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Spring Game #5: Adam Oller sharp, Tony Kemp stays hot, but A’s lose

More good news than bad on Thursday

MLB: Spring Training-Oakland Athletics at Chicago Cubs
Kemp scored 75% of the A’s runs
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland A’s lost their Cactus League game against the Chicago Cubs on Friday, but standings don’t matter in spring training and they got some impressive performances along the way.

The final score was 5-4, with the A’s building a lead in the middle innings but then letting the Cubs take over in the 7th. Overall, there was more good news for Oakland than bad.

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

The top of the A’s lineup did some damage with timely hitting and hustle on the bases. Tony Kemp led the way, reaching base all three times up and scoring three of the team’s four runs for the day, but he wasn’t alone.

Kemp started the game with a walk, then stole second and moved to third on an errant throw from the catcher. That put him in easy scoring position, and Sean Murphy made enough contact for a bloop single to knock him home.

In the 3rd inning Kemp singled, and Elvis Andrus followed with another single to put runners on the corners, setting up Murphy for a sac fly.

In the 5th, Kemp doubled to put himself into scoring position again, and this time Andrus drove him in with a triple into the opposite-field gap.

Kemp and Andrus were so unstoppable that even their late-inning prospect replacements continued the charge. Kevin Smith went 2-for-2 and scored the A’s other run, while Nick Allen went 1-for-2.

Spring stats don’t matter, but it’s sure exciting to see Kemp picking up where he left off last year as a pesky and effective sparkplug. It’s also nice to see Andrus make some solid contact after a slumpy 2021, and Murphy make some clutch contact in the run-producing role he’ll likely be cast in this summer.

Unfortunately, nobody else in the lineup did anything. As in, zero hits by anybody not yet mentioned. The first base competition group of Seth Brown, Eric Thames, Dalton Kelly, Billy McKinney, and Dermis Garcia combined to go 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts, though Thames drew a pair of walks. Garcia also had a rough day on defense with a pair of misplays, including an error on a grounder right at him.

Pitching

On the pitching side, new prospect Adam Oller (from Bassitt trade) got the start and made a nice first impression. The right-hander worked some long counts but missed a lot of bats with his four-seam fastball, helping him strike out half of the eight batters he faced. The 2nd inning brought some trouble when he lost a full count for a leadoff walk, then caught too much of the plate for a double to the wall, then hung a breaking ball outside for an RBI single, but he escaped that jam quickly.

Also sharp were relievers Lou Trivino and Deolis Guerra, who tossed a scoreless frame apiece. Righty relief sleeper Zach Jackson upped the ante with three strikeouts in his scoreless inning, blowing his fastball past batters and landing his breaking ball both for called strikes and chase swings.

However, the two pitching prospects from the Matt Chapman trade had a tough day. Lefty reliever Kirby Snead issued a couple walks en route to a run, and starter prospect Zack Logue got knocked around for Chicago’s go-ahead rally in the 7th. Logue’s line also included some bad luck though, as his rally was set up by teammate Garcia’s fielding error and then exacerbated by a lucky popup that found turf between three converging defenders.

In between the two extremes was reliever Dany Jimenez. He looked nasty in striking out his first batter, continuing his hot early spring, but later he hung one over the plate that almost went for a grand slam before it faded on the warning track.

Positive takeaways

Add it all up, and there were plenty of positives today. A few key hitters are getting into early grooves during this abbreviated spring training, and a couple other infield prospects continued their own hot starts too. Oller made a nice debut in hopes we might see him in Oakland soon, Trivino is looking like his sweetest self so far after finishing last year on a sour note, and Jackson and Jimenez have stood out as especially intriguing bullpen candidates.

And as the cherry on top, Stephen Vogt is back! The A’s signed the catcher today right as the game was ending, bringing an all-time favorite back to Oakland. Not a bad day overall!