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Spring Game #10: A’s bats stay hot, Chris Bassitt debuts on mound

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9-1 win over the Brewers

SFChronicleSpringBall2021
Austin Allen went DEEP
Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

It was a good day at Hohokam Stadium. The Oakland A’s fired on all cylinders Wednesday in a 9-1 blowout victory over the Milwaukee Brewers, with excellent pitching and another offensive explosion at the plate.

Granted, the Brewers put out something of a B-team today, with only one or two members of their starting lineup playing while several stars took a day off. But on the mound they had our old friend Brett Anderson, a legit MLB starter who is still exactly the quietly effective southpaw you remember from his last stint in the Bay, and he was relieved by Josh Hader, a two-time NL Reliever of the Year, so the A’s hitters did get a proper test.

*** Click here to revisit today’s Game Thread! ***

Oakland didn’t get much done against Anderson, but they did get gifted a run. With one out in the 1st inning, Ramon Laureano hit a routine grounder but reached on an error when the rushed throw skipped away. Laureano then got picked off on a steal attempt, but the first baseman bricked the throw to second and Ramon got all the way to third safely. A single by Mitch Moreland sealed the doubly unearned tally.

The best hit off Anderson was a grounder down the line for a double by Tony Kemp in the 2nd, continuing the second baseman’s strong spring as he tries to defend his place atop the 2B depth chart.

Then came Hader. Despite being one of the best relievers in the sport, the lefty has struggled against the A’s. He faced them three times in 2019 and took the loss twice, seeing nine total batters and allowing two homers, a single, and a walk, with only one strikeout.

Today wasn’t any better for him. His first batter was catcher Austin Allen, who entered the game 0-for-8 with five strikeouts, and Hader lost the lefty/lefty matchup. Allen blasted a moonshot over both bullpens in right field, with a 105 mph exit velocity, for his first hit of the spring. Two batters later, Hader served up another dinger, to Laureano, and two batters after that a walk ended his day mid-inning.

The A’s walked twice more against the new pitcher to load the bases, and Vimael Machin doubled in two of them. It was Machin’s first extra-base hit of the spring, and helped him keep pace with Kemp in the 2B competition — as a coincidence, Kemp was thrown out at home on the play trying to get Machin a third RBI.

The 4th inning brought another non-roster Brewers reliever, and the A’s starters put together another rally. An Olson double, Laureano single, Moreland double, Pinder walk, and Piscotty single plated three more runs.

In the 5th, a pair of glove-first prospects capped off the scoring with one more. Nick Allen singled for his first hit of the spring (1-for-13), and then superhero Buddy Reed doubled him in. If only the Brewers had Reed in the outfield, maybe they could have thrown out the runner at the plate!

Also, a shoutout for outfield prospect Skye Bolt. His line reads hitless, but he was robbed of extra bases in his first at-bat. In five plate appearances this spring, he’s got two walks and a loud out — 60% of the time, he does something good every time.

Pitching

The A’s waited until now to debut their MLB starting rotation, and 2020 ace Chris Bassitt was the first to get the call.

The right-hander cruised for three efficient innings. Travis Shaw got to him for a solo homer in the 1st, but otherwise the only runner was a double by Billy McKinney, who was once a 1st-round draft pick by the A’s. Bassitt didn’t need to use his entire scheduled 50-60 pitch count.

Bassitt: 3 ip, 1 run, 2 Ks, 0 BB, 2 hits, 1 HR

Again, he was facing mostly a minor league lineup, but that’s still a nice way to begin the spring. He’s trying out a new slider too, reports Matt Kawahara of the S.F. Chronicle:

“I got [Sergio] Romo’s pitch grip and then I’ve just been blowing Diekman up left and right, even off the field, like hey how do you throw this pitch. ...

“[Romo] saw me struggling on the back fields getting mad with a slider and he just kinda showed me his pitch grip. I was like, ‘Dang this is funky but I really like it.’ It’s kinda just blossomed from there.”

As for waiting so long to get into a Cactus League game, Bassitt likes the idea because of the constructive feedback he can get from facing his own teammates instead in the early days of March, per Shayna Rubin of the Mercury News:

“I’m facing Chappy, Oly, Pinder and Jed and guys like that. In these spring training games, I can’t be like ‘Hey Travis Shaw, what did you see there?’”

After Bassitt, the bullpen cleaned up the rest with no issue. Jake Diekman and J.B. Wendelken spun 1-2-3 frames, and Lou Trivino allowed just one harmless hit. NRI Deolis Guerra pitched around a double in the 7th (final) inning to seal it. Overall, the relievers combined for a line of 4 ip, 0 runs, 6 Ks, 0 BB, 2 hits.

Just wonderful news all around. The hitters mashed against some legit MLB arms, a couple of younger players snapped their spring 0-fers, Bassitt and the pen looked sharp, and we got our daily Buddy highlight. It was a good day.

The A’s play the Rangers on Thursday at noon. Starring Jesús Luzardo!

Update: Video highlights!

This game wasn’t televised, but here are some late-breaking video highlights to get a visual of the key plays.

In order, you’re looking at:

  • Bassitt strikeout (was that the new slider?)
  • Laureano picked off, but the throw to second goes wild and he moves up to third base on the error (honestly he might have been safe at second even if the throw had hit the bag)
  • Moreland RBI single to score Laureano a moment later
  • Another Bassitt strikeout
  • Austin Allen moonshot homer off Hader
  • Laureano homer off Hader, slightly oppo of center
  • Machin excuse-me double down the line for two runs, because that’s what happens sometimes when you consistently spray contact all over the field
  • ... the same highlight continues to show a reminder that baseball is more fun with Tony Kemp in it, though this time he got thrown out
  • Laureano RBI single
  • Moreland double to the wall, his second RBI hit of the day, with a reminder that if you bobble the ball for even one moment then Buddy Reed will score all the way from first without a slide (he was pinch-running for Laureano)

My biggest new takeaway from these clips is Laureano on the bases. It’s easy to look at the play-by-play from his first place appearance and conclude that he just got lucky to wind up on third base, but that’s not entirely the case.

He reached on an error (not included in the video above), but his speed puts extra pressure on the infielders whenever he hits a grounder, and that’s going to earn him this kind of bonus freebie more often than the average player. And yes he got picked off trying to steal, but it turns out he’s so fast that it doesn’t even matter, and his wheels (and the general chaos he created) helped induce another bad throw and another free base.

He virtually willed his way three-quarters of the way home based on nothing but speed, hustle, aggressive play-making, and capitalizing on opponent’s mistakes. It won’t always go this well every time he hits a grounder, or every time his steal attempt goes awry, but this result wasn’t a complete accident either. The run is unearned in the box score, but in reality it was at least slightly, partially earned by Ramon.