The A’s now know what it’s like to play a road game. Well, sort of.
They were the visitors in Tuesday’s 4-2 exhibition loss to the Giants and played outside Oakland Coliseum for the first time in training camp, but this experience won’t mimic the road trips full of health and safety protocols to come.
They didn’t stay in a hotel or have to board an airplane. They bussed across the Bay Bridge, set up shop at Oracle Park and played nine. The experience was over in a snap, nothing like what they’ll experience when they visit anywhere else but San Francisco.
Each taste of baseball in a pandemic will be valuable, even if it’s just on the sporting side of things. The A’s only get two dress rehearsals before games that hold great weight, and they’ll try to glean as much from these two outings as possible as they taper workouts and get primed for Opening Day on Friday against the visiting L.A. Angels.
Here are three takeaways from the last exhibition against the Giants. The next time the A’s play another team, it’ll count.
One game, two experiences for A’s starters
The A’s put two members of their starting rotation in the same game Tuesday night, with Mike Fiers as the exhibition starter and Chris Bassitt closing things out.
Fiers wasn’t terribly thrilled with his outing where he gave up two home runs and struggled some with command. He had just 37 strikes in 67 pitches and walked two. The veteran also understood the work was more important than the result as he continues to ramp up for the A’s third regular-season game on Sunday against the L.A. Angels.
Chris Bassitt will take the ball the day after in the No. 4 slot, and he was spot-on all night. It was clear Bassitt’s ready for the regular season after dominating the Giants lineup over four innings. He allowed a run on two hits with five strikeouts in this one, and he was in firm control of his environment. That’s a good sign for a substitute starter who moved into the rotation because Jesus Luzardo’s progress was delayed due to two weeks in quarantine following a positive coronavirus test.
No new guy in centerfield
The A’s used their regulars during their pair of exhibition games against the Giants. And, yes, that included the dude wearing No. 79 in centerfield. A number that high is normally reserved for a minor leaguer or non-roster invitee with no shot to make the roster, but this wasn’t one of those guys.
Ramona Laureano occupied his typical spot in the outfield, without his typical No. 24.
If one was somewhat confused by the jersey number, they could tell it was Laureano when he threw out a runner at third base.
It was Laureano’s only exhibition game after he was held out Monday with a calf strain that was minor and simply required a day off.
Olson gets creative beating crazy shift
Opponents employ the shift a ton against Matt Olson. The left-hander is a frequent pull hitter with great power going to right field, typically putting good wood on a ball that leaves the bat with high exit velocity.
That’s why defenses will pack the right side with an extra infielder, a strategy around since the days of Ted Williams.
The Giants took the shift to another extreme. They put a fourth man in the outfield and still employed the shift.
Matt Olson dealt with that during Monday’s exhibition and dealt with it again on Tuesday, where there wasn’t an infielder to be found left of second base. The Giants were daring Olson to go the opposite way.
You don’t have to dare him twice. Olson laid down a bunt and legged out a single in his first at-bat, something he has done several times in the past to keep defenses honest. Sometimes teams would rather have that than Olson flexing his muscle pulling the ball.
Sometimes, however, it can backfire. It did in the top of the 2nd inning, as Olson [and Khris Davis] came around to score on a Chad Pinder triple.
While Olson will make his living getting hard hits into the shift -- it’s doubtful he’ll see four outfielders much during the regular season -- he’ll take advantage of shifts when the time is right. The bunt is Olson’s warning: shifters beware.