Baltimore Orioles’ Trey Mancini (16) is tagged out at home by Oakland Athletics catcher Sean Murphy, right, on a ball hit by Austin Hays at the Oakland Coliseum on Mon Apr 18, 2022 (AP News photo)
Baltimore. 1. 7. 2
Oakland. 5. 5. 0
Monday April 18, 2022
By Lewis Rubman
OAKLAND–The A’s finally made it to their home opener tonight after completing a ten game trip that saw them win as many as they lost (5-5) against some pretty tough competition in some pretty difficult venues, Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg (AKA Tampa Bay) and the Rogers Centre in Toronto. The A’s came away with a 5-1 home opener win over the Orioles on Monday night.
Obviously, it’s too early to proclaim this respectable showing as a renaissance, but there are some resemblances to the Giants unexpected success last year that could make this season an interesting one for A’s fans. The Giants won 107 games not by going after big name trade bait and free agents but by mixing and matching veterans, prospects, and journeymen.
They didn’t just look for right handers or lefties or specific position players, short relievers, starters, and closers. Rather they chose players based on advanced metrics that measured things like bat speed, plane angles, and performance in given situations, and used their motley roster accordingly.
The ties between Oakland and San Francisco’s front offices (remember that Giants general manager Farhan Zaidi cut his MLB teeth under the aegis of A’s team vice president Billy Beane) make it unlikely that Oakland’s brain trust didn’t have a clear idea of what their transbay rivals were doing.
So now we have a versatile band of youngsters, veterans,and returnees, being used as character actors in a repertory theater whose overall level of performance exceeds that of the sum of its individual parts. Take for example, Jed Lowrie, a competent hitter who started last year like a house on fire and petered out as the season progressed.
He was a decent, but not outstanding second and third baseman, but lacked arm strength and range. He played a reasonable amount of first base in the A’s season opening trip to the south and north east, where he acquitted himself admirably.
But nothing is certain, especially in baseball, and the A’s announced before game time that Lowrie, along with A.J Puk and his fellow left handed pitcher Kirby their right right-handed counterpart Lou Trivino, catcher Austin Allen, and Chad Pinder, whose presence on the team made Mark Canha’s absence less unbearable on the COVID-19 injured list. Southpaw hurler Sam Selman and infielders Nick Allen and Christian Lopes joined the team as substitutes pro temp.
Nick Allen, .319 with a home run and two RBIs, in 12 games for Las Vegas, looks like a good replacement for his fellow Allen, even allowing for PCL’s offensive statistic inflation. He had an impressive spring training with the big club, going six for 12 with two triples, a home run and three walks in seven games against major league competition.
Lopes also had a good spring training run with a BA of .333 that included one home run and an RBI total of six over 15 games.
Selman, the only player in this group of substitutes with major league experience, has pitched for the Angels and Giants. His MLB record is 1-2 , 4.77, which is nothing to write home about, but his opponents’ batting average of .200 opponents batting in 59 games over three seasons is. He’s looked good this spring, in both his four relief stints with the A’s in the cactus league and 5-1/3 scoreless innings in the hitter friendly PCL.
Monday night’s game recap: The A’s opponent this evening, the unprepossessing Baltimore Orioles, entered the fray with a dismal record of 3-6, which is not bad if you’re a batting average; if not, not.
Their starting pitcher, Spenser Watkins, took the mound with a dismal lifetime mark of 2-7, 7.80 but pitched well in his only appearance so far this season, pitching three innings against the Brewers and allowing only one earned run while throwing 57 pitches.
The A’s sent Frankie Montás (1-1, 4.76) against him. How long Montás, whose services are much sought after, will remain on the Oakland payroll is a question that may not be answered until the trade deadline. It promises to be an interesting, although not necessarily successful, season.
The game, played before a scantily gathering of 17,503 doggedly enthusiastic fans, started under cloudy skies and a prediction of night time showers. They witnessed an exciting game that started out as a classic pitchers’ duel but after 5 1/2 innings bore a strong resemblance to what until last year was called rookie league play.
