The A’s got back into the win column today, avoiding a sweep at the hands of the Twins with a close 2-1 win in the second-to-last series of the season.
We were treated to an old fashioned pitching duel today between a couple right-ganders. On the Oakland side was rookie Luis Medina, although I think it’s fair to say that Medina isn’t really a rookie anymore after pitching for the A’s most of the year. Opposing him was a familiar face in Sonny Gray, who has had a fantastic year for his fourth team. In fact, Gray is likely to take the ball for the Twins’ first playoff game.
That ended up working in Oakland’s favor today. The A’s tagged Gray for an early run in the second after shortstop Nick Allen flared a ball down the right field line to bring in his teammate from second:
That would be all the scoring they would manage against Gray, but because him and the Twins are preparing for the postseason, they wanted to save some of his bullets. Gray only went four total innings tonight as Minnesota turned to veteran Kenta Maeda to help soak up innings.
Meanwhile, Medina had what was arguably his best start of the season today. Facings a Twins team missing some key offensive pieces, Medina pitched five shutout innings while yielding just one hit and three walks while striking out four. Medina really had it working at one point as he racked up four straight strikeouts. Even with a trio of walks Medina’s pitch count was only at 79 through five full frames. Mark Kotsay wanted to squeeze one more inning out of him. He’d warned the chance to put one more inning under his belt before the season ended.
Backfire. Evidently running out of gas, Medina allowed back-to-back singles to open the sixth then hit a batter to load the bases with no outs. Uh oh. You would have been forgiven for assuming Kotsay would finally turn to the bullpen, but again decided to let it ride with Medina. It was a bit of good and bad as Medina induced a much-needed double play but allowed the game-tying run to come in. Medina got the final out of the inning, thus putting a bow on his first year in the big leagues.
You can tell that the pitchers are trying to finish the year on a high note with a wide-open competition for starting rotation spots next spring. Add Medina to the pitchers who are putting their best foot forward right now.
Well after having the lead for the majority of the game, it was tied. At least for a bit. Reliever Lucas Erceg was the first pitcher out of the ‘pen today and immediately ran into trouble. Erceg loaded the bases solely on walks, just tempting fate and giving everyone unnecessary stress. But everyone could soon breath a sigh of relief as Erceg got a huge strikeout to escape unscathed. Nice job bending but not breaking.
Then it was Oakland’s turn to bat, and they wouldn’t waste it. A’s first baseman Ryan Noda untied this contest with a no-doubter solo blast over the right field wall:
That’s #16 on the year for Noda and considering he missed time with a broken jaw it’s not crazy to think he could have hit 20 with a bit more luck in the health department. Noda should be one of the very few players guaranteed of a job next season, and it’s fair to expect a bit of growth from his rookie season, too.
Erceg was followed by Dany Jimenez, who was looking to make up for blowing last night’s contest. He gave everyone a bit of a scare after allowing a double but otherwise had a bounce back performance by keeping the Twins from scoring and maintaining the lead.
Now it was the closer’s turn to close this one out. Trevor May came on in the ninth and had a 1-2-3 frame to end this one. Oakland had avoided the sweep.
Whew. Wanted to sneak at least one win in against these playoff-bound Twins. Medina was stellar today and finished his season on a high note. For the year he’ll finish with a 5.42 ERA, but advanced metrics and the eye test think he pitched better than that. The bullpen did it’s job with three shutout frames (even though there was a bit of drama mixed in), and the offense came through with the big hit when they needed to. A nice way to depart Minnesota on.
Here we are folks, the final series of the season is finally upon us. The Athletics travel to Anaheim for the final three games of the year against the Angels. Left-hander Ken Waldichuk is scheduled for his final start of the season while Los Angeles will counter with Chase Silseth. See you tomorrow evening!