Irvin plays stopper as A's take finale with SF

Dominant outing earns respect of his former manager, Giants' Kapler

June 28th, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO -- Not only were the A’s in need of a win on the heels of a frustrating extra-inning loss the night before, they also sought a deep outing to alleviate some stress off a taxed bullpen.

delivered both.

Utilizing his aggressive style of pitching to make quick work of a usually patient Giants lineup, Irvin dominated through eight scoreless innings with eight strikeouts in Sunday’s 6-2 victory at Oracle Park. Allowing just three hits -- all singles -- the left-hander became just the second pitcher to toss eight frames against San Francisco this season.

“This is probably the best game he’s pitched, especially against a really hot lineup,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “It’s all about getting ahead in the count. You get ahead and now you force them to swing a little bit more.”

The scouting report on Irvin is well-documented. There’s nothing flashy about his repertoire, he’s just going to pound the zone with strikes. On Sunday, his four-seam and sinking fastballs made up 72 percent of his pitch selection, generating 36 swings and seven whiffs (swings and misses). Those two types of heaters were also used to finish off six of his eight punchouts.

Though Irvin was relatively unknown to most Giants hitters, he’s well-known by manager Gabe Kapler, who informed Irvin of his first big league callup in 2019 as manager of the Phillies at the time. So when Irvin came out and threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of his 29 batters faced, Kapler wasn’t too surprised.

“He just had great command of his fastball all day and featured a changeup that we've seen on video,” Kapler said. “I've seen it live. It's a quality pitch, but he really was putting the ball where he wanted to put it from the very beginning of the game and continued that throughout the game. He deserves a lot of credit for pitching a great game.”

Getting through his first seven innings on just 78 pitches, Irvin appeared to have a strong chance at a complete game, though the Giants made him work in a 22-pitch eighth to boost his pitch total to an even 100. Still, the eight innings matched his career high, which was set earlier this year when he tossed eight innings of one-run ball with a career-high nine strikeouts against the Blue Jays at the Coliseum.

Melvin said he was prepared to allow Irvin to go back out for the ninth. But whereas most pitchers might try to hide any signs of fatigue, Irvin said he wanted to be honest with Melvin and approached the skipper to let him know that he was feeling gassed after the eighth.

“I was definitely amped up after the eighth and then I realized real quick that my legs were not under me,” Irvin said. “I respect BoMel so much and told him as much as I wanted to go, I trust our bullpen. I had to be honest with him. I didn’t want to let my adrenaline get the better of me.”

Irvin was backed with some early run support with a two-run lead before he even took the mound on Matt Chapman’s two-run single in the first. The single pushed Chapman’s career-high hitting streak to 15 games, remaining the longest active streak in the Majors.

Later came the important insurance runs, with two coming off the bat of catcher Aramis Garcia on RBI singles in the sixth and seventh.

Drafted by the Giants in 2014 and having spent two big league seasons with them from 2018-19, Garcia looked forward to reuniting with old teammates. But there was also the extra motivation to defeat his former club, and he managed to contribute both with his bat and strong game-calling behind the plate.

“I have a lot of respect for those guys over there and what they’re doing this year. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want this one bad,” Garcia said. “It was definitely good to play well.”

Avoiding a sweep at the hands of their cross-bay rivals with Sunday’s win, the A’s will enjoy an off-day on Monday before returning to Oakland for the start of a six-game homestand on Tuesday against the Rangers.

“We haven’t played our best here recently. With all that’s made of the Bay Bridge rivalry, the last thing you want is to be swept,” Melvin said. “Our guys came out with some fire. They were upset last night that we lost that game. They came out even more aggressive.”