Oakland drew a trickle of first blood on a lead off walk to Tony Kemp, followed by Sean Murphy’s one out double to left center that sent the A’s left fielder to third, and Billy McKinney’s RBI ground out to shortstop Jorge Mateo, playing to the right of second base.
Montás held the Orioles hitless through 4-2/3 inning until, with Rougned Odor on first as a result of Montás´s second walk of the night, Austin Hays lifted a fly to right field. Seth Brown charged in on it, dove, and couldn´t come up with the ball.
The play occured on a full count with two out, so Odor was running with the pitch and scored the tying run easily. Hays wound up on second, where he was stranded as Montás recovered to get the birds´catcher, Anthony Bemboom, to ground out to Sheldon Neuse at second.
Meanwhile, Watkins had been mowing the Athletics down with masterful regularity, surrendering only a walk between Murphy´s first inning double and Hays´ game tying two bagger.
The tide seemed to be turning against the A’s in the top of the sixth. Number nine hitter Mateo blasted a double to deep center field and advanced to third when Cedric Mullin bounced out to the mound. Ryan Mountcastle hit another bouncer, this one to Billy McKinney at first.
He fired a strike to Murphy atl home, where Oakland’s catcher tagged the sliding Mateo for the second out. Montás got Anthony Sandander to foul out to Murphy to end the threat.
When the A’s came to bat in the bottom of the sixth, they no longer had to face the dominating Watkins, who was removed after five innings in which he had thrown 67 pitches, 44 for strikes, and allowed one run on two hits and a walk, while striking out two. He would be charged with the hard luck loss.
Watkins was replaced by another righty, Joey Krehbiel, who struck out Andrus and Murphy before yielding a single to right McKinney, who scored a two base throwing error by Ramón Urías on a grounder to third off the bat of DH Christian Bethancourt.
After granting a free pass to Seth Brown, Krehbiel was removed in favor of Marcos Diplán, Baltimore’s third right handed moundsman of the game. Neuse greeted him with a single to right that plated Bethancourt with the second unearned run charged to Watkins. The wheels came off the Baltimore defense with Odor´s error.
On Kevin Smith´s grounder to second, which brought Brown home, and Pache single to right center that drove in Neuse and sent Smith around to third. Since Urías´s error had occurred with two outs, none of the runs was earned. Kemp grounded out to first to put an end to the comedy (the home team) of errors. The A’s now led, 5-1.
Domingo Acevedo replaced Montás to open the seventh. The Oakland starter´s line was six innings pitched, one run, earned, allowed on three hits and two walks against five strikeouts. 54 of his 83 offerings were counted as strikes. He wound up getting the win and lowering his ERA to 3.63.
The O’s almost mounted a comeback against Acevedo. Trey Mancini opened the frame with a single to left and advanced to third on Urías´s one outsafety to the same field. Hays flew out to Brown in right, and Acevedo decided not to cut off the throw home. He made the right decision; Brown’s throw was on the money for a 9-2 inning ending double play.
Baltimore’s called on southpaw Keegan Akin to hold the A’s in check for the seventh and eighth frames, a mission he accomplished without allowing a base runner.
For Oakland, it was Justin Grimm in the eighth. He retired the first two batters he faced, but Mullins bounced a stand up triple off the sign in left center between the 386 and 362 foot signs, which caused a few minutes of anxiety before Grimm fanned Mountcastle on an 83 mph slider.
It fell to Danny Jiménez, the winning pitcher in Saturday´s game against Toronto, to close out the contest for the green and gold. To do that, he had to get through the heart of the Baltimore order, Sandander, Mancini, and Odor. He walked Sandander on four pitches and then struck out Mancini looking at an 0-2 curveball.
Odor flew out to shallow center, but Urías singled up the middle to put runners on first and second with two down. This brought Hays to the plate. He punched an opposite field single to right to load the bases and bring the potential tying run to bat in the person of Ryan McKenna, pinch hitting for Bemboom. Jiménez fanned him on a 94 mph four seamer.
Cole Irvin (1-1 ERA 5.40) will get the start Tuesday night for the Athletics against an Oriole pitcher to be decided later. First pitch 6:40 pm PDT at the Oakland Coliseum.