Oakland left-hander Cole Irvin will oppose the Minnesota Twins for the first time in his career on Saturday afternoon in Minneapolis as the A’s try to improve to 5-0 this season against the reigning American League Central champions.
Oakland took the opener of the three-game series by a 6-1 count Friday night.
Irvin (3-4, 3.29 ERA), who had an 0-1 record and 17.18 ERA in three games with the Philadelphia Phillies last season, has been a pleasant surprise this year for the AL West-leading A’s.
He has allowed just 38 hits and six walks over 41 innings in his seven starts for a 1.07 WHIP. Irvin has struck out 37 and held opponents to a .239 average.
Irvin had to beat out a pair of Oakland’s top pitching prospects, Daulton Jefferies and A.J. Puk, in spring training just to make the club, and he has been effective since. Arguably his best start came in a 4-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on May 4. He allowed one run on three hits and a walk over eight innings while striking out nine.
“He’s not a seat-warmer anymore,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin joked after that outing. “He’s been consistent the entire season. … He just continues to get better and better and pitch with more confidence.”
Irvin followed that up with another solid outing in a 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday, allowing four runs (three earned) and four hits over six innings. Despite his good start to the season, Irvin is just 5-6 with a 5.11 ERA in 26 career appearances, including 10 starts.
“I pitch with that mindset of knowing there’s someone out there that doesn’t think I should be in a big-league uniform,” Irvin said. “It’s still grinding me and making me work harder every day. I want to get my first complete game and have multiple (complete games) in my career. As I progress, maybe the goals change. But I’m still pitching with that mentality, and I don’t want to lose that.”
Irvin will be opposed by two-time All-Star right-hander Jose Berrios (3-2, 3.49 ERA), who will be trying to help Minnesota snap a five-game losing streak. Berrios is 0-3 with a 4.10 ERA in five career starts against Oakland.
After going 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position in a 4-2 road loss to the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, the Twins went 1-for-6 with men in scoring position in the series opener against the A’s. Minnesota managed just a Josh Donaldson solo home run in the sixth inning.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said of his team’s lack of timely hitting, “It’s been something that we’ve seen. We saw it again today, obviously. What we did today obviously wasn’t going to get it done.
“In and of themselves, you would think of these games as one-off games, but we’ve had too many of them to consider them one-off games. … We have to make it happen.”
Oakland, meanwhile, bounced back from an 8-1 loss at Boston on Thursday to club a season-high four home runs on Friday. Sean Murphy and Stephen Piscotty each hit two-run homers while Ramon Laureano and Mark Canha added solo shots.
Melvin, asked about his team’s ability to bounce back after a tough loss, replied, “You know, I’ve gotten that question a lot over the last couple of years. It’s a team that really doesn’t dwell too much on a bad game. Comes out the next day and expects to win. We’ve done that for quite a while here. I don’t think we get bogged down by one particular game.”
–Field Level Media