On both Thursday and Friday, the Oakland A’s shut out the Los Angeles Angels. On Saturday, the tables turned.
This time it was the A’s who couldn’t buy a run, resulting in a 1-0 loss in Anaheim. Oakland’s lineup smashed the ball all day but got nothing to show for it.
The A’s hit the ball hard 14 times this afternoon, which is a lot. For context, the Angels hit the ball hard nine total times in the first two games combined, and 10 times today. Oakland exceeded 100 mph exit velocity nine times, but settled for three hits and an error on those plays. They only struck out five times all day, while the Halos did eight times.
Those kinds of metrics don’t guarantee anything, but presumably dear reader you can understand why hitting the ball hard is better than hitting the ball weakly or missing it entirely. With that kind of consistently monster contact, you’d expect more than zero runs.
But in the 2nd inning it was just a couple loud outs. In the 3rd they hit a double, but it came with two outs so there wasn’t even a chance to small-ball him around to score. In the 6th it was another two-out double stranded. In the 7th it was a loud out followed by two straight singles, and then when an error loaded the bases, Mark Canha worked a great at-bat and drilled another loud out straight into an outfielder’s glove to end the frame.
The 8th inning was the most frustrating. New arrival Starling Marte led off with a single, and perhaps a steal attempt would have been in order since that’s one of his top strengths, or even a hit-and-run. Instead he stayed put and Matt Olson hit a grounder into the calm orderly shift for an easy double play. The next batter, Ramon Laureano, hit a
homer 372-foot double off the tippy-top of the LF wall, and pinch-hitter Jed Lowrie (the best RISP hitter in the majors right now) smoked a liner directly at the center fielder to end the threat. There are at least three ways the A’s should have scored in that inning with the contact they made, but somehow they were denied.
And that’s the way it goes sometimes. Getting on base more would have helped, but they got on enough to score at least once. They went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position but not because of bad at-bats or poor contact, just BABIP luck on sharp liners. “Just one more Cheerio this morning” and Laureano would have homered to tie it up, per NBCS broadcaster Shooty Babitt. A lineup that’s great at sac flies put together all their scoring opportunities with two outs already on the board.
Olson just hit a foul ball out of the entire stadium.— Martín Gallegos (@MartinJGallegos) July 31, 2021
There’s a difference between a team not scoring, and a team hitting poorly. All that happened today was the A’s didn’t score. That might be small consolation on some days, but when your own pitching staff limits the opponent to just one run, that hard-luck “what if” looms a bit more prominently.
Just one run
It took the Angels until the 21st inning of this series, in the third out of four games, to finally score a run. Unfortunately, that single tally was enough to earn an entire win.
Oakland starter Cole Irvin was excellent. His only real trouble came in the 3rd inning, when a pair of sharp singles brought up Shohei Ohtani with two runners on base. Irvin left a fastball over the plate and Ohtani stung it, 110 mph off the bat for an RBI double that fortunately didn’t get the elevation to clear the fence. But Irvin escaped further damage with two more weakly hit outs to end the frame, and the other two times he faced Ohtani he struck him out swinging.
- Irvin: 6⅓ ip, 1 run, 6 Ks, 1 BB, 5 hits, 95 pitches, 90.7 mph EV
That line will earn you a lot of wins, but not today.
Cole Irvin was (yet again) fantastic on the mound pic.twitter.com/HS0d5A2y5I— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) July 31, 2021
The bullpen was great again too. Yusmeiro Petit entered in the 7th with one out and a runner on first, and he needed to retire both of his batters to avoid being forced to face Ohtani. Petit succeeded, including a strikeout of David Fletcher, something the pesky Fletcher hadn’t done for 52 straight plate appearances dating back a dozen games.
The 8th inning went to newcomer Andrew Chafin. It wasn’t his A’s debut, as he already got some work in garbage time since his arrival, but it was the first time we’ve seen him in a close game and he was fantastic, including another strikeout of Ohtani.
Another one-run loss
The A’s torched the ball on offense. Their pitching staff limited the opponent to one run, and struck out Ohtani three out of four times up. And Oakland lost 1-0. Go get ‘em tomorrow in the series finale, and if you hit and pitch like this again you’ll win.