A's sweep twin bill, extend win streak to 10

Luzardo allows two hits and one walk with six strikeouts across 5 1/3 innings

April 21st, 2021

OAKLAND -- Normally, an off-day might disrupt the mojo of a club going through a stretch as impressive as the A’s found themselves on. But even an unexpected day of rest couldn’t cool off the hottest team in baseball.

Returning to action after the postponement of Monday’s game, the A’s continued their run of dominance by sweeping a doubleheader against the Twins with a pair of shutouts. A gem pitched by Sean Manaea in a 7-0 victory in Game 1 was followed by a strong outing by in a 1-0 win in Game 2, marking just the third time in Oakland history the A’s held an opponent scoreless in both games of a doubleheader and the first time since Sept. 9, 1974, when Vida Blue and Catfish Hunter combined to blank the Royals with two shutouts. Of course, those games were nine-inning contests as opposed to the seven-inning rule for doubleheaders this season.

The victory in the second game extended the A’s winning streak to 10 games, which now stands as the longest streak across the Majors this season. During that 10-game stretch, the starting pitchers have shined, going 7-0 with a 2.09 ERA in 56 innings.

“I would say we get motivated from watching each other,” Luzardo said. “I see all these dudes do well and we’ve just been saying, ‘Iron sharpens iron.’ When they’re doing well, you don’t want to be a weak link. You have to go out there and do your thing. We all feel the same way, and we have a lot of fun doing it.”

Luzardo has yet to reach the ace-level status the A’s have hoped for. The 23-year-old lefty is fighting through the inconsistencies that most young pitchers of his caliber deal with early in their career. But outings like the one he turned in on Tuesday night are what maintain Oakland’s confidence that Luzardo could be in line for a breakthrough this season.

Facing the minimum through four innings, Luzardo made quick work of the Twins, allowing just two hits and one walk with six strikeouts across 5 1/3 innings. His electric arm was on full display, with his final pitch a 96.7 mph fastball that Ryan Jeffers swung through for strike three.

A lot of things were different about Luzardo on Tuesday, and not just with his pitching. Coming off the shortest outing of his career in which he allowed five runs in 2 2/3 innings against the D-backs last week, Luzardo decided to switch it up. He ditched his contacts and went back to wearing his glasses on the mound, something he’d done for all of his appearances prior to this season, dating back to his Little League days. He also changed his entrance song back to “WOW” by Bryant Myers -- the song he used in 2020 before tinkering with a few different tunes earlier this season.

“I just felt like I was getting away from myself,” Luzardo said. “That look is just kind of my thing. Now, I’m back to myself.”

Luzardo’s fastball can be a thing of beauty when it’s working for him. Feeling good control of it against the Twins, he took full advantage, throwing it for 60 percent of his pitches and generating nine whiffs, the most he had on any of his pitches.

Seth Brown -- who provided the only offense necessary for the A’s with an RBI single against José Berrios in the fourth -- has seen Luzardo at his best, as the two worked their way up the organizational system together in the Minor Leagues. From his view as the right fielder on Tuesday night, the left-hander looked every bit like the promising future star he’s been heralded as over the past few years.

“He’s got great stuff. When he’s doing his thing out there, it’s just fun to watch,” Brown said. “As he gets into his role and rhythm out there, it’s just fun to be a part of.”

The dazzling heater -- which maxed out at 99.1 mph -- to highlight an impressive four-pitch mix is only part of the equation that makes Luzardo so special. He’s got another quality that isn’t teachable: Resilience.

Luzardo’s rebound from a tough outing last week wasn’t the first instance of him showing this trait. Two of his four scoreless outings last season also came after rough outings in which he allowed four runs and six runs.

“He’s really talented and he’s got a lot of confidence,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s had to go through some tough stretches. But it seems like when he has a tough game, he comes back and responds.”

Luzardo even fended off some external adversity. During the fifth inning with one out and a runner on, Luzardo and his teammates were told to leave the field by umpires after a light tower went out in the upper deck of the Coliseum, similar to the issue that took place on May 7, 2019, when the lights went out before Mike Fiers tossed a no-hitter later that night.

Keeping his arm warm by throwing 12 pitches in the bullpen, Luzardo overcame a 25-minute delay and retired three of his final four batters, two via strikeout.

“It was definitely weird. It never happened to me before,” Luzardo said. “I had heard it happened in 2019 and Fiers threw a no-hitter, so that was the joke running around. I’m just glad we got the game in.”