Scott Kazmir pitched eight exceptional innings in what may become his last home start in an A’s uniform.
The highly-regarded trade candidate threw 112 pitches, 75 for strikes, but didn’t get the win in a walkoff victory over Minnesota by the A’s, 3-2.
Kazmir (no decision, 5-5, 2.38 ERA) has been dominant since joining the A’s in 2014, and Saturday evening was no different. He allowed just six baserunners in 8-1/3 innings, striking out five while allowing one earned run.
July has been a particularly good month for Kazmir over his career, too, so it’s no surprise that despite Minnesota’s potent batting order, they couldn’t do much damage off him.
The southpaw has not taken a loss in the month of July since 2010.
Half of the baserunners that Kazmir allowed came in the first inning, which escalated quickly. Dozier doubled, and Torii Hunter singled. Then Kazmir allowed a walk to first baseman Joe Mauer, bringing up one of the most powerful rookies in baseball, Miguel Sano.
But Sano struck out swinging, and the next batter, third baseman Trevor Plouffe, grounded into a double play to end the inning.
From the second inning all the way to the eighth, Kazmir allowed only two baserunners.
Oakland’s offense took awhile to get going too, though, until designated hitter Billy Butler swatted a solo homer to center field, putting the first run on the board during the bottom half of the seventh inning.
And after Clippard came took the hill and played his part in allowing two runs across, the A’s looked close to cooked, having little success this season in close ballgames. Entering Saturday, the A’s were only 8-22 in one run ballgames with only one walkoff win all season.
Now they have two.This time, the tying run was driven in by a guy who’s only been on Oakland’s roster for a matter of days, even including their minor league system.
Jake Smolinski, who was claimed off waivers from Texas just before the all-star break, hit a line drive single to left field, which scored second baseman Brett Lawrie, who showed some epic hustle just to reach base.
Lawrie hit what normally would have been a routine grounder just one at-bat prior, but beat out the throw. And then he took second on a wild pitch.
Without Lawrie’s gritty baserunning, the A’s probably wouldn’t be feeling the same way as they left the field.
Same can be said for Smolinski, who was brought in to rake against left-handed pitching — something the A’s have struggled against this season.
Drew Pomeranz came in for Oakland in the 10th inning, throwing a perfect frame with one strikeout. Which was good, because the top of the order was due up.
With a green light, Burns stole third base. And then catcher Stephen Vogt singled for the walkoff win and Gatorade shower.
As is routine for Vogt, he didn’t accept much credit afterwards. Instead, he mentioned how Burns might be the most underrated rookie of the season:
“It’s just the type of player that (Burns) is. He’s the rookie of the year so far this year. And he’s not getting the recognition that he should be nationally. Because he’s been probably our most consistent hitter all year. And he’s doing it as a rookie.”
Vogt certainly makes a solid point. Burns is hitting .304, with 39 runs, 19 swiped bags, two home runs and 16 RBI this season, and he’s done it in 280 at bats.
Two other’s Kris Bryant of Chicago and Joc Pederson of Los Angeles, have made exceptional cases for rookie of the year candidacy. But Burns has as well. And if it’s being measured in how much of an impact one player has on his team, Burns’ stats alone might not tell the whole story.
Kazmir has maintained since June that he’s not paying attention to any trade speculation, but the A’s are in the cellar and he’s the most logical candidate to go first.
“There’s so many media outlets now that you can’t even pay attention.”
But Saturday was likely his last start in Oakland wearing green and gold. The 29-year-old could be the most coveted prospective trade piece in the coming days, in a class with Johnny Cueto, Joey Votto, Carlos Gonzalez and others who have been easy selections to the all star game.
On another tier, Ben Zobrist, Josh Reddick and Tyler Clippard could be packing their bags soon as well. None of them will directly address the issue, rightfully so, but with the A’s last in the American League, all logic says a storm is coming.