The A’s didn’t complete the sweep they wanted in New York, but as they head for Baltimore they could be encouraged by what they saw Thursday from starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz.
The left-hander was the silver lining in a 2-1 loss to the Yankees that snapped Oakland’s five-game winning streak. He turned in a career-high seven innings, struck out seven and gave up just six hits. In doing so, Pomeranz kept the game close and at least allowed his teammates to harbor hopes of a comeback against Masahiro Tanaka and three Yankees relievers.
“With the lack of bullpen arms we had (available) today, we needed him to do that,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said.
In a rotation where Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir are posting All-Star worthy numbers, Pomeranz’s outings can fly under the radar. They’re never particularly flashy, and until Thursday, Pomeranz regularly left lots of work for his bullpen to finish up. But how his season continues to unfold will be critical for Oakland.
It’s easy to forget how inexperienced the 25-year-old Pomeranz still is. Though he debuted with Colorado in 2011, he entered Thursday with just 35 major league starts (and 48 appearances overall) under his belt. The talented Tennessee native is still a work-in-progress, working to hone a repertoire of pitches that the A’s feel can lead to a long career as a starter.
After acquiring him from Colorado over the winter in the trade that sent Brett Anderson to the Rockies, the A’s probably weren’t expecting to thrust Pomeranz into a starting role so soon.
But season-ending injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, along with the early struggles that sent Dan Straily to the minors, landed Pomeranz in the rotation. They need him to show consistency because the rotation depth behind him is thinner than anyone anticipated when spring training began.
The overall body of work has been solid, but Pomeranz elevated his game Thursday. After combining for seven walks in his previous two starts, Pomeranz issued only one free pass Thursday. Just one of the two runs he allowed was earned – he piped a fastball in the third that Brett Gardner deposited into the second deck in right field to break a 1-1 tie.
Aside from that, Pomeranz was sharp with his curve and changeup, as the seven strikeouts were just one off his career high.
“It was just fastball location, I think location with everything,” Pomeranz said. “I even threw some good changeups in there. For the most part, after the first couple innings, I felt like I settled in a little bit and was throwing everything for strikes.”
He also caught a break in the first, when Jacoby Ellsbury’s drive to right was originally ruled a two-run homer but was correctly overturned to a double when Melvin asked for a review. Instant replay showed the ball hit the outfield wall and bounced back on to the field.
“I don’t know how you could even suggest it was a home run,” Melvin said afterward. “It hit the red pad and bounced back like it would off the pad.”
While Tanaka pushed his record to 9-1 and showed the A’s why he’s been one of the American League’s best first-half stories, Pomeranz showed his team that he’s capable of pitching strong into the late innings.
The scoreboard result wasn’t what Melvin wanted, but he’ll gladly take more of what Pomeranz had to offer.