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Game #18: Doubleheader shutout sweep! 10-game winning streak! Luzardo pitches lights out!

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And the best part: A’s move into 1st place in AL West

Minnesota Twins v Oakland Athletics Game 2 Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Are you not entertained?!?!

If not, I don’t know what else a baseball team could possibly have to offer.

The Oakland A’s won their 10th game in a row on Tuesday, and in the process they swept a doubleheader from the defending AL Central champion Minnesota Twins. The final score at the Coliseum was 1-0 in seven innings, and combined with their 7-0 afternoon victory it marks the first time the A’s have tossed shutouts in both halves of a doubleheader since Vida Blue and Catfish Hunter in 1974.

And to top it off, Oakland moved into a tie for first place in the AL West, just two weeks after narrowly avoiding their worst start in franchise history.

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

After piling on the scoreboard in today’s first game, the A’s only managed one run in the evening affair. Fortunately that was all they needed, but most encouraging was how they got it — hustle, smart approach, and clutch hitting.

Leading off the 4th inning, Matt Olson gave a perfect example of how to beat a defensive shift. The pitcher gave him a 1-2 offering low and away, and rather than try to pull it into a stack of eight defenders, he reached down and flipped it the other way. With the left side of the infield wide open it easily rolled through for a hit, and then Olson pushed it further by breaking for second base and challenging the left fielder.

Olson slid in safely with a hustle double. He got there despite weak contact on an otherwise not-great pitch to hit, because he took everything the opponent handed to him and aggressively forced them to make extra plays. The next batter flew out to medium RF, and Olson tagged and moved to third, like he was Rickey Henderson or something.

Two batters later, Seth Brown drilled a 107.4 mph liner up the middle for a single, bringing home Olson. Just call it an Oly Run.

That was already Brown’s second hit of the night, as he also doubled off the wall in his previous at-bat. He’s now slugging .500 through 29 plate appearances and is hitting the ball as hard as anybody on the team, and if he’d gotten under this RBI single just a little more it would have gone for three runs. We might just have found our new lefty outfielder.

Luzardo pitches lights out

After being blanked by Sean Manaea in the opening game, Minnesota was on the lookout for any runs they could muster in the second half of the twin-bill. However, they ran into Jesús Luzardo at precisely the wrong time.

The young lefty was off to a slow start this year, with an 8.31 ERA through three appearances and no truly quality outings yet. But he was unhittable tonight, allowing only three hard-hit balls, and only one of those in the air.

  • Luzardo: 5⅓ ip, 0 runs, 6 Ks, 1 BB, 2 hits, 65 pitches, 86.0 mph EV

The Twins didn’t even reach second base until the 6th inning, and that was only because of a passed ball. At one point he retired 11 straight batters, and nearly one-quarter of his pitches resulted in a swing-and-miss (15-of-65, or 23%).

One more important stat regarding Luzardo, who returned to wearing his signature glasses after three games in contact lenses. Can’t argue math.

Perhaps the southpaw could have worked even longer into the game, but in the 5th inning he was interrupted because he pitched the lights out. Or at least, the lights went out while he was pitching really well.

Minnesota singled with one out in the 5th, their first baserunner since the 1st inning, and then both teams returned to their dugouts. The problem was out of left field, literally, as in the LF bank of lights had gone out.

Several minutes passed, with nobody quite sure how long this would take. We’ve seen it go up to an hour and a half before, the night of Mike Fiers’ no-hitter in 2019.

But then! One bulb awakens!

C’mon little buddy, you can do it!

Success! Just under 25 minutes later, we were back in action, and Luzardo struck out the next batter and then induced a popout to end the inning. Apparently this was enough lights to qualify.

I think we all know what really happened here, though.

Although, if we’re being honest, the seven-inning games probably helped the A’s today. If your opponent doesn’t score for 14 frames, then it’s a good thing you didn’t have to give them four more chances to try, especially against your bullpen. We only have to think as far back as Sunday for an example of a team finally breaking through in the 8th and 9th.

Bullpen lockdown

Luzardo eventually exited in the 6th with one out and a runner on second base. The bullpen needed five outs to seal it.

In the last couple close games we saw Lou Trivino pitch the final inning, but tonight the situation dictated that he made more sense before that. The Twins had two tough righty batters coming up, Mitch Garver and Josh Donaldson, and Trivino came in and struck out both of them. Runner stranded in scoring position, and only three more outs to go.

That left Jake Diekman for the 7th, which was effectively the 9th in this abbreviated doubleheader contest. A batter reached base (HBP), then a strikeout. Another batter reached base (ill-timed error by SS Elvis Andrus), then another strikeout. That brought up Willians Astudillo, who swung at a 1-2 pitch and launched a mighty drive, 371 feet to left field. Back, back, back ...

... and caught at the wall, by Mark Canha, to end the game. Holy. Toledo.

It wasn’t quite his Joe Rudi catch from last year’s playoffs, but it was enough to seal this victory and take us off the edge of our seat.

It just doesn’t get much better than this. The A’s are winning, not just every day but now multiple times per day, and they’re doing it in all the most exciting ways possible. Dingers and timely hits at the plate, hustle on the basepaths including four steals in the opening game, highlight-reel defense, and dominant pitching from both their rotation and bullpen. Tuesday was amazing down to the final out.

Defense from the bench

Speaking of highlight-reel defense, Canha wasn’t the only one to make a nice catch. There was a 373-foot drive to CF by Garver that was tracked down by Ramon Laureano, and also a pair of grabs by two bench players better known for their bats.

In the 2nd inning, Brown ran in for the dive from RF.

And in the 5th, 2B Vimael Machin ranged out for his own sliding gem.

The two catches were in nearly the same location on the field.

What more can you say? The A’s are getting incredible effort out of every single spot on their roster right now. Not just in terms of being on a hot streak, which they also are, but things like hustling on the bases and legging out every defensive play. Hustle can win games, as it absolutely did today, and it never slumps if you don’t want it to.

The A’s are now 11-7 overall, and tied with the Mariners for first place. One day they’ll lose again, but for now they’ve won 10 straight and are showing no signs of slowing down. Ride the wave!