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Game #104: Montas gem, Marte debut, lead A’s to 4-0 win

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Getting back on track!

Oakland Athletics v Los Angeles Angels Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

That’s two in a row! One more and it’s a winning streak.

The Oakland A’s blanked the Los Angeles Angels 4-0 on Thursday, opening a four-game series in Anaheim on the right foot. Oakland has been slumping lately, but for the second straight game they made the plays they needed and also got a couple of the fortunate hops that haven’t been bouncing in their favor lately.

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

The headline entering the evening was the A’s debut of outfielder Starling Marte, who was acquired in a trade yesterday, and indeed Marte did contribute to the victory. But the bottom line is the Angels didn’t score, and that’s mostly because Frankie Montas didn’t let them. Oakland’s rotation has been the primary strength of the team, and they led the way again tonight.

In seven innings, the Halos only hit the ball hard twice off Montas. One of those was a loud out to end a brief scoring threat in the 3rd, but in the end they never actually reached third base a single time.

  • Montas: 7 ip, 0 runs, 10 Ks, 3 BB, 3 hits, 109 pitches, 80.0 mph EV

Granted, this was a particularly weak Angels lineup, missing Anthony Rendon and Jared Walsh in addition to the long absence of Mike Trout. But that’s still a dominant performance against a group of major leaguers, and they still had to deal with Shohei Ohtani — and rather than let Ohtani beat them, they walked him three of his four times up.

Montas finished with double-digit strikeouts for his second straight game, his third time this month, and his fourth time this season. The others also came against AL West opponents, including the Mariners twice and the Astros once.

After Montas’ departure, the bullpen cleaned up the final two innings, with Sergio Romo in the 8th and Lou Trivino in the 9th.

Divine gifts

The A’s only collected four hits themselves on offense, but they made the most of them while taking advantage of some gifts from the Halos. Most of the action came in the 1st inning.

The first batter of the game was Mark Canha, and he blatantly leaned into a pitch for a free trip to first base. The umpire should not have given Canha this call, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I’d feel more sorry if we hadn’t spent the last two months watching virtually every coin-flip go against us. Take what you can get, Mark.

Next up was Marte, and he drew a walk in his first green-and-gold plate appearance. He’s here to get on base, so that’ll work!

One more walk loaded the bases, with nobody out. Jed Lowrie came through as usual, with enough contact to drive home a run with an RBI groundout, and Ramon Laureano followed by smashing a double to plate two more.

Laureano’s double was the only hit of the inning, but Oakland cashed in three runs. That’s partly thanks to the gift HBP, but Angels starter Dylan Bundy caused plenty of his own trouble by walking two batters and then giving up multiple pieces of hard contact.

That crooked number held up for the rest of the game, though the Halos did hand them one more insurance run in the 7th. With runners on the corners, two outs, and an 0-2 count, the Angels attempted a pickoff throw to first base and sailed it into the dugout, allowing the lead runner to trot home. The A’s had already missed a chance to bring home that runner with one out, so it was nice of the opponent to gift it to them anyway.

Highlights!

That was all the scoring, just the rally in the 1st and the error in the 7th. But there were still a few more highlights worth mentioning.

After walking and scoring in the 1st inning, Marte picked up his first hit in the 5th. With Canha already on base, Marte singled, and then the pair pulled off a double-steal to earn Marte his first swipe. They were stranded, but it was still an exciting sign of future possibilities.

In the bottom of the 5th it was Ohtani’s turn, and he walked and stole second to get into scoring position. The next batter hit what could have turned into an RBI double down the line, but third baseman Matt Chapman was there to make a vintage Platinum Glove play.

However, this last video is one I don’t like. When Canha leaned into Bundy’s pitch in the 1st inning, they exchanged unfriendly words with each other, which is fine. That happens, and Bundy was right to be upset. But in the next inning, Bundy delivered this pitch, clearly at Canha’s head.

Nope. Can’t do that. It’s all fun and games until you start throwing at people’s heads, and nobody is going to buy that as an accident after they were F-bombing each other 30 minutes earlier. It’s astonishing to me that the ump didn’t eject Bundy on the spot. But it’s also astonishing to me that the ump gave Canha the HBP in the previous inning, so it’s entirely possible that Hunter Wendelstedt is just a bad umpire who did a bad job today. It’s not even the first time Wendelstedt has sucked in an A’s/Angels game this season.

Fortunately nobody got hurt, and the A’s won, so all’s well that ends well I suppose.

Getting warmer

Nothing makes you appreciate the details like having them all go wrong for two months.

Everything went the A’s way tonight. They were gifted some early baserunners, and also a late insurance run. They came through with two clutch pieces of contact when they needed to during that early rally, and when they went quiet after their One Big Inning it still turned out OK. The Angels’ best shot at an RBI was met by Oakland’s best defensive play of the night (by Chapman), and in the 8th Romo hung a slider but got away with it instead of watching it fly for a two-run dinger.

The A’s played well and earned the win, but we’ve seen lots of games lately in which they’ve played well enough to win and ended up barely losing. It was encouraging to see them finish this one off calmly and comfortably.

The rotation is still rolling. The offense has a new boost, as does the bullpen. Let’s see what kind of wave they can catch as July comes to a close this weekend.