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Spring Game #18: A’s hold on to win slugfest

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Jorge Mateo made a big impression before being optioned back to the minors.

Jorge Mateo showed off a different part of his game.
Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s played a wild one on Tuesday in the Cactus League. They took an early lead over the Royals but nearly blew it, and when the dust settled the A’s managed to hold on to a 9-8 victory. They remain over .500 for the spring (9-7-2).

Danny Duffy started the game for the Royals, but Oakland’s lineup jumped all over the star lefty. Jorge Mateo led off the game with a home run, and the A’s ended up batting around in the 1st inning. By the time Duffy escaped, he’d allowed another dinger to Sheldon Neuse, plus RBI doubles to Mark Canha and Sean Murphy. It was a brilliant performance by Oakland’s prospects and B-team lineup, and it staked them to a 5-0 lead. After settling down for a pair of 1-2-3 innings, Duffy ran into more trouble — Mateo went deep again in the 4th, this time with a runner on.

The A’s scratched out a couple more runs against KC’s bullpen, which turned out to make the difference in the game. Canha homered in the 5th off of MLB reliever Brandon Maurer, and a string of singles in the 6th off All-Star Kelvin Herrera led to one final tally (Neuse with the RBI).

*** Click here to revisit today’s Game Thread! ***

Oakland ended up needing all nine runs of offense. A’s starter Kendall Graveman breezed through the first three frames, but the Royals got to him in the 4th. He began the inning with a HBP, and KC capitalized on the free leadoff runner with a single, an RBI double, and then an RBI infield single. Next came a run-scoring E-4 (botched GIDP by Barreto?), which ended Graveman’s day, and reliever Chris Hatcher gave up one more RBI single before escaping the jam.

On the bright side, here’s yet another reminder that Graveman is one of the best fielding pitchers in baseball:

The bullpen managed a few zeroes, with Yusmeiro Petit and Blake Treinen combining for three scoreless innings. However, the Royals made one last push in the final frames.

Chris Bassitt pitched the 8th, looking to hold a five-run lead. He loaded the bases on two singles and a HBP, and then an infield single plated one of the runners. The RBI itself didn’t come on hard contact, but the fact remains that Bassitt faced seven batters and retired only three of them. In the 9th, high-velocity prospect Kyle Finnegan allowed a pair of doubles and a homer to bring Oakland to the brink, but Simon Castro came in to record the final out and seal the victory.

Key lines

A few notable performances in the box score:

  • Graveman: 3+ ip, 4 runs, 4 Ks, 0 BB, 5 hits, HBP

It wasn’t as bad as it looked, and Graveman himself was mostly happy with his outing (via Susan Slusser, S.F. Chronicle). Slusser notes that the only hard-hit ball off of him was the RBI double in the 4th, and that the biggest problem was the HBP that opened the disastrous inning. I agree — as much as anything, the bad inning was BABIP and shaky infield defense by prospects not known for their glovework.

  • Petit: 2 ip, 0 runs, 4 Ks, 0 BB, 1 hit

Nice.

  • Mateo: 2-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI

This isn’t the line you expect from the speedster Mateo, but it’s a nice reminder that he’s not helpless with the bat. Last year in 60 games at Double-A, he managed 8 HR and a .225 isolated slugging — although much of his extra-base ability will come from taking extra bags via speed, he’s also got some legitimate pop.

  • Barreto: 2-for-3, BB, K, error

He showed several aspects of his game, both good and bad. Made some contact and got on base (good!), struck out once (stop that!), and made a costly mistake in the field (d’oh!). Overall he’s now K’d in 10-of-38 spring plate appearances, which is still high, but he’s also got an 1.152 OPS and .425 isolated slugging so he’s been a clear positive at the plate.

  • Neuse: 3-for-4, HR, 2B, 3 RBI

He will not stop hitting. His batting average is still low, but everything else looks great — he’s tied for team lead in HR, and his plate discipline is encouraging (5 BB, 8 Ks, acceptable K%). Can’t wait to see what he does in the upper minors this year.

  • Canha: 3-for-4, HR, 2B, 2 RBI

The competition between Canha and Jake Smolinski is heating up, presuming the A’s are looking for a righty platoon outfielder to pair with Matt Joyce. Canha and Smo each have three homers now, and Canha has the leg up in OPS (though both are over 1.000). This topic deserves its own article.

  • Murphy: 2-for-4, 2B, RBI

The double was nearly a homer, according to Slusser. For the spring, he’s 5-for-12 with three extra-base hits. I’m zero percent worried about his power and I don’t understand why anyone else is.

Cuts

The A’s made two cuts after the game. Both are on the 40-man roster, so they were officially optioned to Triple-A. One was Ramon Laureano, who is out for several weeks with a broken finger. The other was Jorge Mateo — that’s a bit awkward after his big day, but don’t read anything into the coincidental timing. He was never a candidate to make the team out of spring anyway, and his playing time only would have gone down once the actual MLB guys ramp up their own workloads. Let’s appreciate all that we saw from Mateo this month, and look forward to following his development throughout the summer.

The A’s are off on Wednesday. They’ll return to action Thursday against the Mariners, televised on NBC Sports.