As opening day in Japan grows closer, today’s game was an opportunity for one offseason acquisition, pitcher Tanner Anderson, a fringe candidate for an opening day bullpen role (and number 24 on the 2019 Community Prospect List).
Anderson, originally drafted by Pittsburgh in 2015, was traded to the A’s last November. Anderson pitched well as a starter in the minors, but was disappointing in 11 innings of relief for the 2018 Pirates. He is making his case with a strong spring, and profiles as a potential swing-man. If he makes the 2019 roster, manager Bob Melvin would have a useful piece to make spot starts or pitch a few innings after an "opener."
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Anderson did his best to make the upcoming roster decisions even more difficult. Today, he was stretched out in three innings of one-run ball, generating a lot of soft contact on a slider/sinker combo. His final line shows one run on two ground-ball hits, two strikeouts, and no walks.
In the top of the second, the Brewers found a way to capitalize on Anderson's ground ball tendencies. Manny Pina reached on a rare error by Matt Chapman, who airmailed a throw that even Matt Olson couldn’t corral. Orlando Arcia advanced Pina to second with a productive groundout, and Brewers top prospect Keston Hiura knocked Pina in with a grounder up the middle.
The A’s infield defense helped Anderson get out of the inning, with Marcus Semien and Jurickson Profar turning a double play on yet another grounder. Semien offered some evidence in support of his 2018 Gold Glove nod with a nice start to the play, cutting down Hiura despite the fact that he was running on the pitch (and that can’t be credited to anyone named Matt).
Semien had a couple of other opportunities to flash some leather on the back end of plays, making timely tags on a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play in the third and an outfield assist in the fourth. Pina reached a second time with a fly ball to right off Blake Treinen (1IP, 1H, 0ER, 0BB, 0K), but was thrown out by Stephen Piscotty trying to stretch a single into a double.
In the fifth, however, Semien showed he still has room to grow, as he was credited with a fielding error. Semien’s rushed attempt on a potential double play led to runners on first and second with one out for reliever Fernando Rodney (1IP, 0H, 0ER, 1BB, 1K). Of course, what inning by Rodney would be complete without a walk, an error, two stolen bases, two left on, and a called strikeout--only to escape with no runs scored?
While Anderson, Treinen, and Rodney held the line through five, the A’s offense stayed mostly dormant. Oakland’s best opportunity in a dominant start by Brandon Woodruff (3IP, 1H, 0ER, 1BB, 5K) came in the bottom of the second by way of a Piscotty line-drive single to center and a walk by Profar. With two outs and two on base, perennial prospect Franklin Barreto had a chance to put the A’s on the board, but ended the inning with a deep flyout to right field.
Barreto ultimately delivered in the bottom of the fifth with another long fly to right field, this one dropping behind Ben Gamel for a double. Barreto’s knock off of the Brewers Adrian Houser (W, 2IP, 1ER, 0BB, 0K) was deep enough to score Mark Canha from first after his solid single to center, but Barreto was thrown out trying for third. (On the other side of the ball, Barreto took some reps in center field. However, we didn’t really learn anything new from this assignment--Barreto wasn’t afforded a lot of chances to impress with his defense in center.)
In the sixth inning, Jerry Blevins (0.1IP, 3H, 6ER, 2BB, 1K) came on in relief, and the less said about his appearance the better. With six runs in, the bases cleared, and only one out, fellow veteran Yusmeiro Petit (0.2IP, 2H, 1ER, 1BB, 1K) took over for Blevins--right where he left off.
In a combined one inning of work, Blevins and Petit were responsible for one hit batter, three walks, a wild pitch, three homers, and two doubles, good for seven runs--all from what essentially amounts to the Brewers’ b-team. (In the words of Vince Cotroneo: "It’s one thing to get home runs from Braun and Yelich and Aguilar, but today it’s Hiura, Orff, and Grisham. Little different.") Mercifully, the inning finally ended after the twelfth Brewer came to the plate.
In the bottom of the sixth, the A’s gave their regulars one last chance, but were only able to cobble together a four-pitch walk, courtesy of Olson, while Semien, Chapman, and Khris Davis each left the game having hit 0-3 on the day.
J.B. Wendleken (1IP, 0H, 0ER, 0BB, 1K)--like Blevins and Anderson, also in the mix for an opening day roster spot--served up a 1-2-3 top of the seventh as a palate cleanser to the disastrous sixth, getting out of the inning before Ken Korach could introduce all the defensive replacements (including Austin Beck in center field for Franklin Barreto, who fielded a total of two ground ball singles and nothing in the air).
The bottom of the inning was mostly uneventful, other than pitcher Zack Brown (3IP, 0H, 0ER, 2BB, 0K) hitting Piscotty and umpire Gerry Davis making a questionable (according to the broadcast) out call on pinch runner Mark Payton leaving the basepath.
By the top of the eighth, the lineups for both teams were solidly minor league status. With Andrew Triggs (1IP, 0H, 0ER, 0BB, 0K) on the mound, the second string infield of Eric Campbell (1B), Kevin Merrell (2B), Sheldon Neuse (3B), and Cliff Pennington (SS) acquitted themselves nicely on three groundball outs.
In the bottom of the eighth, Dustin Fowler lined out to second, while Beck and Neuse each flied out to right on either side of a walk by Pennington.
Pitcher Kyle Crockett (1IP, 3H, 3R, 1BB, 0K) took the mound in the ninth. After Crockett induced a groundout from Chad McClanahan, Tuffy Gosewich doubled to center, deflected off the glove of right fielder Payton on a diving attempt. A walk by Tristen Lutz and a single by Antonio Pinero loaded the bases with two outs, before a double by Devin Hairston knocked in three more runs. Crockett finally got out of the inning on a fly ball by Weston Wilson.
The A’s did their best to make the final score a little less embarrassing against pitcher Deolis Guerra (1IP, 2H, 1ER, 1BB, 1K). With Campbell and Merrell on base and two outs, catcher Sean Murphy knocked in Oakland’s second run. Fowler ended the game with a flyout to center.