OAKLAND -- Zach Logue knew the situation he was coming into.
With the A’s optimistic that Frankie Montas will get over his right shoulder inflammation in time to return to the mound before the All-Star break, Logue was recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas to make what was essentially a spot start on Saturday.
The assignment wasn’t easy, facing a high-powered Astros offense that entered the day with a Major League-leading 46 home runs over its last 22 games. Logue, however, was up to the task, limiting Houston to two runs on three hits and a walk with two strikeouts over five innings to help the A’s to a 3-2 victory at the Coliseum.
“Zach threw the ball well today,” said A’s manager Mark Kotsay. “Looked like he had more life on his fastball. For him to go through that lineup and give us five innings and a chance to win, I thought he did a great job.”
Making his seventh appearance and sixth Major League start, Logue arrived from Triple-A looking to erase the bad taste left from his previous two big league outings in May, when he was tagged for a combined 11 runs in seven innings before getting optioned on May 29.
The left-hander did just that, holding the Astros hitless in all but one of his five innings pitched. After Chas McCormick’s RBI single plated Houston’s first run of the game in the second, Logue settled in and retired his final 11 batters faced.
Though Logue was on a roll and only at 75 pitches through five innings, Kotsay felt it was best to allow the 26-year-old to depart on a high note, replacing him with left-hander A.J. Puk to begin the sixth inning with a one-run lead. From Puk all the way to Lou Trivino, who notched his seventh save of the year, Oakland’s bullpen saw five relievers team up to shut down Houston the rest of the way, allowing just two hits and a walk over the game’s final four innings.
“Any time a young pitcher has success going through a lineup twice, it’s always a challenge to get through that third time,” Kotsay said. “For me, Zach had done his job. Our bullpen was fresh. We had arms down there that I felt could finish the game and it went that way.”
Rated Oakland’s No. 19 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Logue flashed success earlier this year by allowing two or fewer runs over his first four big league outings. Through those four outings, the key to his success came from a supreme command of his fastball and the ability to place it glove-side to hitters. Lacking those skills in his previous two starts back in May made his low 90s fastball a lot more hittable and led to his demotion.
On Saturday, Logue appeared to regain that fastball control. Maxing out the heater at 92.5 mph and sitting a tick above his season average with the pitch throughout, he leaned on the pitch heavily by throwing it 37 times. The average exit velocity on his seven fastballs hit in play by the Astros was only 85 mph.
“I threw a lot more fastballs than probably most guys that throw 90-91 [mph],” Logue said. “I think I can just get away with it a little bit more with how it moves and the life on it. I just tried to trust that a little bit more. We moved it around pretty well and had some success with it.”
Logue also received a confidence boost behind the plate from catcher Sean Murphy, who encouraged him not to shy away from the fastball even after McCormick hit the pitch for the RBI single in the second.
“Zach’s fastball is sneaky,” Murphy said. “It gets on guys more than they expect with what the velo shows on the board. It plays up for him. He pitches at the top of the zone well and uses that to then work off his slow stuff down.”
Logue’s stay with the big league club is likely temporary. Prior to Saturday’s contest, Kotsay said the club is “hopeful” Montas will be able to make a start within the next week after the right-hander came away feeling healthy from a throwing session before the game.
At the very least, Logue proved capable of handling a potent offense again. With a likelihood of the A’s needing to call up a starting pitcher again later in the season, Logue has positioned himself for another opportunity when that need arises.
“That’s the goal,” Logue said. “Whenever you get an opportunity up here, you want to leave a good impression and help the team win. Anytime you can do that, it’s a good day.”