The A’s are back in the win column after beating the Los Angeles Angels 4-2 in the first of a three-game series.
The pitching staff continues to impress, holding down a potent Angels offense to just six hits and two runs. The lineup did enough to get the win, finally getting some extra base hits and home runs to go along with all the singles. And the bullpen was lights out after a short outing from the starting pitcher.
Oakland struck first, getting on the board on the third batter of the game thanks to Jed Lowrie’’s second home run of the season:
The A’s 2-out rally continued, loading the bases with two singles and a walk and bringing up Luis Barrera with the bases loaded. He grounded out to end the inning, but after Oakland only got 1 hit off of Angels rookie starter Chase Silseth last Friday, getting three in the first and forcing him to throw 25 pitches along the way was an early win.
The first batter for the Angels gave A’s starter Paul Blackburn a scare, driving a pitch to straight-away center that fell inches short of a home run and instead into the glove of Ramon Laureano. Los Angeles got their own 2-out rally going thanks to a 4-pitch Shohei Ohtani walk, a steal, and an Anthony Rendon RBI single to bring him in. It looked like Barrera, playing right field would have had a chance for a play at the plate but bobbled the ball.
Los Angeles struck again in the third. Back-to-back 2-strike doubles on a couple hanging curveballs scored the Angels’ second run and brought Ohtani back up to the plate with a runner at second. Down 3-1 in the count, Blackburn battled back to get the strikeout on a filthy breaking pitch that he was probably going for with the other two:
Blackburn collects Shohei swords on back-to-back pitches ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/dnWZq0YRLs— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) May 21, 2022
He got a weak tapped and another strikeout to end the inning, doing a nice job to limit the damage after the two leadoff doubles.
Oakland wasted a leadoff Barrera double in the fourth, but didn’t waste a Lowrie walk in the fifth thanks to a Seth Brown bomb that just snuck inside the pole in right for his fourth of the year:
That two-run shot snapped a stretch of 26 straight without a multi-homer game for Oakland, putting the A’s back on top. The Angels pulled their starter after a Laureano HBP during the next at-bat, and a caught-stealing and strikeout ended the inning. The A’s had retaken the lead, though.
The bottom of the fifth saw Blackburn strike out Mike Trout looking and Ohtani swinging, but a 2-out double by Rendon brought Mark Kotsay to the mound. He didn’t motion to the bullpen on his way to the mound, and it looked as if Blackburn tried talking his way into staying in for the final out, but it wasn’t meant to be, with lefty Sam Moll coming in to face the left-handed Jared Walsh, who he struck out on three pitches.
- Paul Blackburn: 4 2⁄3 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K, 94 pitches
You know Blackburn wanted to finished the frame so that he could have been in line for a possible W on his stat sheet, but his pitch count was getting high and Moll has been tough against left-handed batters this season. It worked out, so it was the right call. A couple of hanging breaking balls hurt Blackburn tonight, but he battled on a day he didn’t have his best stuff and overall another solid start for the righty against a top-scoring lineup.
Tell me if you’ve heard this before: Barrera hit a leadoff double. His second of the day, this one started off the sixth and the A’s didn’t waste this one, getting an Elvis Andrus flyout to move him to third and a Kevin Smith sac fly to bring in Oakland’s fourth run. That turned out to be huge, as the offense went lifeless for the final few innings, going down in order in the seventh, eighth, and ninth. Second baseman Tony Kemp almost hit one out in the ninth for an extra insurance run but came up just a couple feet shy of clearing the right field wall:
Taylor Ward exited the game after crashing into the wall in right field pic.twitter.com/4cnkwrLzG4— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) May 21, 2022
Moll got a couple outs in the bottom half of the sixth before giving way to Zach Jackson, who induced a lazy flyout to end the frame then had a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh against the top of the Angels’ lineup, including a pair of caught-looking strikeouts against two of the best in the world in Trout and Ohtani.
Emerging bullpen ace A.J. Puk had the eighth, getting two looking strikeouts and a groundout and setting up closer Dany Jimenez for the save chance. An easy 1-2-3 inning with a strikeout ended this one with little stress, giving Oakland their 17th win of the season.
The pitching this year has just been stellar and it was again tonight. Blackburn was decent, batting and only allowing a pair of runs against one of the best offenses in the league on a day he clearly didn’t have his best stuff. The bullpen picked him up and fired 4 1⁄3 shutout innings. The entire staff combined struck out 13 Angels while yielding just a trio of walks.
The lineup did just enough this evening, collecting eight hits, half of which went for extra-bases. They did strike out 10 times compared to just a couple of walks, but the team finally hit more than one home run in a game! And Luis Barrera continues to make a case for everyday at-bats thanks to his 2-hit game tonight. Oakland doesn’t get that insurance run in the sixth without him.
It’ll be Frankie Montas on the mound tomorrow night against these same Angels, and he’ll be squaring off against right-hander Michael Lorenzen, who has been a revelation for Los Angeles this year. Let’s start a win streak!