On the surface, it may not have been the obvious setup for a pitcher’s duel: One starter a 44-year-old, 20-year veteran who posted a 6.48 ERA last year; the other, a 29-year-old third-year hurler coming off hip surgery.
Oakland’s offensive hero Jed Lowrie, whose two-run double in the seventh proved to be the winning stroke, said that the game is evolving to a point where bullpens are taking on a greater toll than ever before:
“Kinda seems like it. Seems like the starters are asked to throw fewer innings and the bullpen is going to come in — pretty much everybody you see now has an eight-man bullpen. The game seems to be trending in that direction.”
Before the two bullpen could combine for seven innings of relief, though, the tone was set by the game’s starters.
In his young career, Andrew Triggs has enjoyed no success greater than what he has had against the Rangers (1-4). In three previous outings against Texas, Triggs had allowed just one earned run in 12-2/3 innings. Bartolo Colon, who spent 2012-13 with the A’s (2-3), entered play with a 2.97 ERA in 37 previous outings at the Oakland Coliseum.
Triggs (ND, 0-0, 1.80 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) scattered four hits and two walks, never allowing more than two base runners in an inning, while striking out seven. He was saddled with just one run, but his inability to control the pitch count (88) forced him from the fray after just 5 innings of work.
Manager Bob Melvin said that he was happy with the work form Triggs, saying that the Rangers put together precious few good swings against his starter. Triggs, making his first regular season start since hip surgery last June, said:
“It’s nice to be back. I hadn’t really given a whole lot of thought to how long it had been in a real game. … It was nice to get back out there.”
He met his match in the crafty veteran Colon (ND, 0-0, 1.50 ERA, 1.33 WHIP), who gave up just one run of his own. That one run came early on a rare mistake from the 2005 American League Cy Young winner.
Even when his oft-used fastball was coming to the plate at 95 mph, Colon relied heavily on pinpoint command. He suffered a rare lapse in that devastating control in the third inning, using a heater that now carries considerably less heat.
Ahead 0-2, Colon leaked an 88-mph fastball over the outer half of the plate at Matt Chapman‘s mid-thigh. Chapman unloaded the other way crushing a second homer (2) in as many days, this one a solo shot. It was the first hit of the evening for the A’s and would prove to be the only blip in Colon’s Oakland return.
Lowrie called Colon, who was believed to be pitching for his big league life, the definition of “competitor.” Melvin said he was not surprised by the effort:
“He’s doing all the same things he’s done before, yet the velocity is not as quite there as it was before. But you look and he’s either on the corner or just off the corner. … He has such good command, now he’ll just nibble on that corner.”
He got some help, though, keeping Oakland to one despite surrendering seven hits and one walk in 6 innings of work.
In the fifth, it was outs on the base paths that slowed the A’s. After back-to-back singles to lead off the frame, Boog Powell‘s attempt to chop an 0-1 fastball over Joey Gallo failed as the Rangers 6-foot-5 first baseman snagged the high hop above his head and slung it across the diamond to cut down Chapman at third.
Marcus Semien followed with a single through the middle, but the combination of an accurate throw from Texas center fielder Drew Robinson and catcher’s legs coming from second led to Jonathan Lucroy being gunned down at the plate.
The two defensive standouts also linked up to score the Rangers’ lone tally when a Gallo one-out single snuck through the right side of the infield to chase home Robinson, who had walked and stolen second in preparation for the slugger.
The A’s wasted back-to-back lead-off singles once again in the sixth when Stephen Piscotty grounded into an inning-ending double play. Right fielder Piscotty also ran Oakland’s streak of games with an error four, misplaying a fly ball the fourth.
It wasn’t until the eighth when the A’s broke through against the Texas bullpen on a booming Lowrie two-run double of Jake Diekman, with both runs charged to the record of Kevin Jepesen (L, 0-1, 5.40 ERA, 0.90 WHIP). In all the Oakland offense left seven runners on base pushing its season total to 39 in five games.
Blake Treinen (S, 1, 0.00 ERA, 1.36 WHIP) needed to get five outs, and escape a second-and-third one-out situation in the ninth, but was able to lock down the win for Chris Hatcher (W, 2-0, 7.71 ERA, 3.00 WHIP). Along with Ryan Buchter, the duo posted 4 scoreless innings. Melvin expressed some worry that, eventually, eating so many innings will become too much for his bullpen.
Treinen said that the group, which has allowed five earned runs in 19-2/3 innings (2.29 ERA) through five games, is constructed to do this exact thing:
“Our team is built to finish games. We’ve got a lot of good arms in the bullpen that can go multiple innings.”
Kendall Graveman (0-0, 9.00 ERA, 1.40 WHIP) makes his second start of the facing Texas’ Opening Day starter Cole Hamels (0-1, 4.76 ERA, 1.59 WHIP). Graveman is 2-2 with a 4.26 ERA in four games against the Rangers at the Oakland Coliseum. Khris Davis is 4-for-12 with three homers and five RBIs facing Hamels in his major league career.
Matthew Joyce made his third start as the A’s designated hitter in as many days. He is still hobbled by a left ankle injury suffered last Friday. Manager Bob Melvin said prior to the game that the plan is to give Joyce some rest when the A’s face left-handed starters three of the next four games, then insert him back into left field. … Josh Phegley (10-day DL, broken fingers) hit off the tee for the first time since breaking two fingers on his right hand in Spring Training, Melvin said. There is no timetable for his return, Melvin added, saying the process “takes a little while.” … Trevor Cahill threw a simulated game Monday. He will throw simulated games on Saturday and next Thursday before being evaluated by the club. … Monday marked the 21st birthday of the A’s mascot Stomper. … With the win, his second of the season, Chris Hatcher became the first pitcher in Oakland history to be credited with each of the Athletics’ first two wins of the season.