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Game #81: No comeback necessary, A’s win 3-0

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Oakland took care of business in Detroit without needing any dramatics this time.

Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

In the first two games of their series in Detroit, the Oakland A’s fell behind early and needed to make dramatic comebacks to earn each victory. On Wednesday they skipped the first part and went straight to the win at the end, with a 3-0 triumph over the Tigers.

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

The two starting pitchers in this game combined for 13 innings and only one run allowed, but that doesn’t mean it was a pitcher’s duel. For the A’s, Chris Bassitt was all over the place and had to navigate around five walks, including three in his 33-pitch 3rd inning. There wasn’t a ton of hard contact and he did help himself by racking up five strikeouts (including one to end the 3rd with the bases loaded), but it was a minor miracle that he didn’t let a run cross the plate in his six frames.

For the Tigers, Mike Fiers benefited from three amazing catches by his outfielders, which saved him several runs. In the 2nd inning Matt Olson hit a fly that carried all the way over the wall in left field, but in Detroit that LF wall is only about six feet high and JaCoby Jones was able to reach over and pull the ball back in. That catch saved two runs outright.

Later, in the 6th with a runner on and two out, Stephen Piscotty drilled one about 418 feet to the wall in CF. However, Leonys Martin channeled his inner Willie Mays to race all the way back and make a sensational catch; in any other park except maybe Houston, that’s a homer. The next A’s batter, Chad Pinder leading off the 7th, hit another ball to the same spot and Martin made an almost identical catch. Respect to Martin for those plays.

Fortunately, the A’s did manage to scratch out a run despite all those defensive heroics. In the 4th, Matt Joyce led off with a single, and then Jed Lowrie (who else??) lined a double to the corner in right field to drive him in. (His 54 RBI are now tied for eighth in all of MLB.) That one-run lead held up on its own until the 9th.

Oakland finally added on some insurance in the 9th, thanks in no small part to the speed of Franklin Barreto. With one out the rookie beat out an infield single to shortstop, and then Josh Phegley squeaked a sharp grounder down the LF line for a double. Perhaps other runners would have made it close at the plate, but Barreto’s top-notch wheels took him home without even drawing a throw.

Next up was Dustin Fowler, who went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and a foulout against Fiers. Against reliever Alex Wilson, though, he blasted a ball so high off the top of the wall in right-center that play-by-play announcer Glen Kuiper gave it a “THAT BABY IS GONE” before realizing it hadn’t quite made it out. (Classic Kuiper, overselling a fly ball.) Fortunately, even a double was enough to knock in Phegley and increase the lead to 3-0.

The insurance runs were particularly important because they meant the A’s didn’t need to call on Blake Treinen. The closer had pitched the previous two days and three of the last four, so while he was probably available if necessary it was certainly preferable to avoid using him. Instead, Yusmeiro Petit faced the minimum in two scoreless innings, with his only baserunner cut down by Phegley on a steal attempt, and Lou Trivino breezed through a 1-2-3 frame in the 9th on 14 pitches.

The A’s defense deserves some credit in this one as well. One reason Bassitt got through his marathon 3rd inning was a nice catch by Piscotty. With a runner on base and the game still scoreless, Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario hit a rocket to the wall in RF, but Piscotty made a leaping catch to rob him. It wouldn’t have been a homer like the one Olson lost to Jones, but it would have surely been an RBI double and changed the complexion of the game early on. The Piscotty we saw in April, who couldn’t catch a fly even if it hit him square in the glove, is simply gone. This guy can play some defense and he goes all-out for some impressive grabs, which is exactly how he was billed when Oakland acquired him.

There was also a noteworthy play on the caught-stealing in the later innings. Phegley’s throw was so on-the-money that Barreto caught it with his glove already on the sliding runner, which is the only reason he was out. It was so close that the call on the field was safe, but replay review showed that Barreto’s simultaneous catch/tag happened just in time and the call was overturned. More than anything I’m giving credit to Phegley, for making a perfect throw at a moment when anything less wouldn’t have cut it.

On the downside, the A’s finally snapped their MLB-record streak of 27 road games with a homer. It wasn’t for lack of effort, though — between Jones robbing Olson, a pair of 415+ foot drives in one of the only parks that extends to 420, and Fowler’s ball off the only tall section of Detroit’s otherwise-short fence, there were four hits that could reasonably have been dingers. C’est la vie!

More importantly, though, Oakland won the game. For Bassitt, it’s his first MLB win since Aug. 4, 2015, a span of 1,059 days and 459 A’s games. For the team it’s their third in a row, and it pushes this road trip to 7-2. They’ve won nine of their last 11 overall, and at the exact halfway point of the season they now stand five games over .500 at 43-38. Considering the sheer quantity of injuries they’ve had to deal with, including losing two full rotation’s worth of starters, that last sentence is incredible. This team doesn’t quit, and they’re going to be a thrill to watch in the second half of 2018.

The A’s will get a chance for a four-game road sweep tomorrow morning, with Sean Manaea taking on Michael Fulmer.