BY STEVEN LUKE
The Oakland Athletics beat the Baltimore Orioles 2-1 in a tight contest Sunday afternoon at the Coliseum. The win gave the A’s a three game sweep in record breaking fashion, striking out the most batters in Oakland history with 40 total whiffs in the series.
Strikeouts were not the only thing the A’s pitching was doing well. They were also keeping runs off the board with their starting pitchers giving up two total earned runs over the three game series. The only blip on the radar for the pitching staff this weekend was a bad outing and a blown save on Friday night by Yusmeiro Petit.
The stand out in Sunday’s game was Andrew Triggs who tied his career highs in both innings pitched and strikeouts, fanning nine Orioles in seven innings. Triggs said his outing had a lot to do with Jonathon Lucroy calling the pitches behind the plate and his defense behind him.
“I was just following Lucroy’s lead and those guys made some great plays behind me,” he said. “This is not his (Lucroy) first rodeo, he’s seen so many things. Without going into too much detail, between innings we’ll chat and he’ll say ‘I saw this’ or ‘I saw that’ with what they’re doing or what I’m doing. It’s like having a pitching coach behind there (the plate) too so it’s huge.”
Manager Bob Melvin has praised Lucroy’s experience in the past and it has shown as the younger starting pitchers like Triggs, Sean Manaea and Daniel Mengden continue to take steps forward in their young careers. Lucroy said the success is as simple as keeping hitters off-balance.
“Being able to throw a change-up in a fastball count is important especially with teams now-a-days and the kind of offenses we’re dealing with,” Lucroy said. “These hitters are really good so if a guy can throw a slider, curve or a change in a fastball count and locate it that’s going to give guys problems.”
The A’s pitchers gave the Orioles batters problems all weekend even while the hitters struggled to score runs over the past two games against the team with the worst record in the American League.
It took the A’s 11 innings to score in the previous game and the only runs in this game came in the fourth inning due in large part to an error by O’s third baseman Pedro Alvarez that gave the A’s runners on second and third with no outs instead of a runner on first with one out. Both runners would come in to score, one on Khris Davis’ ground out, and the other on a Matt Olson double.
Those would be the only runs the A’s would need because Triggs gave up only one run on a second inning home run to Alvarez and Lou Trivino and Blake Treinen each pitched scoreless innings to close out the game.
The ninth inning wasn’t without drama. Treinen came on looking for his fifth save of the season and allowed the first batter, pinch hitter Trey Mancini, to reach base on a swinging bunt that took a turn on Lucroy. “It high hopped and checked up (the ball) and just came back just like a sand wedge,” Melvin said. “So the spin ended up getting him and that would’ve been a tough play to make.”
Lucroy said the ball juked him, and if that was all that would’ve happened the inning would have been easy, but Mancini advanced to second on a wild pitch and third on a sacrifice bunt. With one out and a runner on third, a dangerous situation in a close game, Treinen got Mancini to ground out with the infield in holding the runner at third and got Chris Davis to fly out to end the game after an intentional walk to Manny Machado.
Tomorrow night the defending World Series Champion Houston Astros come to town for the start of a three game series. The pitching match-up for the opener will be Dallas Keuchel (1-5, 398 ERA) against Brett Anderson (0-0, 2.84 ERA). Anderson will be making his second start for the A’s since returning to Oakland following his departure after the 2013 season.