With each split squad team earning a hard-won victory today, the A’s officially move to a record of 6-6 in Spring Training.
Game #11: A’s at Royals
With Jake Diekman as the only A’s pitcher likely to sniff the MLB roster this season appearing in this game, the A’s worked around some middling pitching performances and outslugged the Royals to snag the victory. Seth Brown, 2 for 3 with a 5th inning grand slam, delivered the big blow of the game for the A’s offense.
At the game’s outset, eyes would be paying closest attention to the three A’s second base candidates who were on the field: Jorge Mateo at shortstop, Sheldon Neuse at second, and Franklin Barreto in center field. Each player had a solid day in the field, Mateo making some particularly strong plays on defense. However, on offense, their performances were much more varied.
While it is most definitely unfair to put too much stock in any half game of action, it should be noted that Mateo struck out three times in three at bats and appeared over-matched at the plate today. Barreto still showed some swing and miss in his game but went 1-3 with a ground ball single in his third at bat. Neuse had two singles in four at bats, his second hit being a key part of an A’s late game rally.
Presumed regulars Mark Canha and Robbie Grossman each reached base three times today, with two hits and a walk each. Grossman also scored twice. Roster hopefuls Austin Allen and Luis Barrera each had run scoring singles in the game’s later innings, and 2017 18th round pick Mickey McDonald hit a key home run that broke a 5-5 tie in the game’s sixth inning.
Diekman, in his one inning of work, allowed two hits and allowed one run to score. He did not strike out or walk any hitters. Both hits that Diekman allowed were very softly hit, an infield single to a diving Mateo and a blooper that landed in between the infielders and outfielders. The run scored on a sacrifice fly. While the run scoring is less than ideal, Diekman appeared to have better control than he had in his previous outings.
Matt Milburn started the game, pitched two innings and gave up a run on a booming home run to Whit Merrifield to lead off the game for the Royals. Milburn struck out one hitter in his two innings. James Naile also pitched two innings for the A’s, and gave up three runs. Naile allowed a run-scoring hit that deflected off of his ankle bone and landed on the grass in right field, and shortly thereafter another run scored on a a steal of home. With runners on the corners, former A’s prospect Kevin Merrill took off from third and scored after the runner on first intentionally got himself into a rundown on a delayed steal. Naile had no strikeouts and one walk in his appearance.
Seth Martinez, Eric Marinez, Jesus Zambrano, and Trey Cochran-Gill combined to pitch the final four innings, and between them totaled one run allowed, four walks, and three strikeouts.
At the end of the day, Seth Brown, Mark Canha, and the A’s offense was too much for the Royals to overcome against some lackluster pitching performances from the A’s. The A’s win 9-6.
Game #12: A’s at Indians
For the third straight game, the A’s beat the Indians and complete a rare weekend sweep in Spring Training. Both the offense and the pitching were firing on all cylinders for this televised Sunday matinee.
Of course, the focus of this game was going to be on Jesus Luzardo as he continues to get ready for the long season ahead. Luzardo’s first inning was a bit long, as he initially struggled to put the Indians’ hitters away with two strikes. To Cleveland’s credit, they did spoil some very strong offerings from the young phenom when down in the count. Luzardo got through the first inning with twenty pitches thrown, and just one infield single allowed.
It was in Luzardo’s final two innings that he really came into form. Needing just twenty two pitches and retiring all six batters he faced in the second and third innings, Luzardo finally started to miss bats and got three swinging strikeouts in a row. He topped out at 98 MPH with his fastball and was consistently around the strike zone. Luzardo has a great chance to take the baseball world by storm this summer.
Not to be outdone, Burch Smith got three strikeouts of his own in two innings of work, retiring all six batters he faced. Smith built further on what has already been a strong Spring Training resume to date. While Smith is unlikely to make the roster out of camp, if he continues to throw like he did in his last couple of appearances, he could be destined to join the team at some point during the season proper.
Fortune was smiling upon the A’s offense early, as an early rally via a Marcus Semien walk and Tony Kemp double put runners on second and third for Matt Chapman. Chapman hit a lazy fly ball to left field, but the ball drifted due to high winds got lost in the sun, getting dropped in the outfield for a gifted base runner and a free run. Later in the frame, Ramon Laureano ripped a single up the middle to score two more runs for the A’s.
The A’s built on their lead in the third inning, with the foundation laid by core players on the roster and capitalized on by roster hopefuls. Kemp hot spring continued as he got his second hit in as many at bats to begin the inning, and scored later on an Olson double. Two walks then loaded up the bases, and Dustin Fowler cleared them with a double on a high line drive off of the high wall in left field.
From there, the game played itself out without any drama. Austin Beck got into the action but went hitless in three trips while playing a solid center field and putting some good swings on the ball. Edwin Diaz made some noise with his bat in the later innings after filling in at third base. Brian Schlitter, Lucas Luetge, Jaime Schultz, and Ian Gardeck held the generous lead over the game’s later innings, and the A’s came out victorious with an 8-5 win.
The A’s say goodbye to Las Vegas, knowing that a sizable chunk of the team’s roster will be right back there in a month, or so. Hopefully, the A’s winning ways continue over the months to come, including in the A’s system.