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Game #53: A’s outduel Shohei Ohtani with pitching, defense, clutch hitting

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A’s win 3-1 in strong all-around performance

Los Angeles Angels v Oakland Athletics
Elvis Andrus has a case for player of the game
Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s waited an extra day to see Shohei Ohtani take the mound for the Los Angeles Angels in their series at the Coliseum, and when they finally got their chance against him they didn’t miss it.

The A’s scratched out three runs against one of the best pitchers in the majors, then held tight on the other side of the ball for a 3-1 victory in a duel that remained scoreless until the 6th inning.

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

Ohtani was originally scheduled to start Thursday night, but he was a late scratch due to transportation issues. An accident blocking the Bay Bridge prevented the Angels team bus from making the trip, so he took BART instead but didn’t make it to the stadium in time to warm up. Catcher Kurt Suzuki reports that they got off at the wrong stop and missed a transfer. Whoops!

One night later, Ohtani was back on track to pitch. He kept the A’s off the board for the first five frames, but not for lack of effort on their part as they produced a steady string of hard contact with nothing to show for it. The only hit during that span was a single by Elvis Andrus.

In the 6th they finally broke through. Andrus delivered again with a sharp single to lead off the frame, meaning he collected the only two hits against Ohtani the first two times through the lineup. Mark Canha was then pegged by a pitch, and suddenly the A’s had their best rally of the day so far.

With two on and no out, all they had to do was keep making contact. Tony Kemp laid down a sac bunt to advance the runners, and Matt Olson followed by lining a sac fly to drive one home. It wasn’t a flashy way to cash in, but on an evening when hits were at a premium they were able to small-ball in a runner from scoring position just by making productive outs.

It took six innings, but the game finally had its first run and the A’s had a lead. But it didn’t last, as the Halos answered right back in the top of the 7th to tie it.

Manaealator

For six frames, Oakland starter Sean Manaea matched zeroes with Ohtani, and in similar fashion. There was some hard contact, and a few baserunners to work around, but he was able to stop anybody from making it all the way around to score.

The southpaw did plenty of heavy lifting by missing a ton of bats and collecting eight strikeouts, and he also got some help from the defense behind him. In the 3rd inning, with two on and two out, the Angels sent a rocket grounder up the middle, but second baseman Jed Lowrie was shifted to that area and made a dazzling play to spear the ball and laser a throw to first.

In the 4th inning, Seth Brown stared BABIP in the face and said, “Not today.” This bloop could have fallen for a lucky leadoff double but he robbed it with a diving catch, and the umpire signaled that it would have been fair if it had landed.

Combine that kind of defensive effort with Manaea earning swinging strikes on a whopping 18% of his pitches, and you have the ingredients for a lot of scoreless innings.

Unfortunately the Halos cracked the code in the 7th, just minutes after the A’s had done the same to Ohtani. The rally itself was even similar, with a single, a sac bunt, and another single, just a classic fundamental manufactured run.

  • Manaea: 6⅔ ip, 1 run, 8 Ks, 3 BB, 6 hits, 94 pitches, 80.3 mph EV

That exit velocity mark is a bit deceiving, as there were several balls hit extremely hard but they are masked by even more contact that was hit extremely weak. But no matter how you slice it this was a quality start, and it was especially encouraging to see his velocity back up to its April heights after a brief dip earlier this month — he registered 95.1 mph on one pitch, with plenty in the 93-94 range.

Winning the duel

Ohtani came back out for the bottom of the 7th, and a quick bout of wildness set up another A’s rally. The first two batters walked, and then Matt Chapman grounded a single to retake the lead and end Ohtani’s night. The run was credited to an error by the outfielder, so Chapman didn’t technically get an RBI.

The Halos bullpen came in and promptly allowed an inherited runner to score, as Sean Murphy lined an RBI single to collect an insurance run.

With the lead in hand, the A’s relievers locked it down the rest of the way. Yusmeiro Petit, who had gotten the last out of the 7th after Manaea exited, stayed in for the 8th. Lou Trivino tossed a perfect 9th.

Oh yeah!

Manaea didn’t technically win his duel with Ohtani, as he took a no-decision in the box score, but they each pitched into the 7th and Manaea allowed fewer runs and his team won. Close enough!

In reality, the official victory went to Petit, his seventh of the year to climb back into a tie for the American League lead. But really this was a team effort, with some excellent pitching, some impressive defense, and just enough clutch hitting, even when all they needed to make just the right kind of out at the proper moment.