A’s Offense Sputters Again, Giants Escape with 2-1 Win

March 31, 2017

MLB, San Francisco Giants

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija throws to the Oakland Athletics during the fourth inning of an exhibition baseball game Friday, March 31, 2017, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

By Matthew T.F. Harrington

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – The Oakland A’s offense continues to sputter heading into the final game of the exhibition series, with the Green and Gold falling to the San Francisco Giants 2-1 Friday night at AT&T Park. Jharel Cotton yielded a solo homerun to Brandon Crawford in the second inning, Eduardo Nunez committed an error that led to the A’s lone (unearned) run then picked up the game-winning RBI a half inning later.

Jeff Samardzija( 5 innings) and the Giants bullpen combined to not allow an earned run over the first 18 innings of the exhibition Bay Bridge Series after San Francisco shut out the A’s 3-0 Thursday night in China Basin. Oakland managed only five hits Friday, with only one baserunner reaching second base against Samardzija. Ryan Dull picked up the loss for the A’s while Derek Law earned the Save after loading the bases with two outs.

Crawford continued his torrid spring, taking a 0-0 Cotton high-and-outside fastball over the Toyota sign on the left field wall for his second Spring Training homerun. Crawford, appearing in just his 12th game after manning shortstop for the World Baseball Classic champion US squad, hit .385 while wearing the Stars and Stripes.

Cotton was otherwise efficient, firing four innings of one-run ball. Despite being reduced to his fastball/cutter/change-up combo with his curveball proving inefficient, the pitcher locked in for the third starter’s spot still managed two strikeouts. He avoided picking up his first of the spring in his 56-pitch outing. The 25-year-old rookie had gone 3-0 entering play Friday night, allowing only one homer over his previous 16.2 innings.

Samardzija, unlike Cotton, had a rough spring entering Friday night. The Shark was sporting an ERA of 7.11, but pitched Friday night like he did during his career 2014 campaign. One of the Giants big offseason signings last year, Samardzija disappointed in his debut season in San Francisco despite shaving a run off his ERA from 2015 (4.96 to 3.81).

If the former Athletic pitched like he did Friday though, the 2016 qualms will be put to rest. The right-hander fired five innings of one-hit shutout baseball striking out six. He was cruising through four innings, throwing 45 pitches, but struggled somewhat in the fifth. He gave up a one-out walk to Yonder Alonso, then allowed the sluggish first baseman to steal second base (the only A’s to reach second against Samardzija Friday). While Samardzija would get out of the inning without allowing Alonso to advance further, he did need 30 pitches to escape the inning.

Non-roster invitee Jeff Decker broke up the shutout bid against the Giants’ pen in the top of the eighth inning, making San Francisco pay for shoddy defense. With Hunter Strickland on the mound, Giants third baseman Eduardo Núnez threw away a Mark Canha grounder with one out. Strickland induced a flyout from Josh Phegley, but Decker ripped a two-out fly ball that hit the gap to plate Canha and tie the game on an unearned run.

The A’s first lead of the cross-bay showdown would be short-lived after Ryan Dull, the A’s best relief pitcher of 2016, struggled to open up the bottom of the eighth. Dull allowed a leadoff single to Brandon Belt, then gave up a wall-ball right field double to Hunter Pence. After coming into the game for Buster Posey, Tim Federowicz popped out to Ryon Healy at first for the first out of the inning.

A’s manager Bob Melvin opted to walk Crawford to load the bases and set up the double play with Nunez at the plate. Melvin and Dull got the result they wanted, with Nunez bouncing a grounder to Marcus Semien at short. Adam Rosales’ double-up attempt would be a step behind the atoning Nunez, bringing home Belt for what would be the winning run.

Derek Law reminded Giants fans that baseball by the Bay is Torture, putting the tying run on third base with one out. Law bounced back, striking out Healy, walking Semien to load the bases, then inducing a Ryan Lavarnway bouncer up the middle that only Brandon Crawford could track down to end the game and pick up the save.

The A’s will send Andrew Triggs to the mound to open up the preseason finale Saturday at the Oakland Coliseum after earning the fourth starter’s spot in training camp. He’ll be relieved by Raul Alcantara who beat out Jesse Hahn and a slew of other pitchers for the fifth spot in Melvin’s rotation after Sonny Gray was ruled out for Opening Day. The Giants will send Tyler Beede to the mound, another pitcher who earned his spot in the rotation after beating out veteran Matt Cain and rookie Ty Blach.

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