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Game #34: A’s Set Franchise Record, Sweep Orioles

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Oakland Athletics D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Triggs bounced back in a statement start, the A’s pitching staff set a record for most strikeouts in a three game series, and the A’s swept the Orioles in a quick Sunday afternoon affair.

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Aided by a more-than-generous strike zone, Andrew Triggs was great on the mound, keeping the Orioles’ offense off-balance and also keeping his pitch count at a manageable level. A mistake pitch from Triggs to Pedro Alvarez found the outfield seats to give the Orioles and early lead, but after a fourth inning single from Jace Peterson, Andrew Triggs retired twelve straight batters and kept Baltimore at bay.

Triggs’ final line was seven innings pitched, one run, two hits, no walks, and nine strikeouts. With his nine strikeouts, the A’s set a franchise record for most strikeouts over a three game series, with forty. En route to getting all of those strikeouts, Triggs generated both lots of swings and misses and lots of takes on pitches that were given up on too early. In a game where offense was at a premium, his performance was vital in ensuring an A’s victory. However, for Triggs’ longevity in the starting rotation, today’s start was even more important. He bounced back from a subpar outing in Seattle, and proved that he was capable of pitching deeper than just five innings in a game.

On a day like today it is difficult to really gage how well the team performed on offense. The lack of hitting over the weekend against the Orioles’ pitching staff is inherently concerning, but the pitching isn’t going to continue to be as bad as it has been for Baltimore, and it isn’t surprising that the A’s ran into several good pitching performances on the mound. For today’s game, specifically, Hunter Wendelstedt’s strike zone was expanded several inches off of the plate on both sides of the plate, as if the umpire had a date with some cute chickadee right after the game ended, and the inflated zone absolutely had run-generating implications for both teams.

Though the A’s won, it isn’t unfair to say it may have been the worst-called game of the year for the A’s. Maybe even the worst over the last handful of years, Justin Verlander playoff starts aside.

The A’s were also (unsuccessfully) extra-aggressive on the basepaths today, with Marcus Semien and Matt Olson each attempting surprising steals. After hitting a leadoff single in the first inning, Semien didn’t waste time trying to make things happen, but was thrown out at second base. In the fifth inning, Matt Olson was standing at second with no one covering and Alex Cobb paying him no mind on the mound, and the first baseman took off for third on the pitch, and was called out at third despite replays indicating the tag on Olson may have been missed.

The uncharacteristic aggression on the bases cost the A’s a few potential runs, but in each case the baserunner was just narrowly called out, and each runner was justified in their effort, coming up just short.

The offense the A’s did get was just enough to get the win, even if it had to be aided by some vintage 2015-A’s-style defense from the Orioles. The Orioles did get out to an early lead thanks to the Alvarez home run in the second inning, but fortunately for Oakland, Alvarez would undo all of his earned goodwill on one play. Matt Joyce led off the fourth inning with a sharp, line drive double into the right field corner, getting himself in scoring position for a red-hot Mark Canha. Canha couldn’t do much with his opportunity at the dish, and hit a soft comebacker to Cobb on the mound, but Joyce, following the pattern of A’s aggression on the bases, found himself caught between second and third base. Cobb threw to third, but Alvarez, perhaps out of his element returning to the hot corner, biffed the throw and dropped it, giving Matt Joyce a head start in returning to second base. In a panic, Alvarez picked up the ball and threw towards second, but airmailed all the infielders and the ball had to be chased down on the outfield grass, allowing Joyce to get to third and Canha to reach second. He only got one error on the play, but probably should have been charged with two.

Khris Davis grounded out to second to tie the game, and Matt Olson casually flicked his wrists and launched a ball to the deepest part of center field for a double, just barely eluding center fielder Craig Gentry, to give the A’s the 2-1 lead.

Had Alvarez properly fielded Cobb’s throw, the A’s do not score a single run, most likely.

Acting as setup man, Lou Trivino was superb in the eighth inning, needing just six pitches to get his three outs. Things were a bit more eventful for closer Blake Treinen in the ninth inning. Leadoff batter Trey Mancini reached on an infield single that traveled, at most, ten feet from home plate, and quickly advanced to second on a wild pitch. Former Athletic Craig Gentry advanced Mancini to third on a well-executed sacrifice bunt, forcing the A’s to bring the infield in. Bringing the infield in proved to be successful, as Jace Peterson hit a sharp ground ball to Chad Pinder at second base that failed to drive Mancini home, and the lesser Chris Davis hit a harmless fly ball to right field to end the game.

The A’s get their second sweep of the season with a 2-1 victory over the Orioles, their difficult month of May off to a good start. Oakland is now 18-16 and 2.5 games out of first place.