The A’s did not put too much stock into the early-season struggles by Mike Minor when they acquired him from the Rangers on Aug. 31 just before the Trade Deadline. His performance on Monday night showed why.
Making his second start since joining the A’s, Minor was dominant in a 9-0 victory over the Mariners in the second game of a seven-inning doubleheader at T-Mobile Park. The left-hander tossed a complete-game two-hitter with eight strikeouts, leading Oakland to a split of the twin bill in Seattle.
“I had fastball command going pretty well,” Minor said. “I thought [catcher] Jonah [Heim] called a good game back there. Different than the past games I’ve thrown, as far as sequences and stuff. And then the guys put some runs on the board, so it made it a little bit easier.”
The A’s looked beyond Minor’s 5.60 ERA in seven starts with Texas and made the deal after identifying tweaks to his game that they believed could get him closer to his 2019 All-Star form. Among those fixes were taking advantage of Minor’s impressive fastball spin rate, which ranks in the 97th percentile among Major League pitchers.
In Monday's 102-pitch outing, Minor utilized that fastball heavily. Of the 66 heaters he threw, Minor generated 33 swinging strikes and 16 whiffs. Minor also used the fastball as the put-away pitch on five of his eight punchouts.
“It’s just a matter of -- I felt like in the past I’ve been trying to trick guys rather than just attack them,” Minor said. “Today, we threw a lot of fastballs that I probably normally wouldn’t throw, and I had success with it.”
The circumstances under which Minor had to perform kicks his accomplishment up by a few notches. With smoke clearly visible in the stadium due to wildfires throughout the West Coast, A’s manager Bob Melvin said the poor air quality began to wear on players in the nightcap of the doubleheader.
“I gave him the option if he wanted to go out and finish it. It was pretty smoky out there, and guys were starting to feel it in the second game some,” Melvin said. “But he wanted it bad. I didn’t want him to go over 105 [pitches], and he got it done in less than that. It really makes you feel like you belong to a new team and are part of it that much quicker when you have that type of outing.”
While the A’s now travel to Colorado for a two-game set with the Rockies that begins Tuesday, they see the light at the end of the tunnel presented in the form of an off-day on Thursday.
Monday’s doubleheader was the third twin bill the A’s have played over the past seven days as they make up games that were postponed earlier this month due to a positive COVID-19 test. Oakland went 6-4 over that stretch.
“We did fine,” Melvin said. “We have two more games to play before we actually get an off-day. We knew it would be difficult. Can’t complain about it. We wish we took the first game today, but sometimes you’re going to lose games like that.”