‘Squeaky’ leads A’s to Players Weekend sweep

Jharel “Squeaky” Cotton enjoyed his most successful home outing this season, and fellow rookies Matt “Oly” Olson and Matt “Chappy” Chapman provided the woodwork as the Athletics finished Players Weekend in style, sweeping Texas.

Squeaky was near-squeaky clean, surrendering a single earned runs — and one unearned — in 6 solid innings of work, matching a season high with nine strikeouts and finishing without issuing a walk for the first time this year. And for the third time in as many days, Oakland rode power production past the postseason hopeful Rangers, claiming the 4-2 victory Sunday afternoon.

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

Squeaky (W, 7-10, 5.40 ERA) posted his third home win this season, countering seven losses. His 6 innings were one out shy of a season high in Oakland, and the one earned run allowed was a low in those 11th starts. This, his best home start, comes on the heels of a 6-2/3- two-run outing, amounting to his best back-to-back pair of outings of the season. He told SFBay that it was special to do so in a home game:

“I was telling myself walking off the field, ‘it feels really good to do this at home and get the confidence going again.'”

He did allow a homer to Shin-Soo “Tokki 1” Choo, marking his lone mistake.

Things were different for the rookie from the word go, Sunday. Needing just eight pitches, Squeaky struck out the first two Rangers he faced, finishing off both with his changeup, a pitch that has been temperamental throughout the season.

Said Squeaky:

“That’s the way I pitch, right there. Doing that in the beginning of the game like that was a confidence-booster.”

Manager Bob “BoMel” Melvin added:

“Looked like he had good life on his fastball — saw some 95s today. … Really good changeups for strikeouts, all of his stuff was kinda working. Those are the types of games we expect him to pitch.”

He got the Texas one-two hitters the next time through, too, using the fastball as his finisher. In total, each of his nine strikeouts ended with a swinging strike, four each with the fasrball and changeup, and the final coming on a curveball to future Hall-of-Famer Adrian “El Koja” Beltre.

El Koja, who said after Saturday’s 8-3 A’s win that his team “expected to beat (Oakland),” was apparently to target of some bulletin-board material for Squeaky:

“We had a guy on the opposing team saying that we’re not supposed to beat them, so it was great to come out and show them that we can do that. Pretty fun weekend.”

Despite his hot start, Squeaky found himself down 1-0 in the second, after Jed Lowrie dropped a a popup 10 feet behind his second base position letting El Koja scamper home from third. The lead was short-lived.

It was Khris “Khrush” Davis on Friday, and Chad “Chi” Pinder on Saturday. The Oakland offense was provided by the rookie Matts.

After a two-homer game apiece from Khrush and Chi in the first two games of the series, Oly (9) and Chappy (10)  followed suit, pairing up for back-to-back jacks in the second, the first, Oly’s, of the two-run variety.

Both bombs were surrendered by former-Athletic A.J. “Sweet Lettuce” Griffin (L, 6-5, 5.26 ERA), who was pulled after just 3-1/3 innings, giving up five hits and walking three but holding Oakland to the three runs scored via home run.

The A’s added an insurance run in the sixth, and it was a tally that preserved Squeaky’s win as the Rangers scored a run on Chris “Hatch” Hatcher in the eighth. And Texas threatened to make it a Texas-sized inning, loading the bases with one out and Mike “Porterhouse” Napoli coming to the dish.

BoMel went to his closer two outs early. And Blake “B-Lockay” Treinen (S, 10) got a line-out double play to quickly end the threat. The play, a snag-and-tag made by Chappy doubling Elvis “Commando” Andrus off from third, prevented a blown save, keeping a win in Squeaky’s pocket, said BoMel:

“It’s huge. It’s either a double play or it’s a ball in the corner and we don’t have the lead anymore.”

The Oakland offense answered the one Ranger run with a four-spot of their own.

Marcus “Mahkus” Semien knocked in three runs, going 1-for-3 with two walks. El Koja was, once again, the driving force behind the Texas attack, putting up its only multi-hit performance (2-for-4) and scoring a run. Rougned “El Tipo” Odor was quite the opposite, finishing 0-for-4 with two strikeouts finishing his Players Weekend 1-for-12 whiffing five times.

Oly said it was nice to win a game with a team-wide effort — citing the bullpen, which allowed two runs in 9 innings of work, and timely hitting — particularly given the six rookie starters used Sunday:

Added Chappy:

“Being able to win three games in a row, and sweep a team like Texas — a team that’s in a hunt, that has a lot of veteran guys, that’s been competing with teams around the league — it was a good confidence-booster for us.”

And the skipper:

“We’re just trying to win games, but certainly the importance of playing team in a pennant race, for us, to gain some confidence — it’s important for these guys.”

On deck

The A’s head south for a three-game set with the Angels (66-64). Daniel Gossett gets the starting assignment in game one, as Oakland looks to deliver a blow to their rival’s postseason aspirations. Los Angeles holds a 7-6 advantage in the 13 previous head-to-head meetings between the two clubs.

Noes

Manager Bob “BoMel” Melvin said that pitcher Paul “Blackie” Blackburn, who was hit in the right (throwing) arm with a batted ball on Aug. 22, will miss more than the minimum 10 days on the disabled list with a contusion. … Matt “Chappy” Chapman, who hit his tenth homer of the season in the second, joined Chad “Chi” Pinder (12) as the eighth duo of Athletics rookies to each reach double-digits for homers in a season. … BoMel said that minor league slugger Renato Nunez, who has hit 32 home runs in 119 games with Triple-A Nashville this season, will be among the call-ups when roster expand on Sept. 1. … Jed Lowrie was removed from the game in the sixth inning with a left shin contusion. … With his ninth wild pitch of the season, Jharel “Squeaky” Cotton gave the A’s 72 on the season, matching the Oakland franchise record set in 1979.


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s sports director and Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.