Sporting Charts defines the term “pitcher’s duel” as “a game in which the two pitchers … consistently and continuously get batters without many or any runs being scored.”
It goes on to say that these games are often illustrated by a high number of strikeouts and low number of base runners. That definition should be changed to read “Athletics versus Orioles, Saturday, May 5, 2018 at the Oakland Coliseum.”
The two pitching staffs combined to strike out 31 batters and the A’s (17-16) didn’t get a runner past first until Khris Davis launched a two-run walk-off homer (9) in the 12th to break a scoreless tie. The O’s (8-25) tallied just seven hits of their own.
Davis, who logged his third-career walkoff homer, said:
“It was a weird vibe out there. Kinda slow, boring, not really exciting. But when you walk-off it’s pretty dang exciting.”
A game that seemed to slog along for nearly three-and-a-half hours, devoid of any energy, was suddenly and abruptly put to bed when Davis connected on a 3-1 fastball from Baltimore rookie Pedro Araujo (L, 1-3, 5.50 ERA).
For the first six innings, Oakland starter Trevor Cahill muzzled what little excitement the game could muster. Though he was lifted after six four-hit frames, having thrown 98 pitches, Cahill (ND, 1-1, 2.25 ERA) recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts while walking just one.
And the A’s offense needed it, as it was utterly stymied by Baltimore Kevin Gausman.
Gausman (ND, 2-2, 3.30 ERA) held Oakland scoreless for nine innings, allowing two hits and two walks. With his low pitch count (113), and the old-school mentality of skipper Buck Showalter, there was likely at least some discussion between the two over whether or not he was the best option for the tenth.
The decision that came favored discretion, but that didn’t stop Oakland manager Bob Melvin from complimenting the work of the veteran, who used fastball ranging from 89 to 98 to strike out six:
“You’ve got to tip your hat to Gausman. … It appeared like he was changing speeds on his fastball. We knew him to be a power pitcher, a guy that threw hard, but he’s throwing sinker just below 90 and he’s cutting loose a four-seamer.”
Melvin continued, saying that even the two hits his club could scrape together were products of soft contact:
“It was more about the pitching today but Khris Davis had a say in that.”
The dominant pitching spread past the two starters — though not far, as a particularly worn down Melvin was amazed by reading the stat sheet after the game.
Yusmeiro Petit, one night removed from his worst outing of the season, and Santiago Casilla, battling for a bigger piece of the bullpen pie, chipped in with two scoreless frames apiece in relief of Cahill.
Bruce Maxwell, who was behind the dish for all 12 of the A’s defensive innings, was impressed with the execution from every man who got the call:
“Everybody on the mound came with their A-game today. Everybody was locked in, we executed and it paid off. The Orioles, regardless of their record, are a very solid-hitting team, you make a mistake to them and more times than not you’re going to pay. We didn’t make any today.”
Despite that nearly flawless work, though, the A’s staff was only able to match the efforts of the Orioles’. Until Davis beat the chilly, breezy Oakland night, that is.
“It was hard to get a rhythm, it just felt like a pitcher’s ballgame. It was just one of those days we just battled and chipped away. — not much chipping.”
Chipping was, indeed, tough to see. Oakland drew just two walks all night. The A’s were also held hitless for eight-straight innings, from the third to the 12th, and never took an at-bat with a runner in scoring position. And three different A’s struck out twice — a far cry from the seven multi-strikeout victims and four hat tricks coming out of the first-base dugout, though.
As good as Gausman was for Showalter, Mychal Givens may have been better. The second of three Baltimore hurlers on the night posted two perfect innings, striking out five of the six hitters he faced.
All things considered, save for one pitch from Araujo to Davis, it was everything one could imagine from a pitcher’s duel, and more. The type of game that, as Cahill said, are the worst to drop, but can be the best to take:
“You go that far — those are those losses that are tough, but those are also the wins that you can take a lot of momentum from.”
The A’s go for the sweep Sunday. Andrew Triggs (2-1, 5.20 ERA) gets the ball after allowing four earned in 4-2/3 innings, taking the loss in his last start five days ago in Seattle. He also surrendered six earnies in 1-1/3 the last time he pitched in Oakland. Alex Cobb (0-3, 9.68 ERA) gets the ball for Baltimore. He has allowed just five runs in 20-2/3 innings spanning three career starts in Oakland. He is 1-1 in those starts.
Saturday was the first time in Athletics history in which the A’s won via walk-off home run in a game that went into extra innings scoreless. … A’s pitchers struck out 20 batters, matching the third-highest strikeout total in franchise history. The record is 26, set on July 9, 1971. This is also the first time an Orioles team has struck out 20 more times since Sept. 12, 1962, when they went down 21 times against the Washington Senators. … The A’s are now 3-0 in extra-inning games this season — the Orioles now 3-1. … Now 10-6, the A’s have the American League’s third-highest winning percentage (62.5) at home.