OAKLAND, Calif. – Superstitious manager Bob Melvin ditched his in-game candy habit during Oakland’s awful start. Now that things have drastically trended upward, Melvin is sticking with a couple of favorite, lucky pens and specific parking places for now.
He doesn’t dare change a thing — the A's are slugging it again, and the pitching has been impressive.
Matt Olson, Aramís García and Mark Canha each homered and the defending AL West champs shut out the Detroit Tigers for a second straight game, 7-0 on Saturday for their seventh consecutive win.
“There’s more momentum now. This team never really got too worried,” Melvin said of the 0-6 start. “... It doesn’t feel great, you’re digging for that first win and we couldn’t get it until the seventh game. But once we got that, everybody just kind of relaxed, did their thing, I didn’t sense any panic from anybody in this group.
"There’s a lot of veteran guys on this team, so it wasn’t really an issue for that. It was just trying to get a win under our belt and get rolling, and that’s what we’re doing right now.”
After Oakland's 3-0 victory Friday, Cole Irvin (1-2) struck out six, didn’t walk a batter and allowed four hits over six innings to earn his first victory since joining the A’s. The left-hander, tagged for eight runs on 12 hits over 9 2/3 innings in his initial two starts, hung tough against a Tigers lineup featuring five switch-hitters.
The last time the A's blanked the Tigers on back-to-back days was in June 1973 when Ken Holtzman and Catfish Hunter did it on Oakland's way to the second of three straight World Series championships.
“We just didn’t put at-bats together,” Detroit manager A.J. Hinch said. “We weren’t able to piece anything together. I think we had one time today where we had back-to-back quality at-bats that ended in our favor. ... That’s two days in a row we haven’t scored a run, so that’s not going to lead you to many wins.”
The club's previous pair of consecutive shutouts was last Sept. 18-19 against the Giants.
During this unbeaten stretch, A’s starters are 5-0 with a 2.63 ERA compared to 0-7 with a 7.91 ERA over the initial eight games. Oakland (8-7) won for the eighth time in nine games to move above .500 for the first time this year.
“The boys are rolling right now, so it’s a lot of fun and a lot of excitement in the clubhouse,” Irvin said.
Olson hit a solo drive in the first on a full count for his third home run of the season, García connected for a two-run shot with two outs in the second and Canha immediately followed by clearing the fences.
Casey Mize (1-1) had surrendered only one run over 11 innings with nine strikeouts in his first two starts before running into a hot A's lineup this time out. He gave up five runs on seven hits in five innings.
Oakland has won 21 of its last 22 matchups against Detroit. The A's improved to 27-6 versus Detroit dating to June 2, 2015.
Tigers: Slugger Miguel Cabrera is making progress as he works back from a strained left biceps muscle, but won't be ready to return for the team's upcoming series back home against Pittsburgh. He hit in the cage this weekend at the Coliseum and is expected to hit live batting practice once in Detroit. Hinch said a timetable will be determined by how he does over the next four or five days. ... RF Nomar Mazara, who went on the 10-day injured list Thursday with a side injury after exiting during an at-bat in the fourth inning of Wednesday’s win at Houston, will need more than the 10 days sidelined but it isn't projected as a long-term injury. His rotation is the biggest challenge, Hinch said.
Athletics: RHP Burch Smith is throwing out to 100 feet and has resumed some running and cutting as he nurses a strained right groin. "We're starting to get in a pretty good spot with him," Melvin said. The next step would be bullpen sessions. ... OF Chad Pinder, sidelined by a sprained left knee, hit off a pitching machine Friday in his second batting session. “He's throwing, it's going to be the running that's going to tell the tale with him,” Melvin said, noting he's not ready to run the bases. ... LHP A.J. Puk is still working through his throwing progression and is yet to pitch off a mound as he works back from a strained biceps in his pitching arm.
A's RHP Chris Bassitt (1-2, 4.96 ERA) looks to win back-to-back starts as Oakland seeks a sweep facing Tigers lefty starter Matthew Boyd (1-1, 2.13).
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