As Ross Detwiler proved Wednesday nigh, there’s more than one way to cage an Oriole.
Like Zach Neal (2-1, 4.60 ERA) one day earlier, the lefty clipped the wings of the high-flying Baltimore offense, earning his first win of the season. Unlike Neal, he did so enduring base runners early and often, as well as five line-drive outs. Using a 91-MPH fastball, changeup and slider the lefty finished lasting a career-high eight innings of scoreless ball, holding the Orioles (63-50) to six hits.
And John Axford (4.44 ERA) recorded his second save of the season.
Yovani Gallardo offered one of his best outings of the season, tossing six innings and holding the A’s (51-63) to a single run in a losing effort. With their 1-0 victory, the green and gold have now won three straight for the eighth time this season — first since July 22-24. They also moved to 19-17 in one-run games.
Manager Bob Melvin acknowledged that he got more from his starter than anyone expected:
“It’s way more than we could have hoped for. … For him to pitch as well as he did, it’s terrific.”
But the Orioles had a promising scoring opportunity almost immediately.
Baltimore lead-off man Adam Jones, who began the game with a single over the second-base bag, was ruled safe after a delayed decision to run on a wild pitch from Detwiler (W, 1-0, 2.13 ERA). Although catcher Bruce Maxwell’s throw arrived at the base before Jones, a nifty slide along with a high tag from out-of-position second baseman Max Muncy led to Oakland’s decision not to challenge the call.
Danny Valencia, also out of position playing right field, teamed up with Muncy on a perfect relay challenging Jones at home. After watching a double off the bat J.J. Hardy sail over his head, the third baseman took two attempts to make a scoop before firing to the cutoff. A perfect bolt from Muncy was, at first, ruled late but after an Oakland challenge the call was overturned.
The skipper said that while Jones’ slide, which included his front foot hovering over the plate rather than contacting it, helped but that the play came down to two guys relatively green in their positions sticking with the play:
“Good awareness on Muncy’s part. Danny made a good throw — he has to make a good throw — and Muncy has to be aware of where the runner is, or we don’t have a chance at it. … You don’t think, at that time, that it’s going to be a key play in the game but it ended up being one.”
Despite allowing a pair of hits, and throwing two wild pitches, Detwiler, who came in with a 5-15 MLB record since 2012, escaped his first inning as an Athletic unscathed, before wiggling out of jams in the second and fourth.
He credited Maxwell for not giving up on his off-speed pitching, urging the starter to continue throwing them:
“(They weren’t) on, at the beginning of the game. … I got lucky that they hit the ball right at people — a couple good defensive plays. … Then, towards the end of the game, I started getting the off-speed over the plate and they had to respect it.”
The offense found its way onto the scoreboard in the third, when Marcus Semien drilled Gallardo (L, 4-4, 5.17 ERA) with a two-out double. Red hot Yonder Alonso, who finished 2-for-3 with a walk, followed with a double of his own. While they were able to get a runner on in all but the fifth inning, the bats gave its pitcher just the one run.
The first baseman, who added another onto his long list a defensive gems in the seventh, said that he has focused on breaking his game down as much as possible:
“I’m just trying to get on base for my guys, and making sure I simplify things as much as possible. My main goal is to have good at-bats and play really solid defense.”
Behind the best outing of his nine-year career the journeyman Detwiler, who has pitched for five teams in the past two seasons, made the lone tally stand strong. While he recorded just two strikeouts, his zero walks and six hits allowed gave the 30 year-old his first win since Aug. 7, 2015.
“Hard work pays off some times, and some times they hit the ball right at people.”
In search of the sweep a A’s will send out a third consecutive spot-starter in Andrew Triggs (0-0, 5.35 ERA), who lasted three frames allowing one run in his only previous start (June 18). The O’s will counter with a third sub-.500 starter in Chris Tillman (3-8, 4.08 ERA).