OAKLAND – The “hitting is contagious” cliché gets tossed around freely in major league clubhouses.
The A’s often modify it to fit their starting rotation, and right now one Oakland starter is picking up where the previous one left off. It was Jesse Chavez’s turn to shine Monday night in a 5-0 victory over the Giants to open this four-game Bay Bridge series.
Chavez’s was a timely outing as well, given that he just earned a vote of confidence from the A’s brass. Two spots in the rotation needed to be cleared for recently acquired Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Tommy Milone was optioned to Triple-A on Saturday, and Brad Mills was designated for assignment Monday.
The A’s are sticking with Chavez in a rotation that currently consists of him, Sonny Gray, Hammel, Scott Kazmir and Samardzija. Chavez took a strong first step in justifying the decision with the way he pitched Monday, blanking the Giants over six innings, giving up just four hits and tying his career high with nine strikeouts.
“I just want to hold down the spot,” Chavez said. “As I’ve said before, whatever role they ask of me, I’ll do it. I’m just looking forward to being a part of this team.”
With good reason.
The A’s (56-33) are the talk of the big leagues right now, sporting the majors’ best record and having created a buzz with their weekend trade, sending a package that included top prospect Addison Russell to the Chicago Cubs for Samardzija and Hammel.
They’ve won five in a row, and they’ve taken 23 of their last 29 home games. Welcoming their cross-bay rivals into a sold-out Coliseum on Monday simply intensified the spotlight. The A’s treated the green-and-gold portion of the crowd to a crisp all-around performance, breaking a scoreless tie in the fifth and adding on to their lead with two runs in the sixth and two in the seventh.
[RECAP: Chavez, A's blank Giants 5-0]
“It's exciting to be a part of the Oakland Athletics right now,” third baseman Josh Donaldson said. “How we're playing , a couple transactions that we've made. Right on top of that, you get your crosstown rival in here, which is one of the best teams in the NL as well. It makes it fun to come to the yard when you got that kind of stuff going on.”
If there was anything to put a damper on the night, it was Donaldson getting hit on the left hand by a 2-2 pitch from Ryan Vogelsong in the sixth. He was checked out by the training staff but stayed in the game.
Donaldson did not express major concern, but the A’s will monitor this closely. A couple days ago, Brandon Moss wasn’t so concerned after twisting his left ankle, but he wound up missing two games and requiring an MRI.
“I feel it a little bit right now,” said Donaldson, who was hit on the knuckle of his pinkie. “It's sore.”
The A’s recent streak of starting pitching is much cheerier for A’s manager Bob Melvin. Oakland’s starters have allowed just three runs over their past five games (33 innings).
Chavez had been tagged for nine runs and had issued seven walks over his previous two starts, but he was dialed in Monday.
“A lot sharper,” Melvin said. “I thought he mixed in the breaking ball a little bit more. At times he gets a little cutter/fastball happy maybe. You gotta slow them down sometimes.”
“Yesterday, watching Jeff pitch, it was something I wanted to feed off of, and I think we all like to feed off of as a staff, and as a team,” Chavez said. “We’re just playing good baseball.”