OAKLAND — Everyone in the A’s clubhouse seemed much more impressed with Ross Detwiler’s start Wednesday than the lefty was himself.
To be sure, the 30-year-old journeyman was happy about pocketing his first major league victory as a starter in more than three years. He just wasn’t reading too much into it.
“I think it’s a good start,” Detwiler said. “But it’s just one good start.”
Level-headed logic from a guy who’s bounced around the bigs enough to know success can be fleeting. However, there was no over-stating what Detwiler accomplished Wednesday night. The A’s rotation is in a vulnerable state right now, with two starters (Sonny Gray and Jesse Hahn) on the disabled list, another (Rich Hill) recently traded and still another (Dillon Overton) sent to the minors.
Detwiler, a top-10 overall draft pick in 2007 who entered the night with career 21-37 mark, held Baltimore to six hits over a career-high eight innings in the A’s 1-0 victory. It was his first time taking the mound in a big league start since May 14 of last season. He hadn’t notched a victory as a starter since May 10, 2013 while with the Nationals.
Since then, he’s knocked around to four different organizations. A’s manager Bob Melvin said the scouting report he got from Triple-A Nashville was that Detwiler would rely heavily on his fastball. What Melvin didn’t expect was to see the lefty weave in a curve, slider and changeup so effectively.
“He mixed it up really good today,” Melvin said. “Kept the ball down, pitched in just enough. It was way more than we expected. A credit to him.”
Detwiler officially was called up from Nashville on Wednesday but he arrived to the Coliseum on Tuesday night, glanced around the clubhouse and could count on one hand the number of familiar faces. He’d crossed paths with Danny Valencia and he’d been former teammates with Jake Smolinski. He played on Team USA with Sean Doolittle way back in 2006.
“But I was with his brother (Ryan, a Nashville reliever) the last three weeks so it felt like I was with him,” Detwiler said.
One person he was glad to know was catcher Bruce Maxwell, who was behind the plate for a five-inning relief outing Detwiler threw for Nashville on July 20.
It was quite a night for Maxwell, who got conked in the head by the backswing of Adam Jones on the second pitch of the game and needed attention from the training staff. A few moments later, Maxwell was involved in the biggest defensive play of the night. J.J. Hardy hit a double to deep right field, and with Jones getting a late break from second, Valencia threw to second baseman Max Muncy, who delivered a strike to Maxwell as the A’s completed a pretty 9-4-2 putout.
Jones originally was called safe, but the play wound up being overturned, as replays showed Jones’ lead foot on his slide never got down to touch the plate before Maxwell’s swipe tag.
“I was actually lining up in case there was gonna be a play at third,” Muncy said. “When the ball was about five feet away from me, I heard Semien yell ‘4!’. So I just caught it turned and threw it home … The crazy thing was it was the first inning, and you don’t realize that was going to end up being one of the bigger plays in the course of the game.”
Semien doubled in the third and Yonder Alonso doubled him home. That was enough offense for the A’s, who have the second-highest starters’ ERA in the American League (5.15). In three games of this series, who would have thought Kendall Graveman, Zach Neal and Detwiler would combine to allow two runs over 20 1/3 innings?
Detwiler gave a big assist after the game to his new home ballpark. He benefited from the Coliseum’s spacious dimensions.
“There were foul balls that I thought were in the stands, and all of a sudden there was somebody standing under them and catching them,” he said. “It kept the pitch count down a little bit and let me go a little longer.”