Irvin spins gem vs. Jays at 'electric' Coliseum

Vogt, Laureano homer as A's delight enthusiastic crowd

July 5th, 2022

OAKLAND -- With the A’s welcoming the Blue Jays to town for the first time in 2022, the pregame buzz for Monday’s series opener centered largely around third baseman Matt Chapman, who was making his first appearance back at the Coliseum since his offseason trade to Toronto.

Prior to the announcement of the starting lineups, Chapman was reintroduced with a special video tribute on the Coliseum's video boards highlighting his many early-career achievements as a member of the A’s -- the club he began his professional career with as a first-round pick in the 2014 Draft before building a five-year big league resume that included three Gold Glove Awards, two Platinum Glove Awards and an All-Star selection.

Once the festivities were over and first pitch came around, however, wrestled away the spotlight from his former teammate and turned in a dazzling performance to ensure the A’s a happy Fourth of July in a 5-1 victory over the Blue Jays.

“The story of the night was Cole and what he did,” said A’s designated hitter Stephen Vogt. “I saw him right before he went out to warm up and he goes, ‘I’m feeling it tonight. I’m locked in. I’m ready to go.’ He went out and showed it.”

Irvin was indeed feeling something special on the mound. In what was perhaps his finest outing of the season, the left-hander efficiently navigated through a potent Blue Jays offense over eight innings of one-run ball on just 95 pitches. Limiting Toronto to just four hits, he issued no walks for just the third time in 14 starts this season and struck out four.

A strong ability to consistently pound the zone with strikes and pitch to contact are signs Irvin is at his best. He did both Monday, firing 67 strikes and retiring his first nine batters faced on 30 pitches. Blue Jays hitters put the ball in play 24 times against Irvin, but the contact was mostly weak, with an average exit velocity of 87.7 mph, and no ball in play hit harder than 93.9 mph.

“Any time Cole is around the zone and using all of his pitches like that, he’s going to generate weak contact,” Vogt said. “He and [catcher Sean Murphy] were playing well together all night. They were setting hitters up and putting them away. Credit to them for the work they did.”

Lowering his ERA to 3.35, Irvin continues to produce his best work when pitching at the Coliseum. His 1.49 ERA in seven home starts (42 1/3 innings pitched) is currently the lowest mark among qualified American League starters and only second in the Majors behind Dodgers righty Tony Gonsolin’s 0.88 mark.

Despite the stinginess at home, though, Irvin had seldom been rewarded for his stellar performances. The A’s as a team entered Monday winless in his last nine starts. On Fireworks Night to celebrate Independence Day, the A’s got the celebration started early with a five-run performance that included a pair of solo homers off Blue Jays starter Alek Manoah, including one by Vogt, who hit his first at the Coliseum since 2017.

“He hasn’t had the success in terms of wins and losses, so it feels really good to get a win for him,” manager Mark Kotsay said of Irvin. “He painted tonight. He pitched to contact. No walks. You can’t ask for more out of a starter than that.”

After the game, Irvin also noted the extra boost of energy he received from what was the Coliseum’s largest crowd of the season so far. The announced audience of greater than 24,000 was loud from the start and continued the excitement throughout. Upon his completion of the eighth after retiring George Springer, Irvin walked off the mound to a standing ovation.

“The fans tonight were absolutely amazing,” Irvin said. “Electric environment. They were with every pitch. A lot of these young guys got to experience what this place is like when it’s filled out. I was riding off the fans a lot today, too. That really helps. I appreciate everyone coming out.”

Playing at home this season has not provided much joy for the A’s, who entered the night carrying the worst home record (8-29) in the Majors. Monday night, however, was a nostalgia trip for those who have watched the A’s and their many magical moments at the Coliseum in years past. Aided by a strong all-around game on the field by the home team, the old stadium in Oakland felt like a special place again.

“There were a lot of memories of the good times,” Vogt said. “There’s no better place to play Major League Baseball than the Coliseum packed with fans. Clearly, we fed off of it tonight. The fans were great. It was loud and just such a fun night.”