It only took 21 hours for the Oakland A’s to sweep the Los Angeles Angels this week.
The A’s beat the Halos 6-0 on Tuesday afternoon, wrapping up a quick two-game series at the Coliseum. The first game began last night at 6:41 p.m. PT and Oakland won, and then the final out of today’s rematch was squeezed at 3:39 p.m., a couple minutes shy of 21 hours later.
Not only did the Angels never score in this one, they didn’t even reach third base. They put a few runners on against starter James Kaprielian, including a pair of sharp singles in the 2nd inning and then a pair of lucky soft singles in the 4th, but as usual he worked through traffic when needed and finished with six sparkling frames.
- Kaprielian: 6 ip, 0 runs, 7 Ks, 2 BB, 5 hits, 100 pitches, 81.4 mph EV
They hit the ball hard four times against Kap, and two of those were popups. He struck out Shohei Ohtani twice in three tries, after walking him the first time up.
The bullpen was just as good, polishing off another three innings to complete the shutout. The extremely hot Sergio Romo took a loose setup role in the 7th and succeeded (including another strikeout of Ohtani), but then the A’s extended their own lead and so middlemen Sam Moll and Deolis Guerra were able to handle the 8th and 9th.
Romo is fired up after K'ing Ohtani to end the inning (seems like he always K's the third out) pic.twitter.com/qIMlXmb8UR— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) July 20, 2021
On the other side of the ball Oakland’s lineup took its time getting going against Angels lefty Jose Suarez, with their first 11 batters going down in order, but in the 4th inning they finally awoke.
With two out and nobody on, Matt Olson annihilated a popup so hard that he turned it into a homer. It had a 41 degree launch angle, and Statcast suggested a 9% chance (nine percent) of it falling for a hit at all, but it kept carrying in the soft breeze and slipped just over the fence.
Matt Olson is your team's worst nightmare. pic.twitter.com/ZwAuq1So54— Oakland A's (@Athletics) July 20, 2021
But that trajectory wasn’t even the weirdest part of the at-bat. By all rights Olson should have struck out looking on the 1-2 pitch, which was fully within the bottom of the strike zone. In fact, it was the second-worst pitch call by the umpire all day — trailing only the previous Strike 2 call in this same Olson at-bat.
In other words, the “missed Strike 3” was a makeup call. An obvious ball had been called a strike, putting Olson in a 1-2 hole, and then an obvious strike was called a ball to even it up. And the world moved on, and given a fair chance Olson won the battle.
Speaking of umpiring, there were three replay reviews in this game and they got all three correct, including both for and against the A’s. Feels like it’s been weeks since we saw a botched replay in an Oakland game, so, maybe the umps are finally getting better at it? Though it’s also not exactly a compliment that three calls needed to overturned (none were even close upon review), on top of the wobbly calls in the Olson at-bat detailed above. Angels manager Joe Maddon got himself ejected late in the day, and made quite a show of griping for several minutes on the field to the point of delaying the next inning.
Anyway, with the A’s up 1-0, they got their next chance in the 6th inning. Recent callup and 30-year-old rookie Jacob Wilson led off with a single for his first career MLB hit, and Mark Canha was pegged by a pitch to make it two runners with nobody out. Next came something we don’t see often, as Elvis Andrus laid down a sacrifice bunt — and it worked perfectly.
Andrus’ bunt meant runners on second and third with one out, and Olson coming to bat. The Halos chose to walk Olson, which is fine because next up was Professional Hitter Jed Lowrie, whose .416 average with runners in scoring position ranked tops in the entire majors entering the day (per the NBCS broadcast). Lowrie came through with some contact, enough for a sac fly to do his job and bring the runner home from third.
Jed Lowrie remains a professional hitter pic.twitter.com/IX8HUxkEuw— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) July 20, 2021
Oakland had successfully cashed in on the rally, but they didn’t settle for one run. Ramon Laureano, who had served as the offensive hero last night with the go-ahead homer, delivered again today with a two-run double.
That’s a three-run rally! Might they have scored more if Andrus had swung away and Olson had gotten to hit? Sure, it’s possible, or they could have both grounded out and gotten nothing from the inning. The sac bunt isn’t always the way to go, but I loved the percentage play on this one, especially at a moment in the summer when the club is struggling to manufacture precisely these types of runs, and on a day when they only had three hits so far against a pitcher (Suarez) whom they’ve rarely scored on this year. And the result was even better than expected since the inning extended further beyond the culmination of Lowrie’s sac fly.
The 4-0 lead was enough to feel pretty good about the game, but in the 7th the A’s tacked on more insurance to truly put it away — something we’ve been desperate to see them do more often to avoid so many perilously close margins. Once again there were two on base for Andrus, but with two outs already on the board he swung and made enough contact to plop a soft RBI single into right field. Olson followed and did the same to center field, for his own cheap broken-bat RBI single.
Those extra tallies meant the rest of Oakland’s bullpen setup crew didn’t need to pitch, like Trivino, Diekman, or Petit, so those runs count for more than just padding the differential on paper.
Two games? Still counts! That’s a sweep.
And they were two great games, both strong victories against an opponent that at least was .500 when they arrived in town. They beat a superstar pitcher Monday, and then on Tuesday they beat a quietly tough lefty who had previous success against them, totaling 10 runs of offense. On the other side their own staff dominated, both in results and in process, against a lineup that features twice as many 2021 All-Star hitters as our own.
After a month of tough losses, these are the kinds of comfortable wins we’re hoping the A’s can get back to. They also might have just officially knocked the Angels out of any hope of contention, as the Halos now have a losing record and stand 7.5 games behind Oakland, with 10 days until the trade deadline. Pretty good day on the field!