A pair of left-handers will get their introduction to the Oakland Athletics-San Francisco Giants rivalry after spending the past two games as spectators when the Bay Area rivals complete a tightly contested three-game series on the Giants’ home turf on Sunday afternoon.
Oakland’s Cole Irvin (5-7, 3.98 ERA) and San Francisco’s Sammy Long (1-0, 4.20), neither of whom has ever faced a batter in the opponent’s uniform in his major-league career, are the scheduled starters as the Giants go for a three-game sweep over their neighbors to the east.
Backup catcher Curt Casali, who has given Buster Posey and his sore back a break, has played a role in both wins. He homered as part of a 2-0 victory on Friday before knocking in the game-winner in the 10th inning of Saturday’s 6-5 victory with a double.
The A’s are hoping the sight of Irvin on the mound will awaken their bats. They have been held to a total of 12 hits in 19 innings by Giants pitching, with just two of the hits — a double by pitcher Sean Manaea on Friday and a home run by Matt Chapman on Saturday — going for extra bases.
Twelve hits have been about the norm for the A’s in Irvin’s recent starts. Oakland has scored a total of 31 runs in his past four outings — all wins for the A’s.
The left-hander has gone 2-0 in those starts, including a 13-6 win in his most recent start on Tuesday at Texas.
Irvin will be making his 35th career appearance — his 19th start — without ever having gone head-to-head with the Giants. He has a 2-0 record and 1.76 ERA in four games, including two starts, in his career in interleague play.
Exactly who comes out of the Oakland bullpen in support of Irvin was a topic of conversation for Oakland manager Bob Melvin with reporters following Saturday’s loss. Melvin had been ejected for complaining about home plate umpire Lance Barrett’s strike zone.
The A’s blew a late 4-2 lead when Jake Diekman gave up two hits and two runs (one a runner he inherited) before closer Lou Trivino needed the potential game-ending run to be thrown out at home plate in the last of the ninth to prevent him also being scored upon.
“Sometimes it’s not perfect, but what’s the alternative?” Melvin asked. “Those are our best guys. Sometimes they’re going to give up some runs and you stick with them until you feel the need to do something different. It’s easy to say, ‘Just switch things around,’ but you have to consider the alternative.”
While Melvin admitted he was frustrated by the second straight narrow loss, Giants manager Gabe Kapler credited his team for coming through when he feared his players might be tired.
“The one thing that all of our players have to overcome in a scenario that unfolded is you kinda get fatigued going back and forth,” he noted. “It just takes mental grit and mental toughness. I think that was on full display.”
One member of the Giants who should be well rested for the series finale is Long, who will be making just his second big-league start and fourth overall appearance.
The 25-year-old got more than his fair share of support in his first start last Sunday in an 11-2 home win over Philadelphia.
The Giants, who will be seeking their first six-game winning streak of the season, haven’t outhit the A’s by much in the series with just 14 hits. But they’ve outhomered them 3-1, with LaMonte Wade Jr. and Donovan Solano providing the fireworks in Saturday’s win.
–Field Level Media