By Morris Phillips
OAKLAND–Don’t be surprised if you see A’s pitching star Cole Irvin on Monday… possibly on the back nine of your prized East Bay golf course seeking conditioning and relaxation.
Irvin was the biggest piece of the A’s lockout-tinged, shutout by committee which subdued the Rangers, 2-0 on Sunday afternoon at the Coliseum. Irvin’s one-hitter lasted just five innings and expended 87 pitches, but it was plenty effective. Irvin allowed a leadoff double, and three relievers consumed the final, four innings, scattering three Texas base hits.
The A’s avoided a sweep, winning the series finale despite scoring just three runs in three-game set.
This weekend was kind of tough offensively,” manager Mark Kotsay said. “We did a better job of being patient and working counts (in Sunday’s game).
A weekend absent of offense fits right in with the A’s quirky, but effective start of the season. They’ve impressed by scoring runs–they led the AL in runs scored at the start of this home stand–but 21 of those came in games 4 and 5 and not much more through 17 games now. While they haven’t frightened any opponents the team’s 9-8 start is encouraging.
Especially given that centerfielder Ramon Laureano is suspended, COVID absences marred the home stand, all the fans apparently didn’t get the memo to attend the games, and–don’t forget–a lot of talented players left town right before the season started.
Dizzying if you’re not a player, but for the A’s themselves, a bunch to digest. That and the first 17 games without a day off. Not surprisingly, Monday will be for mind and body rejuvenation for the team, with Irvin making his intentions clear in the clubhouse.
“I will be on the golf course,” Irvin said. “Taking my time, enjoying it. I’ve got to get on the links a little bit. Going to have some fun.”
Irvin’s already made four starts and he’s had some success. But he’s gearing up for the busiest of his four seasons at the big league level, and that was apparent in his post-game comments. Irvin’s making adjustments, developing characteristics and enjoying the process.
“I found some confidence in my slider grip and I figured out what I was doing to throw it more consistently,” Irvin said. “The cutter was moving like a slider but it was fun to throw, kept guys off balance. Fastball command was big, too.”
Relievers Zach Jackson, Kirby Snead and Dany Jimenez were unshakeable as the back end of Oakland’s inexperienced, but not youthful bullpen. Jackson cruised through the sixth and seventh, Snead retired Cory Seager after Marcus Semien doubled, and Jimenez survived an eventful ninth to earn the save.
I’m tipping my cap to Dany right now,” Kotsay said. “He’s done a tremendous job. He gets a little bit of traffic and still keeps his composure. Today, I still felt he threw quality pitches.”
“They’re pitching like they have experience,” said Stephen Piscotty of the relievers.
Piscotty’s home run in the fourth gave Oakland the lead and the only runs of the afternoon. The A’s homegrown outfielder doubled on Saturday, making his first two games back from the COVID-list eventful after he was hampered by injuries last season and saw his power disappear.
“I’m definitely trying to have more fun and it’s more fun when you’re healthy, no doubt about that,” Piscotty said. “I don’t know, just to get in there, get to play. It feels natural.”
The A’s visit Oracle Park and the Giants on Tuesday, the first of two by the Bay. Dalton Jeffries gets the start in the opener.