By Morris Phillips
OAKLAND — It just so happened that the 163rd start of Tanner Roark’s seven-year, major league career intersected with the 117th big league game appearance of Dustin Garneau’s in a way that neither could have anticipated a week ago.
But they were–pitcher and catcher–making it up as they went, the best way that they knew how–in Oakland of all places.
Except that it wasn’t always apparent they were good at making it up, or going about it the best way. Not against a focused St. Louis lineup, stealing bases, and intent on avoiding a sweep.
Roark needed 95 pitches to get through four innings, 35 of those to end the third scoreless when Marcell Ozuna struck out with the bases loaded.
“Just how we drew it up,” said Roark, tongue in cheek.
The Garneau/Roark act, a trade deadline concoction, if there ever was one, surely had the Coliseum crowd fidgeting. But it was a veteran production, and it was effective. Roark departed after five frames, allowing four hits, in possession of a newly cemented 2-1 lead.
“He didn’t want any part of coming out of that game after four,” said manager Bob Melvin of Roark, who threw 109 pitches and got the win. “He felt great. If I’d have run him out there for the sixth, he’d have been all for it. He was throwing to corners still. Every pitch mattered to him.”
Filled with guts and gile (Melvin called Roark “a bulldog”), the outing was taking advantage of the trade deadline, at its best–a contending club getting an injection of energy at the season’s critical point. For five innings the A’s were in the hands of a pair of capable veterans enthusiastic about winning after spending the beginning of their seasons without winning, or in Garneau’s case, without a regular role.
That the two knew little of each other mattered little. They made it work.
“It’s a dance, pretty much,” said Garneau, picked up off waivers from the Angels as a stopgap until the A’s catching corps regains its health. “The more you can get on tempo, you just kind of let him lead.”
Offensively, the A’s were pesky, getting veteran starter Adam Wainwright off his game to the tune of three drawn walks and two hit batsmen. Those two–Stephen Piscotty and Mark Canha–came around to score the A’s first runs in the fourth, on Garneau’s two-out double.
That was one of only two hard hit balls Wainwright allowed. The other–Jurickson Profar’s home run in the sixth–made it 3-1 A’s and abruptly ended Wainwright’s afternoon.
“That was the key to the game right there,” Wainwright said of Profar’s homer and the two pitches that hit Piscotty and Canha. “I have to execute better pitches there.”
The A’s swept the season series with St. Louis 4-0 with the win, and the Cardinals were knocked out of first place in the NL Central as a result. The A’s kept pace with the Rays who swept Miami, and within striking distance of the Indians, who swept the Angels.
Only the Red Sox were made to suffer in the AL Wild Card chase this weekend. Boston was swept at Yankee Stadium, leaving them 6 1/2 games behind Cleveland, and their postseason aspirations on life support.
The A’s start their week in Chicago with the Cubs on Monday, then after an off day Thursday, take on the White Sox over the weekend. The A’s have won six of seven, but they’ll be pushed on the road trip with top starters Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester and Lucas Giolito scheduled to face them.