The Oakland A’s lost the first two games of the 2021 Bay Bridge Series despite good efforts from their starting pitchers, so in Sunday’s finale the rotation dialed it up another notch.
The A’s got eight shutout innings from starter Cole Irvin en route to a 6-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants. The win avoided a sweep at Oracle Park and gave most of Oakland’s bullpen a desperately needed rest.
The A’s wasted no time getting started this afternoon. Two of their first three batters reached base, on singles by Elvis Andrus and Matt Olson, and then they pulled a double-steal to move into scoring position. Matt Chapman followed with a sharp single to knock them both home for a quick 2-0 lead.
That extended Chapman’s hit streak to 15 games, and it was the third time in the last 24 hours that he drove in a go-ahead run. Last night he homered in the 7th to break a tie, and then hit a sac fly in the top of the 10th, in addition to throwing out a potential walk-off run at the plate on defense in the bottom of the 9th.
But Oakland didn’t rest on that slim early margin, especially after seeing how thoroughly the Giants refused to go away the previous evening.
In the 6th the A’s scratched out some insurance, using clutch situational hitting and hustle to capitalize on some gifts from the opponent. The Giants set the scene themselves with a HBP and a walk to open the frame with two free runners on base. Aramis Garcia tried to bunt them over but fouled it off, then almost homered but it went foul too, then got a 3-2 pitch outside and executed a perfect liner the other way for an RBI single. Try to pull it and it would have been a double play.
Aramis Garcia drives in a run against his former team pic.twitter.com/BmrIoSiMH6— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) June 27, 2021
Two batters later, the pitcher’s spot came up with one out and runners on the corners. Rather than risk striking out for the second out, or even worse grounding into an inning-ending double play, they went bold and attempted a safety squeeze bunt. They lost the element of surprise when they showed their play on Ball 1, but on the second pitch Irvin laid down a perfect bunt and Tony Kemp raced home with a beautiful slide to avoid the tag. The catcher’s glove never even touched him.
Perfect squeeze by Cole Irvin and Tony Kemp pic.twitter.com/IyfPR3GTRK— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) June 27, 2021
Credit Irvin for getting his job done, as the former NL hurler has shown some ability with the bat when he’s gotten the rare opportunity. In his other trips to the plate today he hit a grounder hard enough that the shortstop bricked it for a two-base error, and later worked a nine-pitch at-bat.
But nobody should be surprised to see Kemp at the middle of yet another sensational hustle play, and while we’re on the topic, the same goes for Andrus leading the double-steal in the 1st inning. These are details that can make a difference in the postseason.
Speaking of which, right on cue two batters after Irvin’s bunt, Andrus came through again. The bases were now loaded thanks to another HBP gift, with only one out on the board. All Andrus needed to do in this situation was hit the ball in the air, and he did just that, lofting a sac fly to cash in another run.
Garcia showing off his wheels ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/z3jv1afMTt— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) June 27, 2021
Oakland only recorded one hit in the inning, but they collected three runs because they took what the opponent gave them, they executed proper fundamentals, and they ran like hell at the right moments.
They tacked on one more in the 7th, thanks to the same suspects. Chapman led off with a single, Kemp walked to push him to second, and then Garcia singled again for the RBI.
Aramis has been nice as Murph's backup pic.twitter.com/EUvpcrfzuA— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) June 27, 2021
Garcia was originally drafted by the Giants in 2014 but was eventually let go last winter before finding his way to Oakland, so this was a classic case of a player producing against his former club.
As nice of a job as the offense did today, the real story was Irvin on the mound.
The lefty was untouchable. He retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced, and when the Giants led off the 5th with a single, he induced a double play two pitches later. The only time they got to second base against him was in the 8th inning, when he issued a walk and a HBP but got out of it. No runner reached third base against him, and only a couple balls were even hit hard.
- Irvin: 8 ip, 0 runs, 8 Ks, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 3 hits, 100 pitches, 87.1 mph EV
Simply brilliant. It’s the second time this year that the southpaw has gone eight innings.
Lights out.— Oakland A's (@Athletics) June 27, 2021
8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 8 K pic.twitter.com/Ds8d2WFdcR
Unfortunately Irvin wasn’t given the chance to complete his shutout, and the bullpen had an adventure getting through the final three outs. Deolis Guerra couldn’t get it done and Lou Trivino had to come in to clean up, and it’s hard to imagine how this game ended with the closer on the mound. But it all worked out and they have an off-day tomorrow.
The road trip is over! It was a frustrating 10 games, but it finished on a high note. Today the A’s looked like the contender they can be when everything comes together, even without hitting any homers. The rotation continued rolling, and the lineup strung together a few small-ball rallies. Now they head back to the Coliseum for a week to build on that success.