By Morris Phillips
SAN FRANCISCO–Cole Irvin’s answer to four hours of frustrating, fruitless baseball on Saturday night was eight, scoreless innings on Sunday.
For the needy A’s, it turned out to be a pretty good answer.
“The mindset was pound the zone with fastballs and get ahead, and everything seemed to be working,” Irvin said in his post game interview with NBC Sports Bay Area.
Irvin was gifted a 2-0, first inning lead before his first pitch, then he cruised through eight innings, allowing just one Giants’ baserunner to reach second base (in the eighth) on his watch. While the Giants played their usual patient game at the plate, they did so without a payoff this time–Irvin didn’t allow any extra-base hits among the three hits and two walks he surrendered.
“It’s all about getting ahead,” manager Bob Melvin said, well aware of the pressure relieved by Irvin after the A’s dropped a 6-5, extra-inning heartbreaker the day before. “You get ahead, now you force them to swing a little bit more. When you have some sink and you can keep the ball in the strike zone and move both sides, it’s tough to get the barrel on it.”
The Giants–and their sellout crowd–did all they could to loosen Irvin’s grip on the afternoon, but to no affect. The A’s nursed their 2-0 lead into the sixth, then broke the game open with three runs in the sixth and one more in the seventh. The Giants, despite having baseball’s best record, and being the first team to 50 wins, have had some issues with shutouts. They avoided their third shutout in the last 15 games by pushing across a pair of runs in the ninth against reliever Deolis Guerra.
The A’s have surged in June with a 16-8 record, but watching the first place Astros rip off 11 straight wins to surpass them in the division, then run into the hot Giants and have to avoid a sweep may have played a role in their psyche on Sunday. Melvin sensed it, but with a half season still to play, the manager was careful not to overplay it.
“I’m not saying it was the most important game in the world but our guys came out with some fire,” Melvin said. “They were a little upset last night that we lost that game.”
Matt Chapman extended his MLB-best 15-game hit streak with a two-run single in the first. Then with the Giants issuing free passes via two hit batsmen and a walk, the A’s fashioned a three-run rally with just one base hit in the sixth. Aramis Garcia, who did his best work on Sunday behind the plate in support of Irvin, added an RBI single in the seventh to close the books on Oakland’s scoring.
A day off Monday and home games against Texas and Boston are next for the A’s, and the leadup to their next meeting with the Astros at Minute Maid Park a week from Tuesday.