The legend of Swirvin Irvin continues to grow.
The Oakland A’s beat the Toronto Blue Jays for the second straight game on Tuesday, this time by the score of 4-1, and the story begins and ends with pitching. Cole Irvin put together the A’s longest start of the year, and arguably the best so far, with an eight-inning gem to lead his club to victory.
The lefty Irvin made the team out of spring training when an injury opened up a rotation spot, and in his first two outings of the season he got knocked around by the Houston Astros. But since then he’s been on a roll, allowing just four total runs over his last four starts combined including tonight.
The big difference in this game comes in the underlying metrics. In Irvin’s last three appearances, when he kept the Tigers, Orioles, and Rays at bay, he still served up a lot of hard contact but was able to navigate around it and also benefited from some loud outs. Tonight, he was unhittable.
Through the first five innings, the Jays reached base once against Irvin, on a single, and even that was immediately erased on a double play. In the 6th they strung together a single and a double to score a run. In the 7th they walked but stranded the runner. That was it.
- Irvin: 8 ip, 1 run, 9 Ks, 1 BB, 3 hits, 102 pitches, 84.8 mph EV
Toronto hit the ball hard against him only four times. Two went for the hits they deserved, one was a sharp lineout tracked down by Ramon Laureano, and the other was a grounder that didn’t find a hole. Meanwhile he struck out one-third of the batters he faced, with a mix of missing bats and also painting the corners and getting calls. He only went to a three-ball count four times, including the one walk.
There’s no caveat or asterisk or “but actually” here. This was a gem by Swirvin Irvin, in every way, easily the best we’ve seen from him and in the discussion for the best we’ve seen from any A’s starter this year.
It also set a number of career-bests for Irvin, including but not limited to innings and strikeouts, and another member of the pitching staff also had a standout day.
With a three-run lead in the 9th, the A’s gave their double-headed closer tandem a rest after both pitched last night. Instead, Yusmeiro Petit came in to lock down the final frame, retiring the side in order to pick up his first save since 2017. Back then he was on the Angels, making this his first save as a member of the A’s, in his 196th appearance in green-and-gold.
The one run for Toronto tonight was delivered by Marcus Semien, in the second game of his homecoming series after leaving Oakland in free agency last winter. Semien hit the RBI double in the 6th that got the Jays on the board, so, even when the pitching did briefly falter it was still a neat moment in its own way.
A 4-1 A’s win where the opponent’s only RBI was by our beloved hometown shortstop? Perfection.
Oakland’s lineup kept rolling, at least enough to support a dominant pitcher. They did all their scoring early, in the 2nd inning, and it didn’t end up mattering that they never added any more.
The runs came in a hurry. Sean Murphy singled to lead off, and Matt Chapman followed with another single. Then came Jed Lowrie, who did exactly what you think — hit a double. He was batting righty against a southpaw pitcher and lined it the other way down the line, driving in both runners.
They weren’t done. Next up was Mitch Moreland, and he deposited the ball just over the fence in the LF corner for an opposite-field wallscraper homer.
While Moreland has generally not done much against lefties in his career, he’s off to a nice start against them this year, with this dinger and also a walk before the righty bullpen came in. Next time he’s up in a big spot in the 9th against a lefty reliever, I’d sure like to roll the dice and see what he can do instead of burning a pinch-hitter and taking the bat out of his hands.
- Moreland, vs. LHP: 4-for-17, 2 HR, double, walk-off single, 3 BB, 5 Ks, sac fly
Just like that, four batters into the frame, the A’s had a four-run lead, and they never looked back. They reached base in all but one inning the rest of the way, but never put together enough of a rally to score again, which was fine because Irvin took care of things from there.
It’s a win streak! That’s three in a row, including the first half of this four-game series against the Jays. Tonight was similar to last night, with all areas of the team clicking — pitching, hitting, and defense, all coming through, just with a more modest final score. Sounds like the A’s are starting to ride a new wave!