The Oakland A’s have been on the wrong side of some bad hops in recent weeks, but their luck evened out Wednesday.
All four of the A’s runs came with some help from the baseball gods as they defeated the Arizona D’Backs 4-0 at the Coliseum, completing a sweep of their season series with the interleague opponent. Oakland even won a replay review!
Like the previous night’s 5-2 victory, this game mostly swung on one crucial inning. Today it was the bottom of the 2nd.
The A’s drew a couple walks to put two runners on with two out, and Mark Canha hit a rocket deep to center field. D’Backs CF Ketel Marte chased it down and initially made a spectacular catch, but his momentum carried him hard into the wall and the ball squirted out of the webbing of his glove.
If he’d held on then the inning would have been over and everybody would have been stranded. Instead it was ruled a drop, giving both runners time to score while Canha wheeled around to third for a “triple.” He might have made it all the way around for an inside-the-parker if he hadn’t stopped during the confusion, but that’s understandable in this instance and not really a lack of hustle.
And anyway, getting to third proved to be enough. Jed Lowrie came up next and singled to knock him in, giving the A’s their third run of the frame. This rally could have been a frustrating near-miss, but instead the tiniest imperfection by the opponent turned it into a crooked number.
The dropped catch went to a replay review, and Oakland fans everywhere held their breath, knowing that these situations often go wrong for no apparent reason. But the umps got it right this time, as weird of a play as it was. Here’s the relevant snippet from Rule 5.09(a)(1):
… It is not a catch, however, if simultaneously or immediately following his contact with the ball, he collides with a player, or with a wall, or if he falls down, and as a result of such collision or falling, drops the ball. … In establishing the validity of the catch, the fielder shall hold the ball long enough to prove that he has complete control of the ball and that his release of the ball is voluntary and intentional.
The final few words of that text end any debate. Regardless of how long he had the ball in his glove, or what caused the fumble, he clearly didn’t drop it on purpose. There’s another line in the rule allowing for botching the transfer to make a throw, but there’s no way to argue he was doing that with his glove behind him and his other hand nowhere near it, especially as the inning would have been over. He simply dropped it, and the book says you can’t do that.
It’s an obscure enough rule that we all had to look it up, but it’s also painfully specific and this was a clear-cut case. We’ve been hard on the umps this season at Athletics Nation, and we’d have been grumpy if a play like this went against the A’s, but they definitely got this one correct. Fortunately.
Oakland tacked on one more piece of insurance in the 7th, once again on a wacky fly ball by Canha. This time it was a routine popup to second base, but the infielder lost it in the sun and it dropped harmlessly for a “single.” Another single by Lowrie and a sac fly by Matt Olson brought Canha around with another gift run. Lowrie finished the day with three hits.
The first three runs wouldn’t have happened if Marte had completed his catch, and the fourth was made possible by the missed popup. Otherwise, the A’s didn’t get anything else going all day, harmlessly scattering a handful of baserunners. They did plenty of good things to take advantage of the bonus opportunities they were handed, and made their share of hard contact, but every run came with an assist attached. That’s how it goes sometimes, for better or worse, and today it was for better.
The D’Backs didn’t find any success on the other side of the ball either, as Oakland’s pitching staff combined for a two-hit shutout. Sean Manaea, who went the distance for a solo shutout against the Mariners in his last start, posted six more scoreless innings this afternoon, and the bullpen locked it down from there.
If the scoreboard was measured in foul balls, then Arizona would have won handily. They made Manaea work for his zeroes, as the lefty needed 50 pitches to make it through the first two frames despite facing only nine batters. By the end of six innings he’d thrown 111 offerings, and the D’Backs fouled off 30 of them, including at-bats of 10, 9, 8, 8, 7, and 7 pitches. Leadoff hitter Carson Kelly saw 23 of them on his own in three trips to the plate.
However, most of those long battles resulted in outs, and despite the effort Arizona was never able to make any noise. They even got their own gift in the 2nd inning, when they reached on an error by shortstop Elvis Andrus, but weren’t able to take advantage of it.
- Manaea: 6 ip, 0 runs, 3 Ks, 2 BB, 2 hits, 111 pitches, 82.2 mph EV
The southpaw wasn’t his sharpest, but his velocity was fine and he made all the big pitches he needed to. The D’Backs rarely hit the ball hard against him, in fair territory at least.
The bullpen had an easier time, which was convenient since two of them also appeared the previous evening. Yusmeiro Petit only needed five pitches in the 7th, and Lou Trivino threw 11 in the 8th, a welcome sight as they worked for the second time in under 24 hours. Jake Diekman sealed it in the 9th, with the trio combining to allow just two harmless walks.
We could take this opportunity to quibble with using both closers in a four-run game, but let’s just enjoy the victory and the two-game sweep. Oakland also captured both matchups in the desert in April, so this completes a season series sweep over Arizona. The D’Backs leave on a more frustrating note, having lost their 19th straight road game, three shy of tying the MLB record.
Ride the wave!
The A’s have opened June by winning six of seven games, and they’re right back on top of the wave. They got some help today from the wall and the sun, but they still did plenty to earn this one.