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Spring Game #7: A’s fall behind early, charge back in win

Irvin flaunts new cutter with 6 K’s in 3 IP

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

Oakland won their second Spring Training game today, defeating the Milwaukee Brewers 6-3 in Mesa on Thursday afternoon.

The offense got some big hits today, led by veterans Tony Kemp and Eric Thames and rising star Sean Murphy. Starting pitcher Cole Irvin got a serious test today, facing off against what was essentially the Brewer’s starting offense against left-handed pitchers. And the bullpen completely shut down the Crew for six innings to finish off the win.

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

The A’s got off to a fast start on the pitching side, with Cole Irvin’s his new cutter helping him get three swinging strikeouts against Kolten Wong, Willy Adames, and Christian Yelich to start the game. Those are some of the Crew’s best hitters, and Irvin’s newfound cutter should have A’s fans excited to see what he’s going to do this season. Four of his six strikeouts would come on fastballs, presumably his new cutter.

Trouble would soon rear it’s head for Irvin in the 2nd, though. A single and a loud double set up Brewers hot-hitting center fielder Tyrone Taylor with a scoring opportunity that he didn’t miss, smacking a no-doubter 3-run home run over the left field wall. Irvin was initially expected to go 4 innings, but after making it through 3 innings with 6 K’s, and with a pitch count already at 62, manager Mark Kotsay made the move to pull Irvin an inning earlier than expected. There’s a lot to be encouraged by if you’re Irvin, and he’s expected to get at least two more spring starts before Opening Day.

  • Irvin: 3 IP, 3 runs, 6 K, 1 BB, 4 hits, 62 pitches

The offense sputtered early, as Freddy Peralta shut down the A’s offence for the first two innings before a 2-out rally in the 3rd got the A’s on the board. Center fielder Skye Bolt (0-1, BB), who is still vying for the 4th outfielder role, drew a tough walk before Tony Kemp (1-3, RBI) roped a screamer down into the right field corner for an RBI triple:

Kemp would come in to score the A’s second run on the next pitch after Peralta bounced one in the dirt past his catcher.

Catcher Sean Murphy (1-3), who has been having a terrific Spring Training, tied the game up with an absolute screamer of a home run in the next inning, tying the game up at 3 apiece. Murphy, who would also come just inches short of an opposite-field blast later in the 6th inning, looks more comfortable than any Spring Training he’s been to and is poised to have a monster year in the middle of the A’s lineup.

DH Eric Thames (1-3) was two batters later and he wanted in on the fun, too, So he hit a home run to take the lead for Oakland, his first hit this spring:

From there is was all roses and sunshine. A small rally in the 6th got runners on 2nd and 3rd for Chad Pinder (0-2, RBI), who displayed some nice situational hitting by smacking one to deep right field for an RBI sac fly to make the score 5-3. With the clearest path to playing time in his career, Pinder is a player to watch this upcoming season, as in the past it always seemed he thrived when given consistent, everyday at-bats, something he’ll finally have a chance for in 2022.

Middle relief was not an issue today, as Justin Grimm, Sam Moll, and Domingo Acevedo all threw shutout innings after Irvin departed. Left-hander Sam Selman ran into trouble in the 7th, throwing 8 straight balls to start the inning, but came back to get a flyout and strikeout before Dany Jimenez came on and induced an inning-ending pop out. Journeyman veteran Austin Pruitt and intriguing prospect Shohei Tomioka finished the game off with scoreless innings of their own. Several of those arms are going to be on the Opening Day roster, so keep an eye on the bullpen battles over the next few days.

Oakland would go on to pull all the starters in the top half of the 7th, replacing everyone but Thames. An insurance run in the 8th brought the final score to 6-3 and left the A’s with a 2-4-1 record this spring.

Notes:

  • Seth Brown went 1-3 today with a double, and with as much as he’s been playing right field, it’s fair to pencil him into the position going into Opening Day.
  • Billy McKinney, still in camp and presumably still an option for Opening Day, made a few nice plays on defense at first base, snagging a line drive off the bat of slugger Hunter Renfroe in the 4th and making a nice stretch on an Andrus throw from short. On the negative side, he couldn’t make the dig on a long throw from third baseman Kevin Smith, and McKinney had 2 K’s and continues to struggle in the batter’s box this spring.
  • Speaking of Smith, he had a couple almost-plays today. He was charged with an error on throw from third but made a nice dive and snag to at least prevent a double down the line, and he also hit an oppo taco to right field that died just inches short of a home run. Smith has been impressive in camp and making good contact. He did have a strikeout today, but he could make the team out of camp if he keeps up the production, especially since the team still needs a third baseman.

Non-Roster Invitees/Minor leaguers:

  • Utility man Christian Lopes had a double in the 8th in his only at-bat. Since Vimael Machin was optioned out earlier in spring, there’s a decent enough chance that Lopes could actually crack the roster as an infield utility piece.
  • Catcher Christian Bethancourt came on with the rest of the subs in the 7th, smacking a long drive to the center field warning track for an RBI sac fly in his only at-bat. Even with his strong spring, the signing of catcher Stephen Vogt means it’s likely that Bethancourt starts the season off in Triple-A.
  • First baseman Dalton Kelly (0-1, K) would have probably removed himself from consideration for the first base job long ago based on his spring, but no one else has really separated themselves from the pack for the job. McKinney, Kelly’s main rival for first base, hasn’t been putting up much more than Dalton. So consider this race still open, with McKinney likely just ahead of Kelly by a hair.
  • Second/Third Baseman Sheldon Neuse got into the game at third base today. Oakland has really been flip-flopping Neuse between second and third a lot this spring, and as a member of the 40-man roster, he’s got a strong chance to be on the Opening Day roster. Where he plays is clearly still being determined.
  • Shortstop Nick Allen came on as a replacement in the 7th inning and made nice catch on a pop up to center field to end the top of the 8th, then hit a ball hard to right field that advanced Lopes to third for some nice situational hitting. Allen has been hitting the ball well this spring and shouldn’t be too far from taking over at shortstop. We can’t wait.

The win is nice, the pitching was good, and there was enough offense, but we want to see more from our first basemen! We do it all again same time tomorrow, as Oakland makes the trip to Cleveland’s home park to take on the Guardians.