By Morris Phillips
OAKLAND–The 201st start of Trevor Cahill’s Major League career was quite simply his biggest to date, and from the beginning on Sunday, the 10-year veteran appeared intent on making it one of his best.
Cahill threw six innings of shutout ball, while striking out 10 batters, and the A’s cruised to a 6-0 win, sweeping their season series with the Tigers, seven straight. Cahill, who was signed to a second tour of duty with the A’s in the off-season, won his third consecutive start for the first time since 2012, when he was with Arizona. Cahill, along with Brett Anderson and Edwin Jackson, were supposed to serve as experienced stop gaps, but on the A’s month plus hot streak, the trio has provided much more.
“I feel confident when every one of our starters goes out there, I feel like we’re going to win,” Cahill said. “That’s all you can ask for.”
Cahill made his big league debut in 2009 and pitched for three mediocre A’s teams before he was dealt to Arizona prior to the 2012 season. In the desert, Cahill’s promise as a starter began to fade, and he finished the 2014 season working out of the bullpen. After brief stints with the Dodgers and Braves, Cahill signed with the Cubs and pitched out of the bullpen in their 2015 postseason run that ended in the NLCS versus the Mets. In 2016, Cahill made 49 appearances out of the bullpen, but was inactive in the postseason as the Cubs captured their elusive World Series title.
This spring, when Cahill reached terms to return to Oakland, he was joining his third team in less than two seasons, the embodiment of an aging–yet just 30-years old–pitcher, no longer a starter, or an effective reliever. Fast forward a couple of months, and Cahill appears to be another in a long list, like Dennis Eckersley, Frank Thomas, Josh Willingham and others who revived their careers at the Coliseum playing for the A’s.
Cahill took the mound on Sunday, in his first, late season start for a team in playoff contention in his career, and occupying a pivotal role for a club that appears to be set everywhere except in the starting rotation. While speculation persists that the A’s will add a starter or two through a waiver wire deal, Cahill has made his case, pitching better and better culminating with his appearance on Sunday.
In the first inning, Cahill allowed a leadoff single to Mike Gerber, then allowed the baserunner to advance when he threw wildly to second on a fielder’s choice play. But with the bases loaded and two outs, Cahill recovered, striking out Jim Aducci to end the inning.
From there, Cahill cruised, retiring James McCann to end the fourth inning, the only other time he faced a batter with a runner in scoring position. Afterwards, Cahill acknowledged that his job is much easier being on a club with two, obvious strengths in its bullpen and quick-strike offense.
“We know the bullpen is a strength,” Cahill said. “We know the guys can score, so it helps us out. Gives us confidence to go out there, trust our stuff. We have an offense that can pick us up if we do make a mistake. If we do get in a jam, our bullpen is really good, obviously.”
The A’s got all the offense they needed on solo shots from Khris Davis and Matt Chapman. Both sluggers also homered in Saturday’s game. But rookie callup Ramon Laureano racked up three hits and a RBI, proving that the A’s can put together offense without needing someone’s to hit the ball out of the park.
Oakland moved within four games of Houston in the AL West, and 2 1/2 games of the Yankees in the race for home field advantage in the AL Wild Card game as both teams lost one run ballgames on the road.
How hot are the A’s? Sizzling, as captured by their 43-game run in which they’ve now won 33 times. Besides sweeping Detroit and Toronto, home and away, the A’s won their sixth straight, the third time they’ve had a win streak of that length this season. And among the six, hottest clubs in MLB over the last 43 games, the A’s are the hottest, so hot, they’ve won eight more times than the Rockies and Indians, the fifth and sixth teams on that list.
On Tuesday, the A’s see the NL West-leading Dodgers in a two-game set that starts with Sean Manaea looking for his 11th win.