The first batter Chris Bassitt faced Saturday didn't exactly get a preview of the kind of night the Athletics starting pitcher would have.
Bassitt walked Los Angeles Angels shortshop José Iglesias on four pitches, but he didn't offer any free passes the rest of the way. The 32-year-old allowed five hits and two runs in 7 2/3 innings of work, striking out eight in the A's 6-2 win over their AL West rivals.
"Chris did what he does really well tonight," Oakland catcher Aramis Garcia told NBC Sports California's Brodie Brazil and Bip Roberts on "A's Postgame Live."
"He used all of his pitches. And when something doesn't work for him, he's able to go to something else and kind of just figure it out until he gets that feel back, and that's exactly what he did tonight."
Bassitt threw all six of his pitches at least eight times Saturday, relying on his sinker (40 percent of his 95 pitches) even more than usual (35.9 percent on the season). He also topped out at a season-high 96.5 mph on his most reliable pitch.
Over two-thirds of Bassitt's pitches (64) were strikes, and the Angels swung and missed 13 times. Bassitt entered the game with a lead, and the A's three home runs provided him plenty of run support. But he once again gave his bullpen support, too, pitching at least seven innings for the third time in four starts this month.
"It was easy to do," A's manager Bob Melvin said of keeping Bassitt in the game. "His pitch count was under control. He'd only given up, what, three hits up that point, and his pitch count was manageable the entire game. ... It's not just a given if a guy's pitching really well that he's gonna come out after six innings. He's proven to be able to go a little bit deeper than that, and he did again today."
Bassitt improved to 4-2 on the season with Saturday's win, and his ERA dropped to 3.69. He has allowed a career-low 1.10 WHIP in 2021, and his 65 strikeouts this season are tied with, among others, aces Jacob DeGrom and Clayton Kershaw for the 13th-most in the major leagues.
The Athletics' best pitcher a year ago during the coronavirus pandemic-shortened season, Bassitt has picked up right where he left off last season. Over 124 innings in 21 regular-season starts dating back to 2020, Bassitt is 9-4 with a 2.98 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 120 strikeouts. He ranks 19th, 30th and tied for 22nd in those categories among the 100 pitchers to pitch at least 75 innings during that time.
"Hitters know what I'm throwing," Bassitt said of why he's able to pitch so efficiently. "I mean, honestly, that's one of the biggest things. ... You tend to get teams to be a lot more aggressive vs. you when the kind of know what's coming."
That just hasn't helped Bassitt's opponents get any closer to solving him, all while he emerges as one of the best pitchers in baseball.