OAKLAND — The great thing when the game doesn’t count, because when the A’s play the Giants, even in an exhibition it very much counts, is each team finds a reason to feel good.
For Oakland on Sunday, it was the pitching of Brett Anderson. He didn’t allow a run, and isn’t that the whole idea? You can’t lose a shutout, and the A’s didn’t, beating the Giants, 5-0.
For San Francisco, as it was pointed out to manager Bruce Bochy that after the game at the Coliseum, which lasted only 2 hours, 5 minutes, there was still time to go next door to Oracle Arena and catch — no mitt needed — the one between the Warriors and Pistons.
“The silver lining to this game,” agreed Bochy, “is that it was quick.”
The reality of this game is it reminded us of what the A’s have, power at the plate, three home runs, and what the Giants don’t — an ability to get people across the plate; they were next to last of the 30 major league teams in runs scored in 2018.
But when asked if being held scoreless meant anything, Bochy responded, “No. We’ve been playing well. We really have. Our guys haven’t settled in. We just got in (Saturday night, from Arizona).”
That’s considerably closer (600 miles, no time change) than Japan (5,100 miles, 16 hours difference), where the A’s played a two-game American League series against Seattle that ended three and a half days earlier.
Those two, both losses, mean the A’s at the moment are last in the majors. But with performances such as Sunday’s — Anderson, the lefty, went six innings and allowed only three hits — they won’t stay there long.
“We’re trying to get pitch counts up between he and Frankie (Montas),” said Melvin of Anderson, who threw only 66 Sunday. “But when he’s on, that’s what (Anderson) does, and he’s been basically on all spring.”
The man who started for the Giants, Dereck Rodriguez, wasn’t exactly off. He gave up a two-run homer to Stephen Piscotty in the first and a bases-empty shot to Jurickson Profar in the fourth (the other A’s homer was by Ramon Laureano in the seventh, off Travis Bergen), but Bochy wasn’t at all displeased.
“There were only seven hits in the game,” said Bochy. ”Unfortunately of their four, three of them left the ballpark.”
Baseball had returned to the Bay for the first time in nearly five months, and with the afternoon inviting and all three levels of Coliseum stands untarped, attendance was a respectable 23,967. The traditional series crosses the bridge (or rides the rails, “BART-able”) to Oracle Park for games on Monday and Tuesday nights.
That a team would leave the Cactus League, play two league games half a world away and then go back to exhibitions (the Nor Cal League?) isn’t unique, but it’s not normal. Next year, Tierra del Fuego?
”It was weird,” said Melvin of the schedule. “You come back, and now you’re in spring training mode. We’re going to get guys out of there after three at bats, and plus the jet lag. With some guys it seemed we were kind of sleepwalking through (batting practice). You put a couple of good swings on them, and the next thing you know you’ve got five runs on them, and the way they (Anderson and Montas, who went three hitless innings) were pitching, that was enough.”
The Giants didn’t feel they had enough when it came to catchers. So they traded a minor league infielder (C.J. Hinojosa) to Milwaukee for Erik Kratz, then reassigned Stephen Vogt, who last year was with the A’s, to minor league camp.
Kratz is 38, but Bochy, a former catcher, wanted a veteran to back up Buster Posey, figuring someone with Kratz’s experience would be able to learn the Giants' staff quickly enough.
Aramis Garcia, who caught Sunday, has played only 19 games in the majors.
“We were a little concerned about the catching depth,” said Bochy. “Now we got it, and with (Michael) Reed, a righthanded bat to play centerfield, that gives us depth there.”
So they have depth. What they still lack are runs. Hard to win without them. Very hard.