Monday evening’s scrimmage between the A’s and Giants was a tight pitcher’s duel right until it wasn’t. Between the two teams, only ten hits were totaled through regulation. While the offense couldn’t do much against the Giants’ pitching, the hits they did collect counted — two solo home runs helped the game extend to extra innings, where the A’s managed to jump all over a lefty Tyler Clippard doppelganger and win the game.
Hits were a premium in tonight’s affair. The A’s were sent down 1-2-3 in the first two innings, however, after falling behind 1-0 to the Giants in the second, Matt Chapman immediately tied the game back up with a solo home run leading off the third. His swing looked somewhat slow, though one could also just say it looked relaxed and easygoing, but the baseball still flew off of his bat, and in a high, glorious arc, landed a good 15-20 rows back in the stands in straightaway left field.
Each of Stephen Piscotty’s at bats looked very strong, and he made good contact in each of his plate appearances, but Mark Canha was the only other Athletic who really produced at the plate for the first nine innings, prior to becoming a late inning hero. Canha went 4-4, including a home run that temporarily gave the A’s the lead in the middle innings, a double, and a single that drove home the decisive run in the tenth. After a slow start in spring training, Canha has really turned things around at the plate, and may have played himself back into the conversation for the final roster spot.
Each home run was hit off of former Rangers’ starter, current journeyman Derek Holland.
In his final spring start, Daniel Mengden looked quite impressive. Throwing 54 pitches over three innings pitched, Mengden allowed one run while striking out three. While the Giants did push a run across the plate in the third, the run was a result of softly hit balls on defensive swings and uncharacteristically substandard defense from Stephen Piscotty in right field. There was a lot of life and movement on Mengden’s offerings, with a rising up-in-the-zone fastball paired with a heavy curveball that had Giants’ hitters off balance and guessing for the entirety of his outing.
With the success of the team likely hinging on the bullpen’s ability to keep the game close even if the starting pitcher doesn’t have it, today showcased that the relief corps is (mostly) up to the task. Buchter, Pagan, Hatcher, and Casilla pitched four scoreless innings in relief of Mengden, each of them recording at least one strikeout in the process. Pagan didn’t appear to have the best control of his offerings in his inning pitched, but he parlayed his wilder offerings into two strikeouts.
Against Blake Treinen, the Giants offense broke through in the eighth. Treinen’s pitches were moving sharply, perhaps too sharply for Bruce Maxwell, who took over for Lucroy at home plate in the middle innings. So, despite Treinen having struck out the side, two wild pitches pushed the Giants’ second run across the plate, tying the game.
The game continued on into extra innings, when the Giants brought in a pitcher named D.J. Snelten to quickly and quietly bring the game to the bottom of the tenth. Snelton struck out Matt Chapman to start the frame, but the strikeout pitch went to the backstop and Chapman ended up at first. Then I let my dogs out to go to the bathroom and the A’s had a 9-2 lead.
A quick breakdown: Pinder singled Chapman to second, and then Mark Canha knocked his aforementioned decisive single that gave the A’s a 3-2 lead. Semien then walked to load the bases, and Bruce Maxwell singled on a solid line drive to center to drive in two more runs. Barreto had a spectacular at bat, working the count full before hitting yet another run-scoring single, and a Khris Davis double cleared the bases immediately after. Before a single out was recorded, the A’s had an 8-2 lead, with six runs scored in the inning. One more run would get tacked on before things were over.
Despite surrendering a late, close lead, the A’s showed off all of the their strengths in tonight’s ballgame, and showed how they could use their strengths to win. The team used power and a deep bullpen to keep the game close until the team could finally jump all over a pitcher that didn’t have his stuff. Now they just have to do that all season long.