OAKLAND — If offense was something fans wanted to see out of the Bay Bridge Series, they were out of luck on Sunday.
One of the worst offenses in the National League last season — the visiting San Francisco Giants — looked predictably pathetic against Oakland A’s lefty Brett Anderson, and though the A’s scored all of their runs via the longball in an echo of their 2018 season — pounding three — they had just one other hit besides those circuit shots on the afternoon.
“There were only seven hits in the game,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “Unfortunately, three of theirs left the ballpark. That’s the difference in the game.”
Oakland took the first leg of the annual two-city exhibition series 5-0, taking a cue from last year and scoring all their runs via the home run, while the Giants — the second-least-prolific scoring offense from 2018 — managed just three hits. While A’s second baseman Jurickson Profar showed what he can do to bolster a Matt Olson-less lineup through the first month of the season, it was Anderson and San Francisco’s Dereck Rodriguez who impressed the most in the brisk, 2:05 jaunt.
Anderson looked very much like the starter he was from July 23 to Aug. 21 of last season, when he went 2-1 in six games, with a 1.86 ERA across 38 2/3 innings of work, with 21 strikeouts to just four walks. Given the absence of Sean Manaea (he won’t return until late in the season, if he does return, thanks to shoulder surgery) and the set-back to Jesus Luzardo, and the fact that the glut of young arms won’t be ready until likely the All-Star Break (A.J. Puk and Jharel Cotton), Anderson will prove important for the A’s if they’re to keep their heads above water.
“Basically, he’s been on all spring,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of Anderson. “Getting groundballs, you see it right away, using his changeup effectively, his breaking ball’s his pitch, and really not having to go to that too much. Coming in, you hope he’s healthy enough to get through a spring, and he’s been way better than that.”
Against Anderson, the Giants — the team that wasn’t coming back from a trans-Pacific flight — looked very much like the team that finished last season second-to-last in the Major Leagues in runs per game (3.72) and home runs (133), but Rodriguez, in his second year with the club, looked comfortable and confident, even in surrendering homers to Profar and right fielder Stephen Piscotty.
Piscotty drew first blood, cashing in a one-out walk to Matt Chapman with a tater off the stairs in left in the bottom of the first, but the inning ended on a pair of fielder’s choices, including a diving stop by Brandon Belt at first. Rodriguez was happy with his pitch to Piscotty, getting his fastball down.
“To Piscotty, it was right where I wanted it,” Rodriguez said. “He just put a good swing and hit it out.”
Profar, on his first swing at the Coliseum as an Athletic, launched a ball down the right field line and into the second deck, just foul. His next time up, in the fourth, he crushed a first-pitch fastball from Rodriguez 412 feet for a solo home run to right center, with an exit velocity of 105.9 mph and a launch angle of 32 degrees. That pitch, Rodriguez said, should have been a bit higher in on the hands, but wound up being belt-high, allowing Profar to extend.
“It was middle-in, instead of up-and-in,” Rodriguez said. “They did exactly what they needed to do with the pitch.”
Ramon Laureano added the final tally with a two-strike, two-run home run in the seventh against left-handed reliever Travis Bergen, cashing in a two-out Marcus Semien single.
Anderson, for his part, faced one above the minimum through five — allowing a whistling Mac Williamson single (he has hit .232 in spring training coming off a season lost to debilitating post-concussion syndrome) — and worked efficiently, throwing 50 pitches in his first five innings. He finished with 66 in six, his longest outing of the spring.
“When he’s on, that’s what he does,” said Melvin.
Anderson finished his work with some bullpen tosses during a 1-2-3 seventh by Frankie Montas.
“I had to go out and throw another simulated inning in the bullpen, but I’d rather have that than throw a lot of pitches in four taxing innings,” Anderson said. “I’ll take the efficient innings.”
Montas threw the final three innings, walking two and striking out three. The Giants managed just three hits. His 90 mph slider, split-finger and 10-mph differential changeup were swing-and-miss pitches, and he sat 95-97 with his fastball.
“He was disgusting, his split-finger was gross,” Anderson said. “If he stays in the strike zone, he has a chance to be special.”
Anderson, who figures to be the A’s No. 2 or No. 3 starter, used all of his pitches, got soft contact and induced five pop-outs and six groundouts. His curveball was particularly sharp, as he was able to throw it for strikes early in the count and keep Giants hitters off balance. Anderson said his sinking fastball and dropping changeup were also working well. He got into a spot of trouble in the sixth, but got two fly-outs and a line-out to escape a two-on, no-out jam.
As for Rodriguez, who didn’t give up a single home run this spring in the thin Arizona air, he threw 60 pitches in four innings (37 for strikes) on Sunday, allowing just those two home runs and striking out two, while walking two. It was a satisfactory ending to his spring, where he’s gone 0-3, but has posted a 4.15 ERA in 13 innings of work.
“Yeah, I felt really good, body feels good, just ready to go back out there,” Rodriguez said. “Feel good … I felt good with my cutter today, and my changeup. My curveball has the right shape to it. Just got to get it in the zone. Overall, I was happy with today.”
Rodriguez, who emerged near the middle of last season to stabilize a rotation depleted by injury, once again figures to be near the top of a rotation that will be somewhat pieced together behind Madison Bumgarner. Bochy said after the game that San Francisco should have a full rotation announced on Monday.
“This time around, I know the hitters, I know how I got them last time, and I just want to build off of what I did last year,” said Rodriguez, who is tentatively slated to start on Saturday in the third game of the season against the San Diego Padres. “Guys are going to make adjustments, as you saw already. That’s just going to be the course of the season. They’re going to make adjustments, and I’m going to make adjustments with them.”