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Spring Game #19: Cole Irvin piles up zeroes after teammates knocked around

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The lefty Irvin tossed 4 scoreless innings

SFChronicleSpringBall2021 Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

The Oakland A’s didn’t have many positive takeaways from a ho-hum loss in the Cactus League on Friday, but there was one particular bright spot on the mound.

Left-hander Cole Irvin, in the running for a potential fifth starter spot this spring, tossed four scoreless innings of relief to end a quiet 6-1 defeat to the Chicago Cubs on a high note.

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

The Cubs did some early damage against the A’s first two pitchers of the day. Frankie Montas served up a homer and two doubles while appearing to work on his splitter, and J.B. Wendelken was tagged four four runs during an extended rally in the 4th inning.

The A’s lineup never caught up, even as setup man Jake Diekman locked down a flawless 5th to continue his nearly perfect spring.

Diekman, spring: 5 ip, 1 runs, 5 Ks, 1 BB, 0 hits, 0.00 ERA as usual

But while the hitters were scuffling, Irvin made the most of his opportunity anyway. The southpaw faced just one batter over the minimum for the final four frames, inducing a steady supply of playable contact. He allowed two singles, only one of which left the infield, and one of those runners was eliminated an an unassisted double play by Matt Chapman.

This was Irvin’s fourth appearance of the spring, and he leads the team with a dozen innings. His overall numbers are as encouraging as you could hope for from whatever Cactus League stats are worth, especially his K/BB rate.

Irvin, spring: 12 ip, 2 runs, 8 Ks, 1 BB, 1 HR, 9 hits

As you might guess from that line, he’s more of an efficient innings-eater than an overpowering strikeout machine, but the A’s have certainly seen success with that profile before. He also has more MLB experience than Daulton Jefferies or A.J. Puk, the other top candidates to fill in for the injured Mike Fiers if needed.

Manager Bob Melvin said the following of Irvin, per Athletics Farm:

“To be able to go out there and give us 4 innings - his sinker’s terrific, his changeup, used his breaking ball just enough...so whether it’s length, whether it’s starting, he’s certainly had a good showing for us.”

Hot take: I’m still picking Jefferies for the fifth rotation spot, but I really wouldn’t be surprised to see any of the trio get the job out of camp. At the very least, Irvin is keeping up in terms of spring performance in games.

No offense

The A’s lineup put together nice performances the last couple days, but they were mostly bottled up on Friday. They scored one run, in the 2nd inning, on a rally that began with a leadoff walk and peaked with an RBI groundout from Elvis Andrus.

They loaded the bases with one out in the 7th, but a couple strikeouts ended that threat, and that was the closest they got to finding the plate again.

Oakland collected six hits on the day, and two of them were by Chad Pinder. He’s suddenly having quite an interesting spring after an initially slow start, and as usual he’s been playing all around the field on defense.

Pinder, spring: 8-for-26 (.308), 2 HR, 2 doubles, 7 BB, 6 Ks, 1 SB

The game even began on a bummer note, as RF Stephen Piscotty was a late scratch due to a sore left wrist, for which he received a cortisone shot.

***

Can’t win ‘em all, but the positives here are Irvin keeping the fifth starter battle hot, and Pinder keeping his bat on fire. Back at it tomorrow!