ANAHEIM -- After what he described as the worst outing of his season against the Rays last week, Brett Anderson was relieved in a way, knowing his stuff could not be any worse than it was on that day. He looked to Saturday night’s game against the Angels as a fresh start, and Anderson certainly performed like a new man.
Anderson pitched into the eighth for the first time this season, shutting down the Angels over 7 2/3 innings in a 4-0 victory at Angel Stadium. Their 12th win in the past 17 games, the A’s are now a season-high six games over .500.
With an Angels lineup that came out swinging early in the count, Anderson used that aggressiveness to his advantage by keeping his sinker low to induce quick outs. He retired the first 10 batters he faced and did not allow a hit until the fifth, finishing the night allowing just two hits and two walks, while striking out three batters.
“He was unbelievable,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Last time out, his velocity was down and there wasn’t a lot of crispness to his breaking ball. Everything that he struggled with the other day, he was just on it today. That’s a pretty deep outing for us at this point.”
Usually reliant on the ground ball for the majority of his outs -- he entered the night with the third-highest ground-ball rate in the American League at 52.5 percent -- most of Anderson’s outs on Saturday came via the air. He recorded nine flyouts and eight groundouts, with one of those being a double-play ball to end the fifth. After allowing a two-out double to Luis Rengifo in the eighth, Anderson was pulled with 100 pitches.
Anderson attributed the uptick in flyouts to working his rarely-used changeup more than he had in any of his previous starts. He threw the pitch 14 times, with most of them coming after the fourth inning.
“I used the changeup to get more popups than I think I’ve gotten the last two years,” Anderson joked. “I think they were just being out in front, and I wasn’t throwing just sinkers and sliders. I’ll take outs any way I can get them.”
Holding the trio of Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Justin Upton hitless through his outing, three dangerous hitters who fortify the Angels' lineup, Melvin said Anderson’s start was one of the best he’s ever seen from the left-hander.
“I don’t know that I’ve seen him better than that,” Melvin said. “We’ve seen him pitch some pretty good games before. To get as far as he did and be economical with his pitches, it was quick work and the game went really quick. When he’s on, that’s typically what happens.”
Though Anderson appeared to be checking out his elbow in the dugout shortly after his departure, he wasn’t too concerned about the issue and expects to make his next start, which is scheduled for Friday in Seattle.
“A little nervy stuff in the last inning. I’ve dealt with it before,” said Anderson, whose ERA dipped back under 4.00 to 3.92. “Up until that point, I felt strong. One more start before the All-Star break and hopefully I can end it on a positive note.”
Chapman reaches 20 again
The A’s offense provided Anderson with a three-run fifth that was capped by Matt Chapman’s two-run blast off former teammate Trevor Cahill, who had just taken over in relief of Angels starter Tyler Skaggs. Chapman unloaded on a first-pitch sinker and drove it the other way into the right-field seats for his 20th homer of the year, giving him back-to-back seasons with at least 20 home runs, and continuing his pace to eclipse his career-high total of 24 from 2018.
“It’s hard to sit back and think about something like that when you’re just battling and grinding,” Chapman said. “I’m definitely proud of it, but there’s still a lot of work to do.”
Sensing Cahill would look to get ahead in the count right out the gate, Chapman said he was looking to be aggressive early, and it paid off.
“I haven’t faced him too much, but I was thinking with him coming in out of the pen, that he was going to try and throw that sinker,” Chapman said. “I was just trying to get one of those sinkers up, and it happened to be the first one.”
Finishing his night 1-for-3 with the home run and one walk, Chapman increased his on-base streak to 16 games.
“He’s got a better understanding of how he’s going to be pitched,” Melvin said. “I think we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg with what this guy can accomplish. The first half he’s had, both offensively and defensively, is certainly All-Star worthy, in my opinion.”