OAKLAND — The Cubs ran into a surprisingly tough A’s pitching staff Tuesday night and the teams matched zeroes for seven innings.
Then the Cubs put together several timely hits in a row and took advantage of an Oakland error and won their second straight from the A’s 4-0, as four Cubs pitchers combined to throw a two-hit shutout. It was the Cubs’ second blanking of the year.
This game did not start out well from anyone’s standpoint. Neither Marcus Stroman nor A’s starter Ken Waldichuk could throw strikes in the first inning, which lasted almost half an hour and 51 total pitches. The Cubs managed to load the bases with one out, but Patrick Wisdom popped up and Cody Bellinger flied to center.
Then the teams hardly had anyone on base for the next six innings. In fact, after Stroman allowed a one-out double in the second, he retired the next 14 A’s in a row until a leadoff walk in the seventh.
Meanwhile, the Cubs couldn’t do anything off Waldichuk, either, somewhat surprisingly as the Oakland lefthander entered the game with an ERA north of 10. The Cubs left RISP in the fourth and fifth innings.
Finally, the Cubs broke through in the eighth. Seiya Suzuki, who had already been on base four times (two singles, two walks), walked for a third time leading off the inning. Wisdom laced a double down the left-field line, sending Suzuki to third.
That sent Wisdom to third, where he scored on Yan Gomes’ ground out [VIDEO].
Another infield out moved Bellinger to third. Nick Madrigal singled him in to make it 3-0 [VIDEO].
That might have been it as Nico Hoerner lofted a fly to right... but Connor Capel dropped it [VIDEO], scoring Madrigal with the fourth run of the inning.
After Stroman’s six strong innings (two hits, two walks, five strikeouts), Mark Leiter Jr., Michael Fulmer and Michael Rucker combined for three shutout innings, allowing no hits and three walks and striking out three. Rucker issued a one-out walk in the ninth but finished things up with this double-play ball [VIDEO].
The Cubs have allowed just seven runs on this entire road trip so far in winning four of five games, an impressive performance. As for Stroman’s night, from BCB’s JohnW53:
With his six shutout innings at Oakland, Marcus Stroman has tied the team record of allowing only two runs in a pitcher’s first four starts of a season. Steve Stone did it in 1976, then Jason Hammel in 2016. Stone pitched only 17⅔ innings in his games, as he left his debut on April 25 after 1⅔ innings, then did not pitch again until July 2. One of the runs off Stone was unearned. Hammel pitched 24 innings and both runs were earned, the same as Stroman this year. Six other Cubs allowed just three runs in their first four starts: Carl Lundgren (1907), Hippo Vaughn (1919), Greg Maddux (2006), Rich Harden (2008), Jake Arrieta (2016) and Cole Hamels (2018).
All of this took place in front of another very small gathering in Oakland, just 5,196. At some point the A’s and MLB will figure out this situation, but again this is caused by ownership ripping the team down by dealing off all its stars, then jacking up ticket and parking prices and saying, essentially, “See? We can’t draw in Oakland, we have to move to Las Vegas!”
As always, we await developments.
A further development we await is a possible Cubs sweep of this series. I’m heading back to Chicago today and so won’t be at this afternoon’s contest, which features Justin Steele starting for the Cubs. The A’s are reportedly calling up one of their top prospects, righthander Mason Miller, to make his MLB debut. Miller throws 100 miles per hour, but has only 28 innings’ worth of minor league experience (and another 16 in last year’s Arizona Fall League). Game time Wednesday is 2:37 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.