Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani throws against the Oakland Athletics in the fifth inning of an opening day at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland on Thu Mar 30, 2023 (AP News photo)
Los Angeles. 000010000. – 1. 5. 0
Oakland. 00000002x – 2. 6. 1
Thu Mar 30, 2023
By Lewis Rubman
OAKLAND–The Oakland Athletics’ come from behind 2-1 win over the team from Anaheim the Los Angeles Angels was a pleasant surprise for fans of the green and gold.
Just yesterday, the A’s had traded an outfielder with excellent defensive capabilities who has yet to prove that he can handle major league pitching for a pitcher who has yet to prove that he can pitch successfully at the minor league level.
The for the moment home team gave up Cristián Pache, who last year ranked fifth in MLB outfielders in runs saved. He did this in 90 games, 70 of which he started, while fielding for a .995 percentage. At the plate, Pache hit .157 with an .417 OPS in his first, 68 game, stint and .200 (OPS, .614) in his 23 games after returning from his demotion to Las Vegas. He went .302 with an OPS of .781 while driving in eight runs over 21 spring training games before his trade to the Philadelphia Phillies. So there was a reasonable chance that he’d turned the corner as a hitter.
In exchange, Oakland acquired Billy Sullivan, a non-roster invitee to the Phillies’ spring training camp. While there, he pitched three games for Philadelphia, all in relief, giving up eight earned runs in two innings, giving him an ERA of 36.00. Last year he started two games and relieved in another 42 for Reading in the Eastern League. Although his won-lost record was 5-1 (plus a couple of saves), his ERA was 4.59, and the on base percentage of his AA class opposing hitters was .744 . No wonder he had been signed as an undrafted free agent.
The Athletics front office is not incompetent. They know that there’s not much of a chance that the Coliseum A’s ever will have another presentable won-lost record. They’re building a team for their sparkling new stadium in Howard Terminal or Las Vegas, paid for with tax payers’ money. Sullivan is a year younger than Pache, giving him an extra year in which he can develop before being expected to show results. We’ll see ….
Meanwhile, the A’s announced their opening day roster. Right hander Adrián Martínez, who pitched for Mexico in this spring’s World Baseball Classic, and catcher Carlos Pérez were promoted from Las Vegas. Another right-handed pitcher, Chad Smith, and infielder Kevin Smith were optioned to the Aviators. Paul Blackburn, Drew Rucinski, and Manny Piña went on the 10 day injured list, and Freddy Tarnok was put on the 15 day IL Southpaw hurler Kirby Snead is on the list for 60 days.
The disparity in yesterday’s trade was reflected in this afternoon’s starting pitchers.
The visiting Los Angeles Angels sent the MVP of the World Baseball Classic to the mound to open their season. Shohei Ohtani put Japan ahead of the USA in the top of the ninth in the final game and then capped things off with a six pitch strike out of Angels teammate Mike Trout to win the game and the tournament for Samurai. He went 15-9, 2.33 for the Halos last season, and was unscored upon in his one spring training mound appearance this preseason.
The A’s chose to go with Kyle Muller, a 25 year old lefty who can boast of twelve big league appearances, 11 of them starts. He was ranked as the Braves’ top prospect when then sent him to Oakland as part of the three team, nine player swap that sent Sean Murphy to the Braves.
The rookie throws a fast ball in the mid to high 90s, a good curve that comes in at about 10 mph less, and an 87 or so mph slider. He also throws an occasional change up. He did not have impressive numbers in spring training, going 1-3, 6.50 with aWHIP of 1.889.
Muller started off in fine fettle, setting down the side in order by fanning Taylor Ward and Ohtani on either side of a lovely diving catch by Estuary Ruíz of Mike Trout’s fly to right center. Gil Urshela, leading off the top of the third with a single to left, was the first Angel reach base against the rookie.
Things got dicier for Muller in the Angels’second time around the lineup. His control, which has been a problem in his short career, seemed to have deserted him when he walked Trout on four pitches and then threw a ball to Ohtani, who then lined a single just past the glove of a diving Tony Kemp and into right field for a single that advanced Trout top second.
But the youngster showed his maturity, getting Anthony Renton to sly out to Seth Brown in left, Hunter Renfroe to line out to the spot, and indcuing Luis Rengifo to ground into a 6-4 force out The game remained a scoreless tie after 3-1/2 innings of play.
Oakland first touched Ohtani for a safety when Aledmys Diaz smacked a one out single to right center and scurried to third on Brown’s double to deep left field, near the Budweiser sign. But Ohtani fanned Jesús Aguilar and blew a 100.7 mph fast ball past Ramón Laureano to preserve the tie.
Los Angeles finally broke theat tie in the top of the fifth. After Brandon Drury grounded out to short, Kemp made a great grab of Gin Urshela’s smash up the middle and made an unwise off balance throw to first that allowed the Angel’s short stop to take second on the error. Logan O’Hoppe brought him home on a single to left center. But that was all the Angelinos could do; O’Hoppe was wiped out by the pitchers’ best friend, second to first.
That proved to be the end of Muller’s highly satisfactory start. Zach Jackson relieved him to open the visitors’ sixth. Muller had thrown five innings and allowed one run, which was ruled as earned, although I question that decision. He surrendered four hits and a walk and also threw one wild pitch.
His pitch count was 72, 44 for strikes. Jackson kept the Angels off the board in the sixth before giving way to Doomingo Acevedo, who entered the fray to hurl a perfect top of the seventh, followed by Trevor May in the eighth, who was the victim of an infield single and stolen base by Taylor Ward but wigged out of the situation by granting an intentional pass to Ohtani and fanning Rendon.
After throwing 93 pitches,, 55 of which qualified as strikes, over six innings Ohtani left off pitching to become the designated hitter. He had held the A’s scoreless on two hits and three walks while striking out ten. Jimmy Herget relieved him, and then passed the baton on to Aaron Loup for the home eighth. And that’s when Oakland knotted up the score. Ruíz led off with a sharp single to right, and Kemp drove him in with double to deep right center off a hanging curve.
Loup struck out a pinch hitting Brent Rooker but gave way to Ryan Lepera, who surrendered an RBI single to Díaz that put Oakland ahead, 2-1. Brown then singled to right, sending Nick Allen, running for Díaz to third. Brown then promptly stole second. Halo skipper Phil Nevin appealed the call, but New York upheld it. An intentional walk to Aguilar loaded the sacks, but Laureano grounded into a twin killing, second to first.
And so it fell to Dany Jiménez to try to stave off the Angels for the save. He struck out Rendon. He went to a full count on Rengifo before walking him. He went to a full count on Drury, who popped out to Nola, now playing first. Jiménez then went to a full count onUrshela. He sent a deep fly to right. Laureano caught it on the warning track.
The teams will have a day off Friday before returning to the Coliseum to celebrate April Fools’ Day Saturday with a 1:07 contest featuring portsider Patrick Sandoval, who labored on the mound for Mexico in the WBC, facing righty Shintaro Fujinama, who will be making his MLB debut.