What could make an A’s Spring Training game feel even less consequential than it already is? How about we remove the opposing team’s two best players and pit them against each other in WBC Finals matchup that starts right as the A’s game ends?
But hey, guys are still fighting for major league jobs and the A’s are fighting to not be in the bottom 5 of the Cactus League standings! So let’s get to the game.
In the top of the 1st, the A’s put a crafty run on the board, continuing their newfound love for small ball. Leadoff man Tony Kemp slapped a groundball single to right, putting him in position to steal second base, which is exactly what he did. The A’s didn’t get any other hits or baserunners the rest of the inning, but two sacrifice flies from Connor Capel and Aldemys Diaz were enough to get Kemp home.
Starting for A’s on the pitching side, Adam Oller, who’s been on a tear this spring, didn’t show up with his best stuff today. The vibes were off right from the beginning with Taylor Ward homering in the first at bat for the Angels. However, it wasn’t a deep drive to the right field bleachers; instead it was a line drive to right-center field that Esteury Ruiz took a dive for and flopped, letting the ball go behind him and Ward was able to speed his way home.
Not much better than Oller’s stuff was his command. After allowing just 4 walks in his first 12 innings, the rotation hopeful nearly doubled that today in just 2 innings. Add that up with 5 more Angels hits and that puts the A’s behind by a couple runs. Despite the ugly line, this shouldn’t upend Oller as a favorite to land in the Opening Day rotation. He should already have that secured, barring another worrying start to close our Spring Training.
The 4th inning saw the next string of action with a bit of messiness from an Angels minor league flamethrower, Ben Joyce. Not only does he clock 104 mph with his fastball, he also hasn’t yet allowed a run in his 5 spring innings, until today of course. First, Jesus Aguilar took a walk to lead off the inning before getting to second on a wild pitch. Bounceback candidate Ramon Laureano then hit a groundball single to knock in Aguilar. Another wild pitch brought Joyce back at square one, except now the tying run was at second. Pressure mounted as Joyce plunked Ryan Noda and the Angels finally took him out.
The A’s capitalized on the rally handed to them, with the next batter Ruiz hitting a line drive single to bring Laureano home and tie the game. Unfortunately, things ended there as Ruiz was caught stealing, his second and least successful attempt of the day. Angels shortstop Luis Rengifo took the game back in the bottom of the 4th, smashing a solo homer to right field.
Oakland trailed 5-4 for the second half of the game — prospect JT Ginn held things down with 3 shutout innings — but some unlikely non-roster invitees stepped in, rallied back, and won the game for the A’s. Utilityman Pablo Reyes and catcher Kyle McCann started the comeback with a walk and a single, respectively, to put runners at first and second with no outs. Noda and Cristian Pache did just enough to give the A’s a lifeline with two groundballs, one that moved the runners over and another that induced a double play but got the tying run home.
With the game now tied 5-5 and one out left to regain the lead, infielder Tyler Wade stepped up to the plate against Mason Erla (who and who?) in a matchup that would decide everything, i.e. nothing else but the fate of this ballgame. I’m happy to report that Wade won that matchup, smacking a double and scoring pinch-runner Jose Escorche (no really, who is this?). Rico Garcia closed the game out for the A’s with a final score of 6-5.
I know you couldn’t stop reading this riveting mid-March game recap, but go turn on the WBC Finals now and enjoy one of the most intriguing matchups we’ve had in a long time. Go USA, go Japan, go baseball.