By Morris Phillips
These days, Dylan Cease has everyone fooled. The foolish Oakland A’s just happened to cross paths with the Chicago’s AL Cy Young contender on Sunday.
Again, Cease was flawless, capping a July in which he went 5-1 with an ERA of 1.87, beating the A’s 4-1 in a neat, eventless stint that lasted six innings.
Framber Valdez, Justin Verlander, Alex Manoah, Martin Perez and Logan Gilbert are also among the American League’s ten best starting pitchers in 2022, and all six pitchers have seen the A’s in the last six weeks. It’s unlikely the A’s would say that any of the other five impressed them as much as Cease, who had balls darting in and–at last second–out of the strike zone throughout.
“You have to give credit to Cease, because we came out aggressive on the fastball and Cease immediately went to his breaking ball,” manager Mark Kotsay said. “It’s a plus breaking ball and a wipeout pitch.”
Cease improved to 11-4 on the season, winning each of his last four starting assignments. In an unearthly stretch dating back to May 24, the right hander’s allowed five earned runs in 12 starts, and no more than one run in any of the 12.
Adam Oller took the loss, allowing homers to Jose Abreu (2nd inning) and Eloy Jimenez (7th) while pitching quite effectively in between those two bookmarks. Oller’s record fell to 1-4 with a 7.68 ERA but this particular outing was one of his best.
“I thought I executed pretty well, and threw two cutters that backed up,” Oller said afterwards. “Aside from those two, I made good catches and was ahead in the count a decent amount.”
The A’s started the post All-Star break with wins in seven of nine games before dropping the last two in Chicago. The team’s spirits are up, their play has been sharp, and their home run numbers have made a sharp increase. On Sunday, Ramon Laureano homered, and later on, doubled with both blows coming against Cease.
Outside of those two Laureano highlights, the A’s did little offensively, including an unsightly two at-bats all afternoon with runners in scoring position that both ended their respective innings. Not only was Cease good, but the A’s saw familiar faces Kendall Graveman and Liam Hendricks, also good, with Hendricks pitching the ninth and earning his 20th save.
The A’s have a pair of off-days this upcoming week before facing the Giants at the Coliseum on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Frankie Montas faces Noah Syndergaard on Tuesday in the A’s next game at Anaheim.
NOTES: The A’s improved play hasn’t immediately impacted their century-low offensive numbers with the team batting average at .214 and the A’s scoring one run or no runs in 34 of their 104 games. This week is the critical one in regard to the team’s streak without at least one triple, which reached 64 games on Sunday. The major league mark for a team going without a triple is 68 games.