In a fine display by two All-Star pitchers at opposite ends of the career spectrum, the Oakland Athletics mustered up just enough offense to get the win, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 in the first of three games at PNC Park.
Each starter went seven innings, with Bartolo Colon giving up seven hits with five strikeouts and one walk, compared to Jeff Locke who allowed only three hits with four strikeouts and three walks. The final walk issued by Locke would prove to be the difference, however, as it came with the bases loaded and gave Oakland the eventual game-winning run.
Grant Balfour pitched a perfect ninth, setting a franchise-record with 41 consecutive saves, passing Dennis Eckersley for the honor.
The A’s got on board in the top of the fourth thanks to a sacrifice fly by Josh Donaldson, scoring Jed Lowrie from third. Lowrie had double to right field in the previous at-bat, and he advanced on a wild pitch to make the score possible.
After that, both pitchers locked in and dueled through the middle innings. Oakland added another run in the seventh on Locke’s bases loaded walk to Derek Norris to make it 2-0, but the Pirates nearly came back in the bottom half of the frame.
Colon gave up a one-out double to Clint Barmes, and Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle brought in Travis Snider to pinch hit for Locke. Snider hit a single through the left side of the left side of the infield to advance Barmes to third, and after Starling Marte struck out, Jose Tabata hit a soft grounder down the third baseline that Donaldson couldn’t make a play on, and the Pirates had their first run of the game.
Andrew McCutchen nearly added at least one more run on a drive to left-center, but Coco Crisp tracked it all the way and made a great diving catch to end the inning and preserve the lead for Oakland:
After a quick turn at the plate for Oakland, things got interesting with Ryan Cook on the mound in the bottom of the eighth. Pedro Alvarez hit a lead off single, and after striking out Russell Martin, Cook gave up a single to Garrett Jones to put the go-ahead run on base.
Pinch-hitter Gaby Sanchez popped out in the next at-bat for the second out, but Derek Norris let a catchable ball get past him Barmes at the plate to advance both runners. Luckily Barmes popped out to Yoenis Cespedes on a drive to left field to end the threat, and the A’s went on to win thanks to Balfour’s record-setting effort.
Second basemen Grant Green went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in his Major League debut Monday night, but there’s a good chance he’ll get a chance to get his first hit as a member of the A’s on Wednesday as left-hander Francisco Liriano will be on the mound for Pittsburgh, and Bob Melvin will likely want to get another right-handed bat in the lineup.
Tommy Milone will start for Oakland tomorrow against right-hander Gerrit Cole for Pittsburgh.