I commented a couple weeks back that this was not going to be an easy stretch for the Oakland Athletics as they ran the gamut of the NL Central. Their home stand that saw them host the Cincinnati Reds, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Chicago Cubs presented a number of challenges, and the team passed each and every one of those tests with flying colors. They had a brief reprieve when they travelled to Kansas City to take on the struggling Royals. That series went well for the Athletics also, as they took 2 out of 3. Then came another big test, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the team that at one point over the last couple weeks held the best record in all of baseball.
Bartolo Colon and the bullpen shut down the Pirates 2-1 in Monday’s series opener, and Dan Straily liked that result so much that he decided to copycat that result. This time thought the Pirates got on the board when Pedro Alvarez launched a tape measure shot to center field that banged off the batters eye. Thankfully though, you don’t get extra runs for home run distance. Right now though, a 1-0 deficit isn’t much to get worked up about with the Athletics.
Straily was on his game though and only allowed one other hit aside from the Alvarez homer. He worked a solid 6.1 innings while allowing just that 1 run, he did walk 3 batters and struck out 7 for his 6th win of the season.
The Athletics got their only runs of the game when Brandon Moss connected for a 2-run home run of Pirates young stud Gerrit Cole in the top of the 4th inning, his 16th of the season. The team only left 4 runners on base, so they had few chances against Cole and the Pirates, but they were able to squeeze out just enough offense to take the victory and secure the series win.
Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook, and Grant Balfour slammed the door shut on the Bucs, combining for 2.2 innings of 1-hit ball. For Balfour, it was hist 24th save of the season and extended his club record to 42 consecutive saves without blowing one.
The A’s go for the sweep tomorrow in front of the nation as Tommy Milone (8-7, 4.11 ERA) faces off against Francisco Liriano (8-3, 2.20 ERA) on ESPN. Liriano struck out 14 Athletics last season in a losing effort, so he can be pretty tough when he has his stuff working. Milone will have to keep the Pirates in the ballpark, which can be tough with the likes of Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, and Garrett Jones waiting to unleash their power on the Athletics.