The 2020 MLB season begins for the Oakland A’s on Friday, and they’re saving up all their wins for then.
The A’s lost their exhibition game against the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday, for the second straight night. Once again their lineup was quiet, and this time the Giants captured a 4-2 victory at Oracle Park. But don’t worry, we talkin’ ‘bout practice.
Oakland’s lineup did manage to take an early lead with two runs in the 2nd, and they really should have had a third. With two runners on and two out, Chad Pinder launched a towering fly deep to right field, and it caromed back onto the turf for a two-run triple.
However, it went to replay, where it appeared to have hit either a row of seats or a small piece of fencing above the cement wall. Either way the ground rules say it should have been a dinger, even according to the Giants’ own TV announcing crew, who would know these small details of their park. See for yourself:
The call stood and Pinder stayed at third base, where he was stranded, theoretically costing the A’s what would have been their third run.
It didn’t end up mattering, though, because they didn’t get another hit for the rest of the night and three runs weren’t going to be enough to win anyway. They did draw five walks, but weren’t able to push any of them even to second base.
On the other side of the ball, Mike Fiers got knocked around a little bit. He allowed homers in each of the first two innings, to Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson, and then danced around a couple baserunners in the 3rd but got out of it. He walked the leadoff batter in the 4th and then was pulled, after which reliever Joakim Soria let the inherited runner come across to score with a single and a sac fly.
It might have gotten even worse, as Soria allowed another single to the next batter, but the lead runner briefly considered running on Ramon and it was enough to cost him. Laureano made a good throw from center field in to third base, and the runner was TOOTBLAN’d.
Next on the mound was Chris Bassitt, who looked sharp. He finished his first inning with a nasty three-pitch sequence to Hunter Pence, making the All-Star look silly waving at a curveball for the third strike. In his next frame he allowed a couple hits and a sac fly, resulting in a run, but he once again ended the inning fooling a hitter with a curve.
The right-hander ended up finishing the game, going four strong innings without walking a batter.
Bassitt: 4 ip, 1 run, 5 Ks, 0 BB, 3 hits, 0 HR
He’ll open the season as the A’s fourth starter, with rookie lefty Jesus Luzardo still warming up after a late start to training camp and fellow lefty A.J. Puk now on the injured list.
While the highlight of this game for A’s fans was once again just the excitement of watching live baseball again after a 10-month hiatus, there were a couple of cool moments.
In his first at-bat, leading off the 2nd inning and facing a heavy defensive shift, Matt Olson dropped a bunt. It worked, staying fair and beating the shift to roll harmlessly past the vacant third base position. Athletics Nation is always begging to see this happen more, both because it’s fun and it’s strategically useful to discourage the shifts in the first place (and steal some free hits in the meantime).
Four man outfield? No problem for Oly pic.twitter.com/CGzOF78xRn— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) July 22, 2020
Also worth noting was Chad Pinder at second base, where he drew the start amid a long list of candidates for the position. He only had one ball hit at him all night, and it went from fine to discouraging to nice in the blink of an eye.
The batter hit the ball solidly up the middle, and Pinder ranged to his right to make a play that’s mostly routine but not a total gimme. However, he slipped right after he fielded it, falling backward onto his rear. But as quickly as he’d fallen, he recovered, sat up, and used his strong outfielder’s arm to make the throw from his knees (essentially from shallow CF) and get the out.
The Giants challenged and I thought the runner might indeed have been safe, but I’ll take it. The umps may have blown both replay calls involving Pinder.
Finally, infield prospect and Rule 5 draft pick Vimael Machin got a chance to shine on defense. Usually more of a middle infielder, Machin came in to play first base, and in the 8th inning he got a tapper toward him. There was a runner on first, and Machin charged the ball, delivered a perfect throw to second, and got back to his bag in time to receive the return throw for a picture-perfect 3-6-3 double play. That’s not something he’s likely to be asked to do often with Olson locking down the 1B position, but it was encouraging to see some general defensive instincts and fundamentals from Machin.
And that’s a wrap on the Summer Camp preseason schedule, which the A’s finish with an 0-2 record. The lineup didn’t produce against a weak Giants pitching staff, but we know what they can do and the only question is how many regular season games it will take for them to start rolling. The pitching took a knock with the loss of Puk, and in these exhibition games both Fiers and Sean Manaea ran into trouble, but again there’s no reason to be less pumped about them than we were last week.
The games start to count on Friday, when the A’s host the Angels on Opening Day at the Coliseum.