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Game #53: Montas Excels in First Start with A’s

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Oakland Athletics Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

In the rubber match of the series, the A’s fought and scratched their way to a tight 2-1 victory, led by Frankie Montas on the pitching side and battery mate Jonathan Lucroy on the offensive side. The A’s take the series 2-1 as well, and improve to 28-25 overall, one game behind the Angels for third place and five and a half games behind the Astros for first place.

**Click Here to Revisit the Game Thread**

In AAA Nashville, Montas had pitched three consecutive games wherein he threw at least six innings while giving up two runs or fewer, and finally looked to be turning into the starting pitcher the A’s traded for, before giving up five runs in five innings in his most recent effort for the Sounds. Nevertheless, Montas was called up to start for Oakland before the game in order to give Trevor Cahill an extra day of rest, and the former prospect did not disappoint.

Montas was nearly perfect today, hitting 96-98 with his fastball with relative ease, and locating all of his offerings well. Through the first two innings, Montas notched four strikeouts and got seven K’s through the first five innings. In addition to that, no Diamondbacks reached base through the first three-plus innings, and the team didn’t get its first hits until the sixth. In a spot start, Montas gave the A’s a chance to win against a Cy-Young level of pitcher in Zack Greinke while also making the best possible argument that he should be a mainstay in the rotation over an aging and less effective veteran arm. He did a terrific job mixing pitches and speeds, as he got swings and misses and strikeouts on both his fastball and offspeed pitches.

The lone blemish on Montas’ pitching line came in the sixth inning after he allowed a run on a sacrifice fly following two singles in the sixth inning, but that would be all the offense the D’backs were capable of mustering, and the A’s offense did just enough to render that one run harmless.

In the early going, the A’s offense created itself a bevy of opportunity to score runs, but failed to actually push any runners across the plate. Leading off the first, back to back singles were squandered as the following three Athletics’ batters made easy outs to end the threat. In the second, a leadoff baserunner got erased on a hard-hit double play ball. In the third, Marcus Semien erased himself on the basepaths with a stolen base attempt, where a poor slide got him out when he otherwise beat the throw to second.

After a lot of threatening-but-not-scoring, in the third, Jonathan Lucroy smacked his first home run as an Athletic on a long, low line drive to the stairs in left field. It gave the A’s the early lead, and was also the fifth consecutive run the A’s had scored via solo home run.

In the sixth inning, just after the Diamondbacks broke through and got to Montas to tie the game up, with two outs, Matt Olson and Chad Pinder each had excellent at bats, working the count full and walking, to set the stage for Matt Chapman, who drove Olson home with a sharp single into left field, allowing Oakland to retake their tenuous lead.

Chapman’s RBI proved to be the difference maker in the game, as each team’s bullpen kept the opposition’s offense at bay. Petit, Trivino, and Treinen didn’t allow a hit in their combined three innings of work, and the A’s won without breaking too much of a sweat.

The A’s dropped the first game of this series, but didn’t give in and fought to win the next two, using superb pitching to shut down the Diamondbacks’ offense. Tomorrow, the A’s host the Rays for the first of four games.