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Cahill stuffs Astros, A’s pull into tie for AL West lead

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Trevor Cahill has been two completely different pitchers for the Athletics this season. Away from home he has been banged around, pitching into the sixth just once in seven starts and never allowing fewer than three runs.

At the Oakland Coliseum, things have been quite the opposite with the big sinker-baller lasting into the sixth in each of his seven starts prior to Saturday, none of which resulting in more than two runs surrendered.

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

Home Cahill (W, 5-2, 3.12 ERA) proved to be unsolvable for the struggling Astros (74-49), and the offense unpacked two big innings on Dallas Keuchel (L, 9-10, 3.59 ERA) as the A’s (74-49) locked down another series victory with a 7-1 win. More importantly though, Saturday’s outcome leaves Oakland and Houston tied at the top of the American League West.

Beyond the home-road splits, manager Bob Melvin couldn’t have asked for a better option to take the ball into this most meaningful Saturday afternoon tilt than the even-keeled Cahill:

“I’ve never really seen anything in my experiences with Trevor that makes it look like he’s hyped up for anything, to tell you the truth.”

Staring down the A’s biggest game in four years, facing the reigning champs for a chance to pull even at the top of the division standings, Cahill was a rock, firing seven scoreless one-hit frames. His dominance was present from pitch No. 1 of an eventual 100, a 91-mph sinker at the knees and on the black of the outside corned to Houston leadoff man George Springer.

That’s what the Astros were facing all game, good downward movement in tough-to-reach locations. On the rare case that Cahill wasn’t nailing catcher Josh Phegley‘s mitt it was with a sinker that got as hot as 95 miles-per-hour, like the one he used to blow away Carlos Correa and end the first.

Of the high heat, Cahill said:

“It was just coming out of my hand good. Before you settle in you go out there and kinda feel and I tend to throw a little bit harder in the first, and once I get a feel for what my pitches are doing I feel like I can back off.”

On most occasions, Cahill’s premiere sinker location in congress with his always sharp changeup is enough to keep an opposing offense off-balance.

But Saturday, Cahill mixed in his favorite breaking ball — the knuckle-curve — and it was as solid as ever as well. No one could attest to the hook’s effectiveness more than Josh Reddick. The one-time fan favorite who has received nothing but love from the Oakland crowd since his unceremonious departure in 2016, was served his first chorus of boos in Oakland following comments he made following Friday’s game that have since made the rounds on twitter.

In a possible backhanded comment, Reddick said:

“Playing some meaningful baseball in this ballpark doesn’t come around a whole lot, from a guy that’s been there before in the past.”

The first unanimous cheers Reddick heard Saturday came at the end of the second, when a Cahill curveball broke his swing down to end the frame with a strikeout. And Cahill used it on him again in the fifth, again leaving Reddick frustrated with a half-swing and a change of sides.

Said Cahill:

“My curveball was a lot better, I was able to throw it for strikes early on. Then I was able to put that extra gear on the two-strike one for some put-away pitches.”

All told, the Oakland starter struck out seven. And the one hit he did allow was a play that his shortstop, Marcus Semien, maybe should have made — a slow chopper up the middle that Semien got to it but bobbled near second base.

According to the skipper, Cahill, an All-Star for Melvin and the A’s in 2010, has looked better at home this season than he has at any other point in his career:

“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Trevor pitch better than he did today, even the old version. This version, at times, is better than the old version … he’s got more weapons.”

As for the drastic splits, Cahill has no real explanation, other than his comfort with the mounds, both the field and bullpen, in Oakland.

He walked just one to go with the infield single, but that was it. Facing the demise of their once seemingly insurmountable advantage in the divisional standings, the Astros couldn’t so much as put a single threat together against Cahill and reliever Jeurys Familia. They finally did find the board on a solo homer (5) by Tony Kemp, who took Yusmeiro Petit deep in the ninth.

Given the dominant pitching performance, the Oakland bats weren’t asked to do much and they provided enough for the win with a two-run double in the first inning by Khris Davis, snapping an 0-for-13 skid.

The offense didn’t stop there though, adding a three-spot in the sixth and a two-spot in the eighth paced by Phegely who drove in three on a pair of doubles. As a group, the A’s mashed a total of eight doubles, tying the Oakland franchise record.

Melvin, who spent 10 seasons as a big league catcher, was complimentary of the backup backstop and his ability to impact games when he is called upon:

“He’s getting sporadic starts, but when he is starting he’s taking advantage of it — he knows we have faith in him. One pitch away from calling a shutout; knocks in a few runs; big day for him.”

Now, after two months, the destination Oakland has chased is upon them and there could be some fear of a letdown. But Davis denied that as a possibility, breaking it down simply:

“We’re just going to keep doing our job.”

Added Melvin:

“I really don’t think we’re chasing anything, we’re just playing. … We’re one game better than we were yesterday.”

On Deck

The A’s send Sean Manaea (11-8, 3.44 ERA) to the bump in search of a sweep and outright division lead. Manaea is fresh off a 7-2/3 two-run effort in a win over the Mariners on Monday and will face Justin Verlander (11-8, 2.52 ERA), who has lost each of his last two starts giving up a combined eight runs in eight innings.

Notes

After walking two and allowing a fourth run in his last 4-2/3 innings Friday night, the A’s will look to cut back on Lou Trivino‘s workload. The rookie allowed just seven runs in his first 54-1/3 innings but has now worked 64-1/3 frames, including 5-1/3 with Triple-A Nashville, this season. Part of his cutback will include fewer outings of more than one inning, something he has done 18 times this year. … The A’s announced Saturday that Nolan Blackwood has been sent to Detroit as a player to be named in the trade that brought Mike Fiers to Oakland from the Tigers. Blackwood, 23, was the A’s No. 30 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, and had gone 6-3 with a 4.08 ERA in 39 games with Double-A Midland this season. The Tigers have yet to decide whether to take a second player or cash to complete the deal. … Matt Chapman finished the afternoon 0-for-4 with a strikeout ending both his hitting streak (14 games) on on base streak (30 games).


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.

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