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Game #2: Home runs doom A’s in 4-2 loss

Another late rally short

Oakland Athletics v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Oakland is still in search of their first win of 2022 after losing a close one to the Philadelphia Phillies 4-2 on Saturday afternoon.

The offense managed only three hits for the first 7 innings, while starting pitcher Cole Irvin had a rough beginning and end to his day with some positives in between. A couple runs for Oakland in the 8th and 9th provided some more late-game tension, but the A’s couldn’t finish the job in their second loss of the year.

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

It was another rough beginning to the game for Oakland this afternoon. Left-hander Cole Irvin got off to a decent enough start, getting two quick ground outs to start the game before plunking a batter and serving up a hanging sinker on the next pitch for a booming 2-run home run to put the A’s behind early, again. A loud double would put a runner in scoring position, but a nice play by Tony Kemp to backhand a hard-hit ball up the middle ended the inning and likely saved another run.

There was a lot of hard contact made against the lefty today, but he just needed to shake off those first game of the year jitters and keep the score close. And close he kept it! It wasn’t pretty, with Irvin allowing runners to reach second base in three of his next four innings. Yet after the start to the game he had, the fact that Irvin made it into the 6th inning with just those two runs allowed was impressive considering the loud contact off him in the 1st inning.

With Irvin appearing to have settled in and only at 76 pitches, manager Mark Kotsay rolled the dice and sent him back out for the 6th. Not a smart move in hindsight, with back-to-back home runs to lead off the inning and double the Phillies’ lead. Irvin would get one more groundball out before getting the hook and ending his day.

  • Cole Irvin: 5 13 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 4 K, 3 HR, 88 pitches

The end of his day leaves a sour taste in the mouth, but if Kotsay takes him out a couple batters earlier his line would look much better. Irvin was also using the new PitchComm equipment with Sean Murphy today. The new tech allows the catcher and pitcher to decide on what pitch and where to throw it using buttons on their wrists to communicate, and it looked like Irvin liked it. He was working quick and forcing Philadelphia to repeatedly step out of the batter’s box to slow him down, so expect to see more of that from the lefty as the season continues.

The offense (innings 1-7)

A Jed Lowrie single up the middle in the first inning, and a leadoff single by Stephen Piscotty in the 6th that was promptly wiped out on a double play. No walks, nada. That’s. About. It.

The offense just had no idea what to do with Philadelphia starter Kyle Gibson. There was a lot of striking out up and down the A’s lineup, with 12 team strikeouts and Chad Pinder leading the team and wearing the Golden Sombrero (4 K’s). There was even a streak of 14 consecutive A’s hitters retired in a row. We knew there would be a steep drop off in the runs department with the Chapman and Olson trades, but this was brutal to watch today against a pitcher not known for racking up strikeouts.

Life after Irvin

Three relievers followed Irvin, with right-hander Dany Jimenez replacing the starter and making his A’s debut. He walked his first batter, but Sean Murphy would remind everyone why he won the Gold Glove last year with a dart to first base to nab a wandering base runner. A flyout would end the inning, and Jimenez’ day.

Then it was former top prospect A.J. Puk on to make his own season debut. And there was a lot to be encouraged by. With his fastball sitting between 95-96 and even touching 97 mph, Puk faced the top of the Phillies’ lineup and the heart of their order. A leadoff walk to the hot-hitting Kyle Schwarber was the lone blemish on the left-hander’s day, getting two strikeouts that included J.T. Realmuto and Nick Castellanos. It was an impressive first appearance for Puk, who looks primed for a big year out of the bullpen, health permitting.

And the A’s final pitcher of the day was righty Zach Jackson, coming on in the 8th for his major league debut. Check that box off, kid. A leadoff walk isn’t how you want to start your career, but getting a double play on the next batter makes up for it:

And to top it all off, Jackson got to check off another box, with his first major league strikeout to end the frame. All in all a quality first appearance for the right-hander in his debut. He’s only going to get more comfortable in the bigs.

The offence (8th and 9th innings)

Things finally started happening for the A’s in the 8th once Gibson was out of the game. Shortstop Elvis Andrus would put a charge into a ball to right field, with Bryce Harper coming within inches of catching the ball at the wall but to no avail and allowing Andrus to second. The A’s finally had a base runner in scoring position! Though for a brief moment it felt as though it would be wasted after a Kevin Smith strikeout (0-3, 2 K’s today, 0-7, 4 K’s this season) made it a 2-out situation.

Thankfully everyone’s hero Stephen Piscotty (2-3, RBI, K) came up and helped out a little bit:

The A’s would start off the 9th facing the Phillies’ closer and needing three runs. A Kemp leadoff walk (Oakland’s first walk this season) got things going right away. A wild pitch prompted Kemp to take second, with the throw going into center field and allowing him to advance to third. Veteran Athletic Jed Lowrie (2-4, RBI) came up and did the most Lowrie thing ever, taking a hanging pitch the other way into left field against the shift for an easy RBI single.

Up came Murphy representing the tying run. It would have been something to see Murph’ blast a home run and tie this one up, a game Oakland probably had no business winning. Alas, a groundball would result in a double play, and Pinder would complete his sombrero and strikeout to end the game, with Stephen Vogt on deck preparing to pinch-hit for Sheldon Neuse.

As the mantra goes, the wins and losses on the field aren’t the priority this season. We’re here for the bright spots and fun stuff. Cole Irvin was solid for most of the day, and the bullpen showed up and looked good doing it. Stephen Piscotty and Jed Lowrie both got two hits and an RBI apiece. And Murphy is still a god behind the plate.

See you all bright and early tomorrow for the series finale against these Phillies. See you then!

Notes:

  • While Kevin Smith’s bat has disappeared in these first two games, his defense has not, making a nice play on a chopper down the third base line and throw for the out. Hopefully he starts hitting soon.
  • Sheldon Neuse made it into a regular season game for the first time with the A’s, pinch hitting for Seth Brown against a tough lefty in the 8th inning. He would ground out, but glad to see Kotsay hasn’t forgotten about the A’s spring leader in home runs.
  • While he didn’t have any hits to show for it, Cristian Pache smoked a couple balls today with exit velocities of 107 and 98.5 MPH. Those balls will start to drop eventually, if they’re not going over the wall that is.
  • The only starters to not strike out once today? Jed Lowrie and Elvis Andrus. Everyone else had at least one K.