One of the team’s best all-around efforts in recent memory, the A’s trounced the Tigers today in Game 2 (or 3, depending on how you view the suspended game) of their weekend series.
Starting from the top, Chris Bassitt showed up to game tonight, sporting some of his best stuff this season. Not only did he strike out 11 Tigers hitters, he also stretched himself out to 108 pitches to finish a full six innings, something the team and its bullpen desperately needed. Though the strikeouts probably mask the fact that Bassitt allowed hits in five of the six innings he pitched, including a genuinely stressful second, he more than vindicated the A’s decision to switch to a six-man rotation over bumping him to the bullpen.
Following Bassitt, it was very unclear who would be available to finish out the game. The bullpen, which is already the shakiest aspect of this team, was exhausted yesterday following yesterday’s 14 inning marathon. Fortunately, three guys who we probably shouldn’t expect much from tore through the last nine outs to secure the A’s 83rd win.
First, A.J. Puk came in throwing his typical smoking hot heat to strike out two batters, stranding a runner at first. After starting his major league career with a couple of shaky outings, Puk is really starting to look like the real deal he was promised to be, at least as a bullpen arm. If he continues on this path, he might be one of the first ones in line to pitch in crucial spots down the line.
Ditto for Ryan Buchter, who has really bounced back after an iffy first half, called Puk’s pair of strikeouts and raised him one. He’s been one of the more consistent guys, which is even more impressive given the fact that he’s no longer just pitching to lefties. He’s essentially doing the job that the A’s acquired Diekman to do, but he’s doing it way better right now. I’d keep testing him in pressure spots to see if they can trust him come playoff time.
And then there’s Ye Old Blake Treinen, likely the most complicated situation on the A’s right now. Despite being responsible for so many of this year’s blown leads, he comes out and has a ninth inning like this, where he makes major league hitters look like rookie ball prospects, and it feels like we should just hand him his closer job back. Obviously, BoMel’s not going to do that, nor should he. But this team needs absolutely nothing more right now than a late-season Treinen resurgence (Trivion and Khrush wouldn’t hurt either). He may come out in his next outing and blow a 5-3 lead, but for now, let’s bask in every clean Treinen outing we get.
On top of the pitching dominance, the A’s lineup came through tonight with a whopping 12 hits and 10 runs. The highlights include three solo homers (Semien, Olson, and Chapman), a two-run Semien triple, and an RBI single from the prophet Sean Murphy. Unfortunately, there was some bad news for the lineup as well, as Ramon Laureano was taken out of the game after reaggravating his shin, just one day after he was activated from the IL. It would be a loss, especially after tonight when he used his sweet short swing to wreak havoc on the Tigers. We’ll have to wait and see how serious this one is.
But overall, an extremely positive day. A reaffirmation of Bassitt as a strong major league starter, legitimate signs of life from a struggling bullpen, and a lineup that looks deeper and deeper as the season goes along. With the A’s now 1.5 games up on the Indians for the second Wild Card spot, and only one back from a tie for home-field advantage, the prospect of October baseball is starting to feel real.