The Oakland A’s haven’t allowed a run since Thursday.
The A’s blanked the Detroit Tigers on Saturday by a 7-0 margin, tossing a shutout for the second game in a row. Oakland’s winning streak is now seven games, including the last three against the Tigers, pushing their record above .500 for the first time this year.
After a disastrous beginning to the year, the A’s pitching staff is finding its groove against the rebuilding Tigers. Oakland allowed an average of nine runs per game through their first five losses this year, or one turn through the starting rotation. After a dozen games, even with the team winning, they were still letting through six per contest.
However, Detroit has only managed four runs through the first three games combined, and they all came in the series opener.
The latest gem came from the newest member of the rotation, Cole Irvin. The lefty got beaten up twice by the Houston Astros this month, but he fared much better on Saturday against Detroit. He did get an assist from the umpire on a couple of generous Called Strike 3s, including one that bailed him out of his worst rally of the day in the 5th inning, but for the most part he earned his quality start by efficiently pounding the zone.
Irvin: 6 ip, 0 runs, 6 Ks, 0 BB, 4 hits, 93 pitches, 87.4 mph EV
There were a few loud outs along the way, and maybe with more normal luck and/or a couple star hitters to contend with, he’d have a couple runs on his record instead of all zeroes. But this was a winning effort by Irvin.
The A’s lineup built a big enough lead that the setup crew wasn’t needed out of the bullpen, but the supporting cast did their best impression. J.B. Wendelken took the 7th, Deolis Guerra breezed through the 8th, and Jordan Weems locked down the 9th, with the group retiring nine of their 10 batters with just one single mixed in.
Last time the A’s pitched back to back shutouts was last season vs SF, Sept 18-19, both 6-0 scores with Bassitt and Luzardo starters— Vince Cotroneo (@vincebaseball) April 17, 2021
That’s 18 straight scoreless frames for A’s pitchers, with the last runs coming in the garbage-time 9th inning on Thursday off Sergio Romo.
While Irvin was chewing through Tigers hitters, Oakland’s own lineup was going to work against Casey Mize. The former No. 1 overall draft pick was coming off seven shutout innings against the Astros his last time out, but the A’s had no such trouble finding the barrel of the bat.
Three of the first four batters of the game crushed the ball against Mize. The first went for a groundout, but Matt Olson elevated his contact and hit it into the parking lot.
That's one way to start us off, Oly pic.twitter.com/jHUnoJSQjM— Oakland A's (@Athletics) April 17, 2021
Oly Toledo, that ball was annihilated, 110.6 mph exit velocity and 438 feet into the horizon. Someone check to see if the cover got ripped off like the scene in Sandlot.
Up next was Matt Chapman, and he nearly made it back-to-back. However, his own drive found the very top inch of the wall and stayed in the park for a triple, the second time this week that’s happened to him. He was later stranded, but the message had been sent that the A’s bats were not cooling off today in the Coliseum sun.
They got right back to it in the 2nd, and this time the bottom of the lineup took their turn chipping in. Vimael Machin, in his first at-bat of the year after being called up yesterday, slapped a single the other way, and then catcher Aramis Garcia unloaded. Garcia’s scouting report has always included power, but this was the first time we got to see it in a regular season game, earning him a two-run homer.
Having been denied their chance at back-to-back jacks in the previous inning, the A’s didn’t miss this time. Mark Canha saw to that on the very next pitch.
The whole rally came with two outs, and once again, it was helped along by a weird defensive shift. In my wildest imagination I can’t fathom what metrics say to shift against Machin, whose entire skill set is based around being a slappy all-fields hitter with the discipline to offer at just the right pitch he wants, and who sent nearly half his contact to the opposite field last year. But that’s what the Tigers did, and the result couldn’t have been more predictable.
Machin got a pitch on the outside corner and poked it toward a normal 3B position, exactly where he normally hits the ball, but there was nobody there because the 3B had moved over to SS. What would have been a routine out turned into a clean single, and what would have been a 1-2-3 frame turned into three runs. I’m not saying shifting can never be a good idea, but this was a clear overuse where it made no sense. They virtually handed Machin a free hit right in his wheelhouse, and to his credit he took it.
Oakland got another run in the 5th based purely on wanting it more. They got runners on the corners with one out, and Chapman hit a double-play grounder to the right side. But 2B Niko Goodrum lolligagged the flip to the bag, and Chapman busted down the line to beat the relay throw to first. One team hustled and the other team didn’t, and as a result the hustling team earned an extra run.
It was the second time in this game that Goodrum was slow on this exact play. I’m starting to think the Tigers might not be very good this year.
The A’s wrapped up the scoring with two more in the 7th, courtesy of home plate umpire Stu Scheurwater. After giving Irvin a huge zone all day, Scheurwater suddenly went dry against Tigers reliever Joe Jimenez.
The righty froze Canha on a 3-2 pitch at the bottom of the zone, even better than the one Irvin had gotten in the 5th inning, but this time it was Ball 4. Later Chapman watched an 0-2 on the outside edge that had been a strike for Mize several times, but was no longer, and he ultimately drew a walk as Jimenez lost any concept of what the ump wanted from him. With the bases loaded, Mitch Moreland got a 2-2 pitch fully within the bottom of the zone, but again no call, and he later walked in a run. A wild pitch brought home another.
Three A’s should have been rung up looking in that inning, but they all drew walks instead, giving Oakland enough insurance that they didn’t need to even consider using any high-leverage relievers for the final six outs. But hey, after getting the opposite treatment from Angel Hernandez last night, maybe this was just cosmic balance. It also almost certainly didn’t affect the result, merely blowing open a 5-2 kind of game.
Seven in a row!
The A’s winning streak is now longer than the jarring losing streak that opened their season. They have a chance for a sweep tomorrow, but let’s not get cocky — remember that four-game sweeps are incredibly hard no matter who the opponent is. But is anyone betting against the green and gold right now?
The A's are 3 outs away from shutting out the Tigers on back-to-back days for first time since June 9-10, 1973, when Ken Holzman and Catfish Hunter did it. Last time A's had shutouts in any back-to-back games was Sept. 18-19, 2020, vs Giants— Josh Dubow (@JoshDubowAP) April 17, 2021