After earning an All-Star berth and Cy Young votes in 2019, Mike Minor has struggled this summer, with his velocity down and his ERA way up. His first two appearances for the Oakland A’s this month were more of the same, but on Monday he finally showed the upside they were hoping for when they acquired him at the trade deadline.
Minor went the distance in the second game of the day’s doubleheader, spinning a seven-inning, two-hit shutout against the Seattle Mariners and helping the A’s win 9-0 and salvage a split after dropping the first half earlier in the day. In the opening contest they got off to a 5-0 lead and watched the Mariners sail back in for a comeback win, but they didn’t repeat that bad fortune in the nightcap, once again building a 5-0 advantage and this time taking it to the house — with help from all three of their newest veteran additions.
*** Revisit tonight’s Game Thread! ***
The southpaw Minor carved through the Mariners lineup from start to finish, allowing just four baserunners (two hits, two walks) and facing only two batters over the minimum. Seattle didn’t even reach second base until a double in the final frame, and at one point Minor retired 15-of-17 batters and eliminated the only two runners during that span — one on a pickoff and the other via a double play.
It seemed like every time you looked down, Minor had a two-strike count, and he struck out eight batters on the night. He even helped his cause with a nifty defensive play, covering first base on a grounder and then receiving the throw with his bare hand.
Minor: 7 ip, 0 runs, 8 Ks, 2 BB, 2 hits, 102 pitches (65 strikes)
The lefty still only worked in the 90-92 mph range (avg 90.3), with one pitch as high as 92.7, but he pounded the zone, changed speeds and eye levels, and earned a whopping 19 swinging strikes (16 on his fastball). He credited rookie catcher Jonah Heim with calling a good game and bringing out the best in him, via insider Martin Gallegos:
“It’s just a matter of — I felt like in the past I’ve been trying to trick guys rather than just attack them,” Minor said. “Today, we threw a lot of fastballs that I probably normally wouldn’t throw, and I had success with it.”
There were only two hard-hit balls against him, but mostly the Mariners just whiffed over and over.
While Oakland was shutting down the Mariners hitters, their own lineup was also piling runs on the board. They got one early in the 1st inning on an RBI single by Mark Canha, and they should have had many more. With the bases loaded, Ramon Laureano hit the ball over the wall but center fielder Kyle Lewis leaped up and pulled it back. It would have been a grand slam, and instead it ended the threat entirely.
This is art. Kyle Lewis is an artist. pic.twitter.com/XyALStCXty— Adrian Garro (@adriangarro) September 15, 2020
The A’s avenged the stolen opportunity in the 3rd inning. They brought 10 batters to the plate in that fateful frame, and pushed half of them across the plate. With one on and one out, newcomer Jake Lamb, making his team debut in his hometown of Seattle, socked a double to the warning track in the right field corner. Laureano then recouped two of his lost RBI with a bloop double down the right field line.
From there they kept the train rolling. Heim singled in another run, and then a coupe more runners reached to load the bases anew. Marcus Semien hit a grounder and beat out the double play attempt to secure another run, and Robbie Grossman capped the rally with an RBI single.
It was 6-0, and this time Oakland didn’t let the Mariners back into it. In fact, they added on even more. In the 6th, Canha hit a two-run homer.
And then Lamb followed the herd with another dinger, going back-to-back with Canha.
And how about Jake Lamb? After being an All-Star in 2017, and then injured and ineffective in 2018-19, he was 5-for-43 with a double this summer when the D’Backs cut him loose. In his first game in green and gold, he went 2-for-4 with a homer and a double, matching the number of total bases he had all year in Arizona. His OPS went up 124 points in one day, and his wRC+ tripled, though both still have some more catching up to do.
As for the A’s other new player, Tommy La Stella had a good game too. He doesn’t jump out in the box score like Minor and Lamb, but he reached base three times out of the leadoff spot (hit, walk, HBP), twice as part of run-scoring innings. On defense, he turned a nice 4-3 double play, during a shift that effectively had him playing shortstop.
La Stella. Lamb. Grossman. Heim. Minor. These aren’t the stars we expected to be helping lead Oakland toward their now seemingly inevitable division crown, but they’re yet another perfect group for the Island of Misfit Toys.
Next up, the A’s head to Colorado for two against the Rockies, beginning Tuesday. Stay tuned for an update on Stephen Piscotty’s sprained knee.
P.S. The air was still really smoky, and it’s questionable whether they should have been playing at all.
Melvin: "It was pretty smoky out there. And guys were starting to feel it in the second game some. I think the numbers were pretty high." #Athletics— Matt Kawahara (@matthewkawahara) September 15, 2020
Melvin said topic of whether to play amid air quality conditions was not brought up to the A's: "No one said a word. I heard 200 was the cutoff level to start and my understanding is it was way over that, both games."— Matt Kawahara (@matthewkawahara) September 15, 2020