Sunday was the first time A's fans got a glimpse at the battery of Tanner Roark on the mound and Dustin Garneau behind the plate. While it wasn't always perfect, both made key contributions to a 4-2 win and what amounted to an impressive season series sweep over the St. Louis Cardinals.
Many had high hopes for the A’s at the MLB trade deadline, with the team being rumored to be in talks for elite starting pitchers like Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler. By the 1 p.m. deadline Wednesday, however, Roark was the only new face the A's acquired during a frenzied day of player movement across the MLB.
Since the A's had to part with top-10 prospect Jameson Hannah to acquire Roark, the pitcher joined the organization with relatively high expectations.
Roark went five innings in his A's debut, allowing just one run on four hits while striking out six. After allowing a leadoff single to Matt Carpenter, Roark retired the next seven batters in a row, including three via strikeout.
“I like to not come out of the game and not let my guard down, no matter how many pitches I’ve thrown,” Roark told reporters in the clubhouse postgame.
“Anytime the starter comes out after five, nowadays with the way the bullpens are constructed with the lead, he’s done his job,” said manager Bob Melvin after the game.
Roark notably has been utilizing his fastball slightly less than in years past, as he’s gone from throwing it 59 percent of the time down to 53 percent. The adjustment clearly has paid off, as Roark has the best numbers of his career in terms of chase percentage on his fastball, with hitters going after it out of the zone 28 percent of the time.
Despite the limited number of runs, Roark labored through his first career home start at the Coliseum. After just four innings, Roark already had hurled 95 pitches.
After getting two of the first three batters out in the third inning, Roark hit Dexter Fowler with a pitch and followed it up with a 14-pitch battle with Paul Goldschmidt that ended with a walk to the slugger. Marcell Ozuna ended up chasing a ball way out of the zone to allow Roark to keep a zero on the scoreboard for another inning.
Paul DeJong led off the fourth inning with a solo home run, the only run St. Louis could muster against Roark on the day. He was able to get the next two batters out before allowing a pair of singles that extended the inning. He once again finished the inning on a high note, as he blew a 93-mph fastball past Matt Carpenter to close out the inning.
“He didn’t want any part of coming out after four, he felt great. I think if we ran him out there for the sixth, he would have been all for it. But obviously not gonna let him throw 130 pitches,” Melvin said during his postgame press conference.
Dustin Garneau, meanwhile, was a much less heralded acquisition for Oakland. After being designated for assignment by the Los Angeles Angels on deadline day, he was claimed off waivers Saturday by the A's.
Garneau's signing shores up what quickly was becoming a depleted position for the organization. Josh Phegley was placed on the 10-day IL on Wednesday with a thumb contusion, and the organization's top catching prospect Sean Murphy recently reaggravated a knee injury that required surgery back in May, and continues to be out while rehabbing down in Arizona.
Garneau, who played in 28 games for the A's back in 2017, made a statement in his return to the Green and Gold, amassing a pair of hits and an RBI, as his RBI double over the head of Fowler in the fourth inning gave the A’s a lead they would not relinquish.
“Yeah, just tried not to suck today, pretty much,” Garneau told NBC Sports California’s Kara Tsuboi after the win. “Just tried to be comfortable, not take big hacks, and look for pitches that I want to hit.”
Garneau also spoke about the chance to catch a guy making his first start in an A's uniform.
“We talked yesterday on the bench, went over his plan because he’s faced these guys a bunch, and he executed it all, so it was fun to catch him,” Garneau said.
Roark had struggled in his career against St. Louis, entering Sunday, as he had a 2-3 record and a 5.45 ERA lifetime against the Redbirds.
All in all, the team’s July acquisitions have performed admirably, as the A’s have won three of Homer Bailey’s first four starts, and Jake Diekman has earned two holds in three appearances since coming over from Kansas City.
As the team makes a final push through August and September, look for this combination of Roark and Garneau to continue giving the A’s a fighting chance.