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Game #113: Starting Strong, Ending Strong

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MLB: Detroit Tigers at Oakland Athletics Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Like in his previous start, Trevor Cahill labored out of the gate before settling into a groove. While no runs scored, the Tigers managed to load the bases on a single, a throwing error from Cahill, and a four pitch walk in the game’s first frame. Cahill struck out two Tigers and got a third to hit a weak fly ball to center field to escape the jam, but not before he threw thirty pitches.

**Click Here to Revisit the Game Thread**

Fortunately, Cahill’s next thirty pitches got him through the next three innings. The strikeouts kept coming for Cahill as the game continued, racking up five though four innings pitched, and Cahill retired nine hitters in a row before allowing a harmless two out double to Jim Adduci with two outs in the fourth.

Cahill’s recovery would have been for naught had the A’s offense stayed quiet for a third straight game. Detroit starting pitcher Francisco Liriano was cruising early, locating superbly and getting seven straight outs before Ramon Laureano knocked a dying quail to center for a single. Despite a hit batsman and a walk loading up the bases for the A’s in that inning, a sharp line drive hit by Jed Lowrie was snagged at third base to end the threat. The A’s had still yet to score, but Liriano was showing signs of vulnerability.

In the next inning the offense finally broke through. Leading off the fourth, it was, of course, none other than Khrush Davis smacking a low fastball for a line drive home run over the short wall in center field.

Matt Olson and Stephen Piscotty kept the good times rolling with seeing-eye line drive singles to place runners on the corners for Laureano, who took a high and outside fastball the other way for a run scoring single. After a couple shaky ABs to start his career, Laureano is already looking much more comfortable playing in the show, and his ability to not try and do too much and simply go with the pitch in the fourth inning exemplifies the type of hitter he can be.

The fifth and sixth innings for Cahill were nearly perfect, as the veteran struck out four Tigers in a row and only gave up an infield single. In total, Cahill pitched six innings, giving up three hits, one walk, and totalling ten strikeouts. Every single strikeout was swinging, for good measure, as the Tigers embraced their inner feline and went fishing all day long. Had his first inning not been so ugly, he most assuredly could have gone much deeper into the game, but with the A’s bullpen bolstered even further still with the addition of Shawn Kelley, there is no need to push starters’ arms in August. The starting pitching as a whole has been really strong lately, and Melvin’s tendency to pull too early rather than too late has been saving his pitchers’ arms, and their effectiveness.

Adding to his already impressive debut weekend, Laureano got his third hit of the ballgame in his third at bat in the seventh inning, hitting a high and tight fastball inside out for an opposite field line drive single. Then, after looking a little skittish while leading off of first in his previous opportunities, Laureano took off with a small lead and used his speed to just barely swipe second. His slide wasn’t perfect, as he overslid the bag, but the throw got by both infielders and slowly trickled into center, so Laureano didn’t have to face any consequences for his mistake, though he admittedly should have been able to advance to third.

It didn’t matter anyways, as Matt Chapman touched ‘em all on a line drive home run into the left field corner.

An inning later, Matt Olson hit a two run home run of his own to push the A’s lead to 6-0, on a ball that looked like a big league pop up that kept carrying and carrying until it bounced off the top of the high wall. The A’s turned to Petit, Trivino, and Buchter to get the final nine outs, and each reliever performed admirably.

For the first time this season, the starting rotation, despite how it was assembled and why it needed to be assembled, is looking like a strength.

While admittedly not squaring up against the most potent offenses lately, the bullpen was getting heavily taxed and a high risk to come undone during the final push in September and October. With Cahill looking like Manaea’s co-ace, and guys like Anderson and Jackson raising the floor, not to mention the Shawn Kelley addition that allows the A’s to use a reliable, shut down reliever starting in the fifth inning of any game, all of a sudden the pitching staff can be thought of as an actual strength. The team has famously ended strong this season, and it is relieving to see them starting strong now, too.