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Sharp Cole Irvin goes eight, strikes out nine as A’s top Jays

Cole Irvin threw eight solid innings and Jed Lowrie and Mitch Moreland both drove in a pair of runs as the Oakland A’s beat the Toronto Blue Jays 4-1 Tuesday night.

Irvin (W, 3-3, 3.09 ERA) set a new career high of nine strikeouts. By the seventh inning he had racked up back-to-back eight-strikeout outings, but came out for the eighth inning at 90 pitches and set a new personal best. 

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Irvin made the 26-man roster because Mike Fiers was on the IL. He competed with teammate Daulton Jefferies for the fifth spot and won it. Irvin has been the most reliable starter this season and can go deep into games. He may have came here while Fiers recovered but he has quickly proven he isn’t going anywhere. Bob Melvin would agree:

“He’s not a seat warmer anymore. He’s been consistent the entire season and on a day we are down some guys on the bullpen. Eight innings, I either fell asleep or had a lot of confidence in him, one or the other. Probably the latter, pitched great. Nine strikeouts, one walk, three hits, you don’t see that very often anymore on a day that we kinda needed some innings out of our starters. He just continues to get better and better and pitch with more confidence. That is not an easy lineup for a lefty to go through.”

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the A’s clubhouse at the Oakland Coliseum.

Irvin paced himself and planned to go deep into the game. He has always played with a chip on his shoulder trying to prove he belongs. He has a mindset that pushes him to be his best and explained his new mentality:

“No, it is still there. It is not going to leave me. I found something that works for me and I am going to continue to do it as much as I can and pitch with that mindset of knowing that theres someone out there that doesn’t think I should be in a big league uniform and its still grinding me, its still making me work harder everyday and I want to get my first complete game and I want to have multiple in my career. I am starting to have these goals and as I progress maybe the goals are changing and the ability of what I can do is changing but it is more so I am still pitching with that mentality. I don’t wanna lose that.”

LHP Anthony Kay (L, 0-2, 9.82 ERA) lasted 3 1/3 innings during his 2021 debut and barely made it through the second inning of his second start. Sean Murphy led off the second with a soft grounder that got through the right side infield, then Matt Chapman hit a line drive up the middle. Jed Lowrie, the Jedi Master. doubled to right give the A’s their first lead of the game, 2-0.

Mitch Moreland followed with an opposite field homer (4) to left and the A’s (19-12) were up 4-0 without a single out recorded in the inning, but that is where it would stay. All four of Moreland’s home runs this season have been in Oakland.

That would be all the A’s needed, thanks to Irvin’s lights out pitching.

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Irvin was on fire all night and only allowed one hit through five innings. But when Marcus Semien stepped up with two outs in the sixth inning, he doubled to left on a full count to drive in the first Blue Jays (14-14) run of the night. Irvin struck out Bo Bichette to end the inning up 4-1.

Irvin explained that his goal the entire night was to pitch a complete game. The new baseball trend is not having pitchers go late into games but Irvin doesn’t want to be part of that category. He wants to finish games and go deep into innings. He explained what happened in the sixth and his goal being to not have to use any relievers as the team continues their 17-game straight journey:

“As the game went along, I got more confident. Even if I gave up a run in that fifth inning I know if I make a better pitch to Semien right there, it might be a different ballgame. It might be another zero up there and I am pitching in the ninth. But we hit in the early innings and that always excites me when we get a lead. I want to hold onto that lead and understanding where you can mis and add and subtract is really important, especially at this level.”

Irvin was fantastic in his eight full, allowing one run on three hits. He got his personal best ninth strikeout on the final out of the eighth to a swinging Danny Jansen. His teammates all stood at the edge of the dugout clapping with their hands above their heads as he entered the dugout.

He talked about his strikeouts but said he was more concerned with helping his bullpen than his own stats:

“The strikeouts kinda started coming later and obviously I am trying to get early outs and finish that ballgame so Yues gets a day off but I felt good and we did a good job of mixing pitches.”

Trent Thornton relieved Kay and kept the A’s scoreless in his 2-2/3 innings where he struck out three, walked one and only allowed a Mark Canha single. Ty Tice entered the game to retire the final out of the seventh inning and kept the A’s scoreless through their final at-bat.

Irvin was at 90 pitches after the seventh inning and Yusmiero Petit warmed up in the bullpen during the bottom of the sixth but watched his teammate pitch a perfect eighth and earned his first save of the season with a perfect ninth inning. Melvin explained what went into sending Irvin out for the seventh:

“A little bit of both in the fact that I wanted him to face Biggio because that is a left hander in the lineup and I was willing to give him a baserunner that inning and he didn’t give that up. Maybe he was cognizant of that, I wasn’t. It was just more about starting with Biggio and then just going batter to batter, if he gets a base runner then Petit is getting in the game.”

Yusmiero Petit pitched the ninth inning and the A’s only needed one reliever, which was huge because they are in the middle of playing 17 consecutive games and still have five more to play. Petit had to face the top of the Blue Jays order and pitched a perfect ninth inning earning his first save of the season.

The A’s beat Toronto in a short span of 2 hours, 18 minutes, and Melvin will take that any night:

“We like brisk games, for sure. So get the ball and pitch and when you are the type of pitcher he is, usually a lot of pitches on the ground… we like that [2 hour games] a lot.”

Up Next

Chris Bassitt (2-2, 3.93 ERA) will earn his seventh start on Wednesday night. The Toronto Blue Jays will send out LHP Robbie Ray (1-1, 2.78 ERA) for game three of the four-game series. First pitch set for 6:40 p.m.

Notes

Aramis Garcia was placed on the 10-day IL due to a viral enteritis which according to Bob Melvin is a contagious flu, but not Covid, so should only be a couple days. He is unable to attend games and be around the team since it is contagious so the A’s recalled Austin Allen from Las Vegas. Allen spent half of the 2020 season with the A’s and is more of an offensive catcher. Garcia was batting .135 in his 13 games.


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