortless inning resulting in a strikeout, a pop out, and a ground out. Fifth starter darkhorse Daniel Gossett would pitch the fifth and sixth innings, and while he didn’t get any strikeouts, he didn’t allow much hard contact either. The Giants could only reach base once against the fast-rising prospect, a harmless walk to Buster Posey, in Gossett’s two innings of work.

Giants’ pitching got a handle on things after the Ryon Healy home run, for a while. In the middle innings the A’s could only scratch across a couple of hits and didn’t do much with them after a batter reached base. But things took a quick turn in the seventh.

In the seventh inning the A’s put up a crooked number, after the mass substitutions that define spring games had occurred. A Rangel Ravelo walked followed by a Mark Canha double had the A’s threatening to score in the blink of an eye. Franklin Barreto, the man of every A’s fan’s (hopes and) dreams, hit an RBI single on a fly ball to left and, like de Aza had tried (and failed) to do in the first inning, used his legs to aggressively take an extra base on the throw back in. Adam Rosales grounded out for the first out of the frame, but then non-roster invitee Kenny Wilson, a player who everyone has definitely heard of and knows all about, dealt the biggest blow of the game, smacking a pinch-hit home run to to left field to bring everyone around and in.

All told, by the time the seventh inning was over, the A’s put up four runs on the board, bringing their grand total up to six on the game. The A’s didn’t walk as much in this game as they had in many other spring games up to this point, with only one walk on the entire day (courtesy of Ravelo to kick off the fateful seventh), but the team also only struck out six times, meaning the team was making pretty consistent contact all game. And much of the contact was good contact.

Now, the A’s pitching staff wasn’t perfect on the day, unfortunately, but it was close. After Paul Blackburn entered the game in the seventh inning and pitched to the tune of two strikeouts and a walk, he came back out to pitch the eighth with the shutout still intact. However, the eighth inning began with two singles and a walk to load up the bases with only one out, and the Giants finally managed to scratch across a run on an RBI groundout from one of their prospects. Simon Castro would relieve Blackburn before the inning was over, and would end the inning without allowing any further damage.

The game would end on a low-key note as Castro was able to finish the ninth and the game without breaking a sweat, striking out the last two batters he faced to end things. The A’s pitching staff on the day surrendered a few too many walks, a total of six that will be hard to get away with during the regular season, but, at the same time, only allowed three hits all day, the first coming in the first off of Graveman and the final two coming against Blackburn in the eighth.

So, once again, the A’s emerge victorious over the Giants in a spring game, pushing their most recent (spring training) record against their interleague foes to a pleasant 19-6 with eight consecutive victories to boot. A’s win, 6-1. Tomorrow, the team will be taking on the Indians.