Oakland A's

Oakland A’s: New pitcher, catcher a hit in their debut as the Athletics stay hot

Oakland pitcher Tanner Roark was solid in five innings against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday.
Oakland pitcher Tanner Roark was solid in five innings against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday. AP

The A’s unveiled a new battery tandem Sunday, and it provided a big charge in Oakland’s 4-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals, cementing a two-game series sweep.

Newly acquired right-hander Tanner Roark pitched five innings to get the win, and catcher Dustin Garneau, returning to the team after two years, delivered a go-ahead two-run double in the fourth inning.

The A’s (64-48) won their third in a row and sixth in seven games, and remained one-half game back of Tampa Bay for the second American League wild card spot entering Monday’s slate of games. Oakland began an eight-game road trip Monday with three games against the Chicago Cubs, then three across town against the White Sox, before facing the Giants twice in San Francisco.

Roark, who came to the A’s in a trade with Cincinnati earlier in the week, threw 109 pitches in five innings, but gave the bullpen a 2-1 lead. “A grinder,” Roark said.

“Anytime the starter comes out after five – nowadays with the way bullpens are constructed – with the lead, he’s done his job,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He’d have gone farther if he hadn’t thrown that many pitches.”

It seemed like he made most of those pitches to Paul Goldschmidt, who fouled off eight straight pitches in the third inning of a still-scoreless game before drawing a walk to load the bases on Roark’s 14th delivery of the at-bat. Roark then struck out Marcell Ozuna to escape damage.

“When I struck out Ozuna,” Roark said, “I could hear the A’s fans chanting ‘Oakland.’ The fans get you to a different level of intensity and that helped me out.”

Garneau played for the A’s in 2017, but Melvin doesn’t remember the player who gave the A’s two hits, a walk, two RBIs and a run on Sunday.

“I haven’t seen him this involved in the offense,” Melvin said. “It was a great day for him. The double gave us the lead and gave us some momentum.”

“Different dude, huh?” said Garneau, who said he tweaked his approach at the plate during his time with the Angels.

Roark and Garneau huddled Saturday to talk about their game plan, then looked at Cardinal players’ likes and dislikes before the game Sunday.

Roark suggested he shook off Garneau’s pitch calls only three times. “He’s lying,” laughed Garneau, who said the two were nonetheless on a good wavelength.

Both players are thrilled to be playing for a contender.

“Coming back to this team and all these guys in this clubhouse is awesome,” Garneau said. “Like I said earlier, I just try not to suck and get a win for the team. That’s what we both did today. It was a fun time out there.”

Garneau is feeling comfortable already: “I’ve seen the camaraderie that we have here with the first two days I’ve been here,” he said. “Just seeing how goofy everybody is and how much they love to play together and have fun, and winning makes everything else fun.

“I’ve been a part of that and I think I can bring that kind of stuff to the table as well. I think I fit in perfectly.”Walks continue to pay off for the A’s: Oakland batters drew 15 walks in the two-game sweep of the Cardinals, and five of those wound up scoring. That doesn’t count the two hit batsmen who scored off Garneau’s go ahead double.

It’s all part of the design, Melvin reminded everyone.

“We try to profile players and obviously, walks and homers play with us. We have a number of guys throughout the lineup who can do that,” he said. “It’ll soften some guys up . . . take some pitches, get on base and somebody hits a homer. It works pretty well for us.”

The A’s are 11th in the majors in walks drawn and eighth in home runs.This team just keeps coming on strong: The A’s opened this nine-game homestand with consecutive losses to Texas, but wound up winning six of the next seven. Five of those six were by two runs or fewer.

“It seemed like a long time ago,” Melvin said of the losses to the Rangers on July 25 and 26. “Then really have to fight hard to get the second two. Then (we) take a couple series after that.”

Oakland took two of three from Milwaukee before beating the Cardinals twice.

“These guys literally don’t get down if they lose a couple games,” Melvin said. “As long as we keep that mindset, it keeps you out of lengthy losing streaks.”