OAKLAND – The zero in the win column was getting to Chris Bassitt, and that had his adrenaline pumping double-time Tuesday night.
His pitching line shows just how well the A’s right-hander did in blanking Baltimore over seven innings. But according to Bassitt, it was no easy go.
“I knew I hadn’t won yet, and I was just trying to win and do as best I could,” he said. “I came out of the gates way too fast. The whole entire game I was too fast. Every time I looked at (catcher Stephen) Vogt, he was saying ‘Slow down, slow down, slow down.’”
He can exhale now, because he doesn’t have to look at that zero anymore. Bassitt delivered a career-high seven strikeouts, his offense backed him up for a change, and he registered his first win as an Athletic with a 5-0 defeat of the Orioles.
Bassitt spread the credit everywhere. He insisted Vogt was the game’s MVP, helping him keep his tempo in check on the mound. He heaped praise on left fielder Coco Crisp for a diving catch that saved a run in the third.
“My goodness, it’s great to have him out there,” Bassitt said.
He was grateful for his teammates’ run support, after a lack of offense was the main culprit in saddling him with an 0-4 record entering Tuesday. But despite his attempts at deflecting praise, his own effort was just another example of the fine work he’s delivered to entrench himself in Oakland’s rotation.
Bassitt lowered his ERA to 2.43 over six starts with the big club. He hardly resembles the work-in-progress rookie who struggled badly in spring training and didn’t have the weapons to complement his impressive fastball. Now, he’s got hitters chasing breaking balls that dive into the dirt and swinging behind fastballs that blaze through the heart of the strike zone.
“He’s a really intense kid out there,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Since he’s been in the rotation, you see each and every time he goes out there he’s more and more confident. … His off-speed stuff is night and day from what we saw in spring training to where it is now. He’s on a roll.”
That intensity was obvious after several of his strikeouts, as Bassitt would pivot on his left foot and do a little mini-hop as he headed toward the dugout. Surely he was keyed up on his 104th and final pitch of the night, a 96 mile-per-hour fastball that he blew by Travis Snider to end the top of the seventh.
He was protecting a 5-0 lead at the time, sensing that the elusive first victory was there for the taking.
“I don’t care about ERA, I don’t care about hits,” Bassitt said. “I just care about winning.”
That became an easier task after the A’s built on a 1-0 lead with four runs in the sixth. It was 2-0 when Marcus Semien drilled a three-run homer right after the Orioles ordered Eric Sogard intentionally walked to get to him.
Semien said the move took both he and Sogard by surprise.
“I was told that early on in pro ball, if you ever get in that situation you want to have a little extra fire,” Semien said. “But I just wanted to stay within myself and do the best I could no matter what. I'm just glad it happened like that.”
Bassitt and two relievers made the lead stand. The right-hander allowed just five hits and walked two. With the A’s out of contention and looking to evaluate their young talent, Bassitt – one of three rookies in the current rotation – is definitely putting his best foot forward.
“You want to look at those types of guys,” Melvin said. “It was nice that (Aaron) Brooks could come in and pitch the way he did to create some more opportunities for himself. In the case of Bassitt, he was given the opportunity and seized it, and that’s what you want to see out of a young guy.”