Irvin looks to build off first-half momentum

July 11th, 2022

OAKLAND -- Throughout the past week, manager Mark Kotsay and several A’s players threw Cole Irvin’s name out as deserving of All-Star consideration. The full American League roster for the Midsummer Classic announced Sunday did not include Irvin, but that doesn’t diminish the year he’s having. 

In yet another strong performance this season, Irvin efficiently navigated a potent Astros lineup with two runs allowed over six innings on just 81 pitches in Sunday’s 6-1 loss at the Coliseum. Following a brilliant July 4 outing, in which he tossed eight innings of one-run ball, Irvin finished a six-game homestand for the A’s with a 1.93 ERA in two starts and did not issue a walk in 14 innings pitched.

“Cole’s just become a professional,” Kotsay said. “He knows how to pitch. Today, he did that well with changing speeds and heights. Throwing his fastball up with good command to keep that [Astros] offense to two runs. He gave us everything he had for those six innings.”

Lowering his ERA to 3.32 in 15 starts this year, Irvin could classify as a slight All-Star snub. At the forefront of the left-hander’s mind after the game, however, was less about his exclusion and more about the inclusion of his fellow rotation mate Paul Blackburn, who was announced as a member of the AL All-Star team.

As Blackburn was introduced to the crowd as a first-time All-Star to the Coliseum crowd before the bottom of the fifth inning, Irvin snuck behind the right-hander and wrapped his arms around him for a celebratory hug. 

“Regardless of [a] win or loss today, we can all be happy for Paul,” Irvin said. “He’s the story today. He’s earned every ounce of that All-Star vote. We knew in the clubhouse that he was the guy. I’m just happy for him. The guy’s been through so much. He has an incredible story and path to get to where he is.

“I love being able to suit up every day and talk pitching with him. We bounce ideas off each other, and he’s just been a great guy to have in our rotation to learn from. He knows a lot, and it shows.”

The Coliseum has long had a reputation as a pitcher-friendly ballpark, and Irvin has certainly proven that notion correct by reaping the benefits. His 1.68 home ERA in eight Oakland starts ranks as the lowest mark among AL starters. On Sunday, he took advantage of the stadium’s spacious outfield by recording 11 of his 18 outs in the air. 

“[The Astros] like to hit the ball in the air, and I trust our outfielders,” Irvin said. “A little more curveball usage than I’ve had all season. It made my fastball look a little harder, which I didn’t have good command of it early. I got better as the game went along.”

With a strong first half in the books, Irvin’s goal for the second half is to find a way to carry that home success on the road, where he’s had a bit more trouble finding a rhythm. In seven starts away from the Coliseum, Irvin holds a 5.27 ERA, with all 11 of his home runs allowed coming on the road. He’ll have a chance to improve those numbers in his next start, which will likely come Friday in Houston against the Astros.

“It’s been a good year so far,” Irvin said. “There are some things that I need to pick up on the road a little bit. I love pitching at home. I’ve had a good run this year at home. The second half is where I’m going to improve and try to get a little bit better on the road. Make some better pitches. That’s what it comes down to. I’m making really good pitches here and missing one or two spots on the road. Just trying to improve that.”