ANAHEIM -- Acquiring two more veteran hitters earlier in the day shortly before the Trade Deadline, the A’s are hopeful that low-scoring nights like Friday at Angel Stadium will soon become a less frequent occurrence. Until then, they’ll continue riding what has been a superb collective effort by their starting rotation, which has helped the club maintain its grip on the second American League Wild Card spot.
Chris Bassitt carried the baton handed over in the form of scoreless outings by Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas over the previous two days, turning in a scoreless effort of his own. Pitching with a slim margin for error, the A’s All-Star righty took an early run of support and made it stick by blanking the Angels over seven innings, allowing just six hits and striking out seven in a 2-0 victory.
Performances like Bassitt’s have become nearly a daily routine for the A’s starting rotation. Not only did Friday’s game mark the third straight scoreless outing by an A’s starter, it was also the fifth shutout effort by an Oakland starting pitcher over the past 10 games.
“Our rotation is the reason that we are where we are as a team,” said A’s shortstop Elvis Andrus, who reached base four times on Friday. “Not only the rotation, but the bullpen also. Really pleased with the job they’ve been doing, especially the last few games. I think that’s what we needed to get back on track.”
With Sergio Romo and Lou Trivino combining for two clean frames to finish it off, Friday’s win also marked the A’s third straight shutout of the Angels, a feat that had not happened since their three consecutive shutouts against their AL West division foes between June 28-July 26, 1994.
Bassitt's dominance helped him earn his AL-leading 11th win of the year. More importantly, he continued to perform like a workhorse, something he shares in common with his fellow rotation mates. Bassitt’s seven scoreless innings on Friday upped his total innings pitched to 137 for the season, which is also tops among AL starters. Not too far behind him in that category are Manaea, Montas and Cole Irvin, all of whom rank among the top 10 in the league in innings pitched.
“It’s important that these guys can get deep in games so you don’t overwork your bullpen,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “These guys have been built up to do it. It seems like they’ve gotten stronger as the season has gone along. I think that’s going to pay dividends with our bullpen coming down the stretch.
“It’s not often you see starters go this deep in games anymore. That just shows you the quality of the guys we have.”
Despite its lack of big names, the A’s rotation just might be the best in baseball from top to bottom. At this point, it's certainly in the conversation: Oakland’s starters have combined to post a 3.63 ERA (244 earned runs in 605 1/3 innings pitched), which is good for third-lowest ERA among AL starting staffs.
“From the start of the year, I feel like everyone kind of doubted us,” Bassitt said. “I feel somehow, some way, everyone still doubts us, like these numbers are just gonna somehow disappear. But Manaea should have been an All-Star. Montas is pitching absolutely lights-out for the last month. Irvin has been consistent as always, and [James Kaprielian] is, in my opinion, one of the Rookies of the Year. We take a lot of pride in our job and helping each other and pushing each other.”
With Mark Canha’s bases-loaded walk in the fourth standing as the game’s lone run for most of the night, Matt Chapman came through late with an important insurance run. The A’s third baseman blasted a solo shot off Angels right-hander Mike Mayers in the eighth, sending a 1-1 fastball into the Angel Stadium fountain in left-center a Statcast-projected 402 feet.
Chapman’s 14th homer of the year and second in the past three games is an encouraging sign that his slumping bat could finally be rounding into form. That along with the arrival of Starling Marte earlier this week could certainly be another boost for the offense, on top of the one it’ll soon be receiving this weekend when newcomers Josh Harrison and Yan Gomes are expected to join the club.
“We got some outstanding bats,” Bassitt said. “I feel like that was what we were missing all year, just those guys that are constantly on base and grinding at-bats. Grabbing those three guys was absolutely massive.”