'Grateful' Bassitt emotional after 2-hit shutout

May 28th, 2021

OAKLAND -- As described the finest night of his pitching career, one in which he threw a two-hit shutout against the division-rival Angels, he found himself holding back tears. The sturdy candor and steady pace of his voice broke. He pulled up his shirt and tried to rid his eyes of moisture, but there was no hiding the emotion he felt.

“I’m just trying to hold back tears right now,” Bassitt said. “There’s so many people in this organization that have stuck by my side through so much crap, and I’m just so grateful, honestly.”

Bassitt reached for an adult beverage, took a quick sip and continued.

“There’s so many people that pushed me when I was going through so much crap,” Bassitt continued. “My wife, and then I have a little girl, but dang, man. BoMel [manager Bob Melvin], [assistant athletic trainer] Brian Schulman, [head athletic trainer] Nick [Paparesta], everyone, the clubbies ... Everyone just pushed me when I was struggling through so much stuff. I’m just grateful. I’m grateful to be here.”

The emotion that Bassitt showed from the bowels of the Coliseum following the A’s 5-0 win on Thursday night was the culmination of what he’s endured.

Bassitt underwent Tommy John surgery in 2016. He missed all of 2017. The recovery wasn’t easy. Upon returning in 2018, he oscillated between starting and relieving. Bassitt’s existence in the Major Leagues was not guaranteed.

Then, Bassitt began to prove he had staying power. In 2019, Bassitt put together just about a full season's workload. Last season, he broke through, finishing eighth in voting for the AL Cy Young Award. On Thursday, penning his masterpiece, Bassitt limited the Angels to just two hits, striking out nine.

“He’s just been pitching with a lot of confidence,” said Melvin. “He’s using all his pitches, he’s getting ahead in counts. It’s soft contact. There’s not a lot of hard contact off him. He’s using all his stuff and he’s unpredictable and he’s pitching with a lot of confidence right now.

“It’s probably the best stretch of his career.”

For his efforts, Bassitt was gifted a golden trident from his teammates during his postgame television interview, the A’s version of a “player of the game” trinket that fits in with the team’s season-long motto of “ride the wave.” He proudly displayed it during his on-field chat for the cameras.

The replica trident weighed approximately 40 pounds and stood about 7 feet tall. Bassitt was the one who found the item online, but southpaw Sean Manaea made the purchase. Bassitt said it wasn’t cheap.

“We have a lot of weird stuff that we do after the game, but I guess [Manaea] said it was time to bust it out for the world to see,” Bassitt said.

Bassitt likely would’ve been given the prop even if he hadn't finished the complete game, but considering he went the distance, the trident, traditionally associated with the mythological figure Poseidon, felt all the more appropriate.

Getting through that final frame was certainly a Poseidon-esque effort. Entering the ninth, the right-hander had already thrown 101 pitches. His season-high was 102. The question became whether Bassitt would finish what he started.

The air in the stadium only thickened when Justin Upton roped a one-out double at 111.4 mph. It was the hardest-hit ball by any player on either team all night. If Bassitt wanted to end it himself, he’d have to go through as tough a two-man gauntlet as there is in baseball -- Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon.

Both Ohtani, who was scratched from his scheduled start on the mound due to “transportation issues” caused by Bay Area traffic, and Rendon had already faced Bassitt three times throughout the game. Melvin said Rendon would be Bassitt’s last batter. Each had the power to prematurely end Bassitt’s outing with one swing.

Bassitt stood firm. Ohtani flied out. Rendon grounded out. Bassitt had his complete game.

The contest had been deadlocked in a scoreless tie until the sixth, when the A's broke through and plated five runs to ease some of the tension and give Bassitt a bit of breathing room on the mound.

“It was all their pitcher,” said Angels manager Joe Maddon. “I mean, that kid there, I’m a big fan. He’s kind of like a [Max] Scherzer type and he’s got that little funk in his delivery, long arm. The variety of pitches that he throws and he’s good against righties and lefties. And [he has] good carry on his fastball. Really good slider, cutter and that slow curve when he wants to.”

It was a game that Bassitt will never forget. Neither will those who helped him reach this point.

Of course, not every outing will be like this one. That’s how the game goes. But if Thursday night proved anything, it’s this: Bassitt is here, and he’s here to stay.

“This guy’s really good. That’s not a fluke, by any means," added Maddon. "He’s going to be someone to reckon with. He’s the kind of guy that we have to learn how to beat in our division. He’s that good.”