The Oakland A’s lineup hasn’t scored a lot of runs lately, but they didn’t need many on Sunday.
The pitching staff shut out the Texas Rangers, leading the A’s to a 2-0 victory in their series finale at the Coliseum. Oakland avoided a sweep at the hands of an AL West division rival, and clinched a winning homestand.
Entering today, the A’s had only scored one run through the first two games of this series against the Rangers, and they’d only totaled 14 runs through six games at the Coliseum. That trend continued, as all they got in this contest was a two-run homer from Stephen Piscotty, but it turned out to be enough thanks to a brilliant pitching performance.
The strong pitching also continued a recent trend, as Oakland allowed just 17 runs themselves through those first six games at home. This time they got their best results yet, spinning their first shutout of the year and allowing just four hits and two walks along the way. Texas didn’t even reach third base until two outs in the 9th inning.
What do you do when your team isn’t scoring many runs? Just allow zero to the opponent!
Starter Cole Irvin got things rolling, as the lefty was unhittable for five innings. His first batter of the game singled, and then that was it. He issued a couple walks, and there was a fielding error behind him to put a free runner on, but the Rangers only hit the ball hard twice against him and they never even reached second base.
- Irvin: 5 ip, 0 runs, 1 hit, 4 Ks, 2 BB, 87 pitches
It wasn’t a long outing, but it was a dominant one. In addition to inducing weak contact, he also earned a dozen swinging strikes, accounting for 14% of all his pitches.
The bullpen needed to cover four innings, and they did so in the blink of an eye. First up was Zach Jackson, who retired six straight batters to complete two perfect frames, including two strikeouts and only one hard-hit ball for a 110 mph lineout.
Next up was Kirby Snead, who needed only eight pitches to breeze through the 8th. He did allow a double, the first time Texas got to second base all day, and it was nearly a homer off the top of the short wall in left-center. However, on the very next pitch the southpaw stranded the runner.
By this point, the Rangers only had two hits, the single off Irvin in the 1st and the double off Snead in the 8th. Both were by superstar Marcus Semien, the East Bay hometown hero back for a visit with his new club.
The 9th inning went to Dany Jimenez, who has received most of the save opportunities lately. He got the first two outs, then made things interesting with a pair of singles to put runners on the corners, then retired the final batter to seal the victory. But that description doesn’t do justice to the drama of the inning.
The first batter hit a routine grounder, and first baseman Christian Bethancourt dropped the throw but picked up the ball in time to get the out anyway. Whew! The next batter hit a fly 372 feet, but it hung up in the depths of center field for an easy catch. Whew! Then came a sharp single, and then a blooper, and suddenly the go-ahead run was at the plate. The next batter pulled a liner to the right side, but Bethancourt knocked it down, collected the ball, and touched the bag for the final out. Whew!
It got dicey at the end, with the tying runs flashing before our eyes on that last line drive, but Jimenez, Bethancourt, and the A’s held on to complete their first shutout of the season.
Piscotty comes through
With the pitchers piling up zeroes, all Oakland’s lineup had to do was anything at all. And they got it done!
It wasn’t a great day at the plate, and they squandered a couple of promising rallies, but they did score more than nothing. In the 4th inning, Sean Murphy led off with a single, and then Piscotty unloaded for a two-run dinger.
Piscotty crushes his first homer of the season pic.twitter.com/9OyHhNj8pU— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) April 24, 2022
That one swing accounted for all the day’s scoring by both teams, but at least it wasn’t cheap. Piscotty blasted the ball for a 107.2 mph exit velocity, and a distance of 419 feet, which is no-doubter territory. He later hit another triple-digit liner in the 6th, but it was robbed for an out.
The power was especially helpful this afternoon because the clutch hits never arrived. The A’s led off the 1st inning with two singles, but that rally ended five pitches later with a flyout and a double play grounder. In the 5th, the Rangers reliever lost control and walked the bases loaded, but a pair of strikeouts ended the threat. In both of those instances, it was the third and fourth spots in the batting order that got out without knocking in the runs.
They got one more chance to add insurance in the 8th, as Bethancourt helped redeem the cleanup spot by hitting a double, but nothing came of it.
Add it up and they only scratched out five hits, but one of them went over the wall and that was enough. They also drew six walks by six different hitters, which didn’t factor into the scoring but was an encouraging sign nonetheless.
End on a high note
Oakland began their season with 17 games in 17 straight days. They took a road trip along the entirety of the East Coast from Canada to Florida for 10 games in three cities, then came home to the West Coast for seven more. Now they finally get a day off Monday, and they wrapped up that opening stretch on a high note.
The A’s dropped this series to the Rangers, but at least they avoided the sweep. They won the homestand (4-3), and they have a winning record for the year (9-8), and that’s pretty good for a rebuilding team that’s already seen half its remaining roster land on the injured list. And as a grand finale, after losing yesterday 2-0, they came back and won today by the same score. Don’t mess with Oakland!