Cease, Desist, Refrain: A’s have no success with ChiSox ace in 3-1 loss

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.

Road Relevant: A’s lose 4-3 in Toronto, fall short of winning road trip to begin season

By Morris Phillips

The A’s weren’t going to be satisfied with a .500 road trip to start the season. But after a grueling 4-3 loss to the Blue Jays, that’s what they got.

Finishing a senses-jarring, first ten games of the season with a 5-5 record isn’t earth shattering, but it’s an incredible, initial statement for the new-look A’s.

“I couldn’t be happier with the club’s energy, effort level and fight through these 10 days,” manager Mark Kotsay said. “The record may not reflect, right now, how well I feel we played on this road trip.”

Alex Manoah went six innings against Oakland, and picked up the win. The replacement guy for Toronto limited the A’s to four hits and two walks, and departed with a two-run lead. Manoah appearances have a winning effect on his club, the Blue Jays have won his last 10 starts.

“I want those guys to know that I’m giving it my all every time,” Manoah said. “I think they kind of play off that energy.”

The A’s trailed 3-0 and 4-2, but got a sacrifice fly from Seth Brown in the eighth to climb within 4-3, but they could get any closer in the ninth, making for a lengthier flight home ahead of Monday’s home opener against the Orioles at 6:40pm.

Lourdes Gurriel led the hosts with a double, single and sacrifice fly to boost a lineup that saw Vladimir Guerrero Jr. go 0 for 4.

“It’s pretty big that he gets hot,” manager Charlie Montoyo said of Gurriel. “It’s been amazing what he’s doing right now.

“Right now, he’s doing the job to make sure Vladdy sees some pitches.”

Adam Oller was lifted in the second inning in his Major League debut last Tuesday. He responded on Sunday, allowing three runs and five hits before being lifted by Kotsay in the fourth.

The 27-year old cited lack of command with breaking pitches, but acknowledged his growth as well, this time he kept the A’s attached.

Stephen Vogt hit his first home run of the season and Sean Murphy’s sacrifice fly to center field scored Cristian Pache from third base for two A’s runs.

“They were down early. We fought back. We grinded out at-bats,” Kotsay continued. “The energy was still really good for the end of a 10-day road trip. You’d look for that day off tomorrow, but I think the energy will be there tomorrow with opening day and going home.”