OAKLAND — If Homer Bailey made all his starts in the 2019 season at the Oakland Coliseum, he might be the A’s ace.
In three previous home starts coming into Tuesday night’s series opener against the New York Yankees, the Oakland right-hander went 2-0 with a 3.86 ERA and the A’s won all three games.
Against New York – the highest scoring team in the majors at 5.93 runs per game – Bailey proved that his success at the Coliseum was no fluke. In the wake of Oakland taking three of four from the Houston Astros, Bailey struck out eight in 5 2/3 gutsy innings of one-run ball en route to a 6-2 A’s win against the team with the best record in baseball.
“It wasn’t necessarily surprising,” Bailey said. “This is a club that believes they can play with anybody else, and we’re showing it.”
Bailey has now strung together back-to-back impressive outings. After pitching seven scoreless at Oracle Park in a 9-5 win over the Giants last week, he may have turned in his best performance as an Athletic on a night where the three other teams in the AL wild card race – the Rays, Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox – all lost. His performance pushed Oakland to 72-53, tied with the Rays for the second wild card spot.
Bailey allowed just three Yankees to reach scoring position following a first-inning solo shot from Gary Sanchez.
“Another night where he had a really good split,” said manager Bob Melvin. “That just pairs off his fastball really well. It seemed like as the game went along, after the first couple innings, he got better and better.”
Though Bailey battled an inflated pitch count throughout the night, he got critical outs. He induced a popup from Gleyber Torres with men on first and second to end the first, and punched out Didi Gregorius in an identical situation in the third.
Bailey’s 108 pitches weren’t that unusual for him. Bailey now ranks second among all qualified pitchers in pitches per inning with 17.7 – trailing only his new teammate Tanner Roark, who averages 18.2 — and New York made him work. The Yankees put together six at-bats of at least six pitches against Bailey, and fouled off 33 of his pitches.
“It felt like so many foul balls,” Bailey said, “and then a few hits that fell where we weren’t. Other than the missile that Sanchez hit, I felt like some of their hits were not really well hit and I just had to stay where I was.”
Behind Bailey, the A’s didn’t need much offense but received plenty, especially from the heart of the order in Matt Olson and Mark Canha.
Oakland beat the Yankees at their own game in the first, responding to Sanchez’s home run with back-to-back homers from Olson and Canha – the former a two-run job. It was the 11th time this season that Oakland has hit consecutive home runs and represented the 26th and 19th homers on the year for Olson and Canha respectively.
“If we give up a run or two, we find a way to come in and respond,” Olson said. “To kind of shut down any momentum is nice to do.”
In the second, Marcus Semien was given the green light on a 3-0 center-cut fastball and tacked on another run with an RBI double to the left field wall. The shortstop ran into the final out of the inning trying to advance to third, but extended the A’s lead to 4-1.
Olson and Canha would both come around to score again in the sixth on a single by Stephen Piscotty, which was booted by left fielder Cameron Maybin, to give Oakland a five-run advantage.
Besides their leading roles at the plate, Canha and Olson also made several fine defensive plays to back Bailey.
Canha opened the game by robbing D.J. Lemahieu of a leadoff single with a diving, rolling catch in center field.
“It’s a big park out there,” Bailey said. “Those guys cover it so well. Fundamentally, I feel like every night we play really good baseball.”
Not to be outdone, in the fourth, Olson ranged to his right and slid to stop a grounder off the bat of Austin Romine then flipped to a lumbering Bailey for the out which prevented Maybin from scoring from second. The Gold Glove first baseman later started a 3-6-1 inning-ending double play in the seventh.
“It was just a reaction,” Olson said of his throw to second to start the twin killing. “It looked like Lemahieu thought I was just going to tag him so at the last second I decided to just spin and fire it.”
The trio of Yusmeiro Petit, Joakim Soria and Liam Hendriks closed out the game for the A’s, spanning the next 3 1/3 innings while ceding only three hits and one run – a 467-foot solo blast from Aaron Judge that bounced off a seat in left field and into a luxury suite.