For the first month of the season, Sean Manaea was the Oakland A’s ace starting pitcher. However, May has belonged to Daniel Mengden, who threw a shutout against the Diamondbacks on Saturday and has now allowed a total of four earned runs in five starts this month. The lineup chipped in three solo homers, and the A’s won 3-0.
This was Mengden’s second career shutout, and both have come in interleague games against NL opponents. He threw the first one last September against the Phillies. This time around he needed only 102 pitches to blank Arizona, who entered the day ranked 28th in MLB in runs per game, and the entire affair was over in a speedy 2:15. His final line: 9 ip, 0 runs, 5 Ks, 0 BB, 2 hits.
From wire to wire, Mengden was in complete control on Saturday. Only once did the D’Backs get a runner as far as third base, and even that was due to an error by Dustin Fowler in CF. (Fowler later made up for that miscue with an excellent diving catch in the 8th, ranging in to nab a sinking liner and rob their best chance at a third hit on the day.) Out of 30 batters for Arizona, only four of them managed to work the count as far as three balls. That pinpoint control is becoming standard fare for the A’s mustachioed right-hander — through 11 starts this year, he’s issued only six total walks.
Mengden’s complete game was exceptionally well-timed, considering the state of the bullpen. Five relievers combined to throw the whole game on Thursday, and then on Friday Manaea needed help from four more relievers when he was knocked out in the 4th inning. With the untested Frankie Montas scheduled to make a spot start on Sunday, it was especially nice to give the pen a full day off at this exact moment.
On the other side of the ball, Oakland didn’t dominate but did enough to support Mengden. They only managed five hits, but three of them were dingers. First up was Matt Joyce in the 1st inning, on the first pitch of the afternoon from Arizona starter Clay Buchholz:
Then came Matt Olson in the 7th, which finally gave Mengden some breathing room after protecting a slim 1-0 advantage for most of the day. Buchholz had been nearly as sharp as Mengden for the first six innings, retiring 18-of-19 hitters after Joyce’s dinger, but once the D’Backs bullpen came in to relieve him Oakland was finally able to collect a couple insurance runs.
The final blow was served by Chad Pinder in the 8th. This was nearly Pinder’s second of the day, as earlier on he’d knocked a double off the top of the tall “jagged edge” section of the wall in LF (just a few feet below where this homer ended up).
This was about as straightforward of a win as we can hope for. The starter was locked in and throwing strikes, earning every zero he posted. The defense made only one mistake, otherwise putting in a clean performance. And the lineup used their power to guarantee a few runs even when they couldn’t get any rallies going. Those latter two areas can be even better, but on this day they did plenty to support the top-notch pitching.
With the victory, the A’s keep themselves above .500 at 27-25. They also even the series against the D’Backs, with the rubber game coming Sunday afternoon. Montas will face Zack Greinke in the finale.