The Oakland A’s look like a completely different team during their second homestead of 2021. All facets of the game seem to be clicking and were on full display in a dominant, 7-0 shutout win over the Tigers Saturday afternoon.
Cole Irvin earned his first win of 2021 and set the tone. He allowed six hits but kept the Tigers scoreless through six full innings, striking out a career high six batters and not walking a single batter. The A’s bullpen followed his lead and, when it came to hitting, the long ball game showed up.
This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the A’s clubhouse at the Oakland Coliseum.
Irvin (W, 1-2, 4.60 ERA) said the game plan for the game was to use his fastball-change up mix, and owed his success to a great called game and his fastball. Irvin made it clear how the team’s lead helped him relax and pitch well:
“The boys are rolling right now so its a lot of fun, its a lot of excitement in the clubhouse so just to be part of it and be with this group here, it’s a lot of fun… even going into my last start, I didn’t feel like I threw the ball, poorly. I am just trying to carry the momentum into each start and today felt really good. When the offense gives you that lead, its a lot easier to pitch.”
The A’s bullpen picked up where Irvin left off and kept the bats silent. J.B. Wendelken pitched the seventh and allowed a hit but finished the day with two strikeouts and eighteen pitches. Deolis Guerra came in for the eighth, taking the mound with an A’s 6-0 lead. Guerra had only entered blowout games in the ninth the first week of the season and really showed what he is capable of. He only needed 12 pitches for a perfect eighth.
Matt Olson (3) stepped to the plate in the first inning and launched Casey Mize‘s 17th pitch of the game to right field to put the A’s (8-7) on the board 1-0. Matt Chapman followed with a rocket to left just a foot shy of back-to-back Matt homers. Chapman landed on third but was left stranded.
Bob Melvin touched on Olson being ready out the gate after missing a few games last week:
“He doesn’t like to take days off. He doesn’t like going a few days without at-bats, obviously for him to be out it was bothering him … it was tough for him to grip the bat. It was tough for him to grip his glove. The off day came at a good time because he is a quick healer and it healed pretty quickly… just having him in the lineup has an effect on us and has an effect on other teams. He is a big time player.”
The A’s added three runs in the second inning when Mize (L, 1-1, 3.38 ERA) allowed two more homers. Vimael Machin made his 2021 debut at second base in place of birthday boy Jed Lowrie who turned 37 on Saturday but didn’t start after playing back-to-back night games. Bob Melvin said he will typically get a third day game off after two straight night games.
Machin took advantage of his first plate appearance and singled up the middle before backup catcher Aramis García smashed a two-run homer to make it 3-0. It was García’s first homer of 2021, and you could tell he entered the game ready to prove something. Mark Canha followed with a solo homer to make it 4-0. Both homers in the second inning came off 95-mph fastballs, and all the A’s runs were scored with two outs on Saturday.
Melvin said when the team is at their best, they get contributions everywhere. They showed that the first three games of the Tigers series and even in Arizona, where they won both games. Melvin spoke about his team’s offense:
“Machin gets an opportunity, its a big hit and next thing you know Aramis hits a home run and we are ahead so big for both of these guys and we need to spread it around. We have been kind of a little top heavy with the guys at the top of the lineup and when we play well, its everybody. We knew Aramis has had some power, he’s done a nice job catching for us but a big hit that kinda got us on our way.”
Joe Jimenez pitched the seventh inning when the A’s were able to add on two more runs. He walked Canha before striking out Ramon Laureano looking, which he did twice on Saturday. Jimenez then walked three straight batters to load the bases and bring in an A’s run. Alex Lange relieved Jimenez and the first pitch he threw was wild, which allowed a run to score before Seth Brown lined out to end the inning up 7-0.
Jordan Weems threw a perfect ninth to finish the game. The A’s look like their true Division Champion selves and the vibe has clearly changed.
Irvin touched on the friendly competition the starters have going on when it comes to just following each other’s momentum:
“It gives you the confidence, especially when you score early. You are on the same page with your catcher, it is just that much easier to execute pitches and just ride the wave like everyone else… It’s Jed’s [Lowrie’s] birthday so we definitely won for him today. We are just trying to keep this ball rolling. We enjoy this ball club right now. We are in a good space and off of that rough start, we are definitely all cylinders going ahead and we’re having a lot of fun. So just trying to back up what Frankie [Montas] did the other night and Sean the night before so just watching how they pitched, definitely helps going into a start.”
Chris Bassitt (1-2, 4.96 ERA) will battle Tigers starter Matthew Boyd (2-1, 1.89 ERA) on Sunday. The first pitch is set for 1:07 p.m. and the A’s are hoping to get their first home sweep of 2021 on Sunday.
The A’s have had back-to-back shutouts and their starters have thrown six scoreless innings in each of those shutouts. … The A’s new mantra is “ride the wave” and the A’s starters started that “motto” in Arizona… The A’s shut out the Tigers for the second consecutive game for their first back-to-back shutout games since the Giants series last season in September… The A’s are currently on a seven-game win streak.
Simone McCarthy is SFBay’s Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @SimoneMcCarthy0 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.