The A’s cruised to an easy win over the Chicago Cubs Sunday at Hohokam Stadium. Hopefully for the team, especially the pitching staff, it was a sign of things to come.
The A’s pitching staff made defeating the 2016 World Series Champion Cubs look pretty easy this afternoon, by the score of 7-2. The only offense the Cubs could muster was two early home runs off of A’s starter Sean Manaea, who took home the win.
After getting Ben Zobrist to ground out to begin the second inning and then striking out Jason Heyward, for his second strikeout of the day, Manaea allowed a pair of back-to-back solo home runs to Kyle Schwarber and then Chris Gimenez. Still, that was all the damage the Cubs managed against the Athletics’ pitchers Sunday as Manaea got Victor Caratini to ground out to end the inning.
Manaea finished his second start of the season going a full four innings while allowing four hits, two runs, and three strikeouts. His third strikeout victim was Kris Bryant for the final out of the top of the third inning.
Cubs starter Yu Darvish pitched well, collecting five strikeouts and allowing just a walk in 3.1 innings of work. However he, like Manaea, allowed two runs on four hits. The A’s began hitting off of Darvish in the bottom of the fourth inning when Jed Lowrie led off with a single. After Khris Davis popped out, it was Matt Olson’s turn. He singled to center plating Lowrie.
That run signaled the end of Darvish’s day as he was then replaced by Kyle Ryan. Ryan allowed a single right off the bat to Stephen Piscotty and later in the inning a three-run shot to Matt Chapman that scored both Piscotty and Olson. It was Chapman’s first home run of the spring (and first hit of any kind) and it was likely a welcomed one for the young third baseman. Despite already being known around the league as an elite defender at the hot corner, he recently noted that he wanted to work on his offense and cut down on his strikeouts.
As the Athletics’ pitchers continued to roll the A’s continued to score runs that went unanswered by the Cubs. Highly touted catching prospect Sean Murphy took Justin Williams deep for a run in the seventh inning. The A’s added on two more in the eighth inning when Steve Lombardozzi hit a leadoff single and a batter later Mark Canha took Justin deep for a two-run blast over the left field fence.
The Cubs never scored a run after their pair of home runs in the second, which is great news for an A’s pitching staff that has struggled this spring. The pressure has been mostly on the starters, but others who are vying for a rotation or even bullpen spot have struggled often as well.
Relievers Chris Hatcher and Blake Treinen pitched a perfect inning each. Then starting rotation candidate Andrew Triggs pitched for the final three innings of the game without allowing a hit or a walk and striking out a whopping four Cubs’ batters. Sunday the A’s pitching staff combined for a total of nine strikeouts and pitched a total of eight scoreless innings. That is definitely the kind of performance that the team had been hoping to see all spring from both the team’s starters and relievers.
Defeating the Cubs with guys like Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in the lineup is no easy task and the A’s handled it Sunday with relative ease. With a little luck today’s game is hopefully a sign of future success as the Athletics improved their spring record to 8-6-2.