BY STEVEN LUKE
The Oakland Athletics finished off a three game series sweep of the Detroit Tigers Sunday afternoon with a 6-0 win. The bats came out to play and the pitching was spectacular for the sixth consecutive game as the A’s moved to 21 games over .500 on the year and gained a game on the Houston Astros in the AL West. The win also gave the A’s a sweep of their seven game season series with the Tigers.
After the pitching staff allowed only one unearned run in the first two games of the series it became Trevor Cahill’s responsibility to keep it going. In the first inning it didn’t look like it was going to happen, but Cahill escaped a bases loaded jam and ended up striking out ten Tigers batters over six innings without giving up a run. He kept Tigers hitters off-balance with a fastball, curveball and change-up combination.
“We just did a good job of mixing up pitches and my offspeed was there today,” Cahill said. “My fastball command was kind of shaky, but I was able to spin my curveball probably the best I have all year and the change-up was still there. I kind of worked off of that. I fell behind and threw some change-ups to get back into it and was able to get into a good rhythm.”
It was thought that the A’s would be looking for rotation help at the trade deadline, but since they did not add to the rotation has made General Manager David Forst look like a genius. Since the August 1st non-waiver trade deadline the starting pitchers have combined for a 0.73 ERA and 31 strikeouts in six games, all wins. Cahill has started two of those games.
Although the pitching was lights out, the debut of outfielder Ramon Laureano highlighted the weekend. On Friday night he stole the show with two amazing catches, an outfield assist to nail a runner at third and his first career hit and RBI to win the game in the 13th inning. He had another assist Saturday, but Sunday he showed off the rest of his tools with three hits, a stolen base (the first of his career) and another RBI.
“You look up and he (Laureano) already has a beat on it (a fly ball) and he’s made some good plays,” Manager Bob Melvin said. “It’s great for him to get off to a good start. It makes you confident at the big league level. He was like 20 for 40 or maybe even a little better when he got here which means he was playing well. It’s always good to have that.”
While Laureano shined, it was same-old-same-old for the rest of the offense as Khris Davis and Matt Chapman both homered for the second day in a row and Matt Olson joined the party with a long ball of his own. The three have now combined for 68 home runs on the year, 31 for Davis, 15 for Chapman and 22 for Olson.
The homer for Davis was nothing new, he has now hit 30 or more in three consecutive years with the A’s, but it was still a sight to see. He didn’t hit it square off the bat and it didn’t seem like it was going over the fence, but it carried just over the right-centerfield wall. At the time it gave the A’s a 1-0 lead.
“There are very few balls that I get fooled, but when he first hit it I’m thinking ‘Okay, a base bit to centerfield’ then you watch it carry and I’m going ‘maybe it’s over his head’ then the next thing you know it’s over the corner of the fence,” Melvin said. “I didn’t think that ball was going out. He does not have to square it up to hit a home run. In the day it carries a little better, but I’ve seen a lot of his homers and to this day he still surprises me.”
Davis now has 10 home runs in his last 14 games. Trevor Cahill said he’s hitting everything. “The craziest part is he’s hitting hangers and he’s hitting good pitches too,” Cahill said. “You throw it as a pitcher and say ‘I don’t know what else to do’ so that’s the thing that’s really frustrating (for pitchers). He’s not just hitting cookies he’s hitting good pitches and going out of the box and hitting them where righties don’t usually hit them, especially here.”
The A’s will enjoy a day off at home on Monday before the Los Angeles Dodgers come to town for a two game series starting Tuesday. The Dodgers will send former Athletic Rich Hill (4-4, 3.63 ERA) to the mound against Sean Manaea (10-7, 3.38 ERA) in the opener.
Prior to the game, the A’s obtained right-handed reliever Shawn Kelley from the Washington Nationals for cash considerations and international slot money. Jake Smolinski was recalled from Triple-A Nashville and placed on the 60-day disabled list with a blood clot in his left calf to make room on the 40 man roster for Kelley.
The A’s pitching staff has gone 32 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run.
Chapman has reached base in 21 consecutive games. That’s his career high and ties him with Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez for the longest active streak.
Olson leads all American League first baseman with his 22 home runs.