'Fun to be out there': A's fire on all cylinders for shutout win

September 4th, 2022

BALTIMORE -- For one uplifting afternoon, the Oakland Athletics abandoned their portrayal of a struggling last-place team headed toward a 100-loss season.

Combining strong pitching, clutch hitting and dazzling defense, the A's beat the playoff-contending Orioles 5-0 at Camden Yards on Sunday to avert a sweep and end a four-game losing streak.

Rookie right-hander Adrián Martínez threw a career-high six innings in his second consecutive impressive start against an AL East foe, retiring 10 straight at one point. The 25-year-old Mexico native allowed three hits, struck out four and walked two in a sparkling performance.

Martínez gave up one run on three hits in his previous stint, a win over the Yankees on Aug. 28.

"Adrián's performance matched his outing last time against the Yankees," A's manager Mark Kotsay said. "He kept the fastball in the zone, and he had the velocity to make his changeup effective."

Martínez threw 89 pitches, 56 of them strikes, and did not allow a runner past second base over his final five innings of work.

"I was just looking to attack the zone," the rookie said through an interpreter. "Last time I made sure to focus on batter by batter. I'm focusing more on that than a negative outcome, and I'm just really happy that things played out this way."

Martínez was backed by a surprisingly productive offense that entered Sunday ranked last in the Majors in batting average and second-to-last in slugging percentage. ripped two solo homers, rookie left fielder extended the torrid start to his big league career with three hits and chipped in with a two-run single that put Oakland up 3-0 in the third inning.

The A's, who have been held to one run or less a Major League-leading 42 times, banged out 11 hits and went 2-for-5 with runners in scoring position to temporarily blunt Baltimore's playoff push.

"Offensively we did a great job," Kotsay said. "We came out aggressive; we swung the bats early in the count and took advantage of some mistakes in the zone. The lefties did a great job against the starter [Spenser Watkins] of getting the baseball up. Eleven hits feels good, five runs does as well."

The Athletics displayed some decent glovework, too. After the Orioles put runners at second and third with one out in the first inning, Oakland shortstop Sheldon Neuse picked up a sharp grounder and threw out Adley Rutschman at the plate to quell the uprising.

In the sixth, after a tiring Martínez (4-3) issued a one-out walk, A's first baseman Stephen Vogt snagged a hard grounder off the bat of Anthony Santander to start a 3-5-1 double play.

"You don't see many 3-5-1 double plays," Kotsay said. "That was an excellent job of Martínez getting over there. Big to get out of that inning."

That would be the final pitch by Martínez, but the bullpen kept up the pace to complete Oakland's first shutout since July 21 against Detroit.

It all added up to a feel-good ending to a 2-4 road trip that began with two losses in three games against the lowly Washington Nationals.

"We played a good, clean baseball game today," Kotsay said.

Brown noted: "Putting a game like this together is really a good feeling. It was fun to be out there."

Thomas, a 27-year-old who once considered making a living playing professional football, is showing that he chose the right sport after spending two years at quarterback for Oklahoma.

Recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas on Thursday to make his Major League debut, Thomas is 6-for-9 in three games and loving every minute of it.

"It sounds kind of cliché, but it's really been a dream come true," he said. "I've had this goal for as long as I can remember, and now that I'm here I'm just trying to make the most of it and make an impression."

The victory Sunday won't ease the sting of the many defeats that preceded it during this brutal rebuilding season. But it showed that at least there's hope that Oakland's start-over might ultimately yield the same results as the reshaping of the Orioles, who are vying for a Wild Card slot after losing more than 100 games in three of the previous four years (the exception being the pandemic-shortened 2020 season).

"It's always nice to look on the other side and see an organization like the Orioles that has been through that process and where they're at today," Kotsay said. "I do think our ballclub has that opportunity to build for our future, and you're seeing a lot of young guys getting an opportunity to make impressions. At the end of the day, you definitely can get encouragement from watching this Orioles team -- where they've been and where they're at."