Matt Harvey Comeback finally pans out, but for the other team
Nothing much went right for the Oakland A’s today, unless you count playing a role in another team’s hero origin story.
The A’s dropped an 8-4 decision to the Baltimore Orioles on a breezy Saturday afternoon at the Coliseum, and along the way they didn’t quite come together in any department. But they did watch one of their former farmhands continue his comeback tour in the majors.
If there’s one thing to take away from this game, it’s that Jesús Luzardo did not have the disastrous outing that his line suggests. The six runs he allowed in the 3rd inning were just as much a product of bad luck and shaky defense by his teammates behind him than anything else, although he didn’t entirely help his own case either — he wasn’t missing bats, uncorked a pair of wild pitches, and allowed a parade of contact that, while mostly not hard, wasn’t soft either.
The 3rd inning began with ground balls. The first one should have been an out but backup 1B Seth Brown clanked it for an error, and the next two were hit hard but were still grounders that could have been fielded if they’d gone at somebody. Luzardo also mixed in a walk, so when the third grounder found a hole it drove in runs. Two scored on that knock, and then Matt Chapman almost made a dazzling heads-up play to nab a trail runner but instead threw it away for another unearned run.
It didn’t stop there. The next batter hit a popup to no-man’s land, and it glanced off shortstop Elvis Andrus’ glove for an “RBI single.” Then another grounder through a hole, and a wild pitch to move up both runners. Four runs were in, with two more in scoring position, and nobody had hit a line drive yet. And there were still no outs.
Luzardo finally retired a batter on a popup, and then the Orioles finally hit a ball well, a sharp drive deep to right. Naturally, this one was caught at the wall for an out, despite a 93% chance of falling for a hit that made it Baltimore’s highest-percentage contact of the day. BABIP!
That loud out still worked as a sac fly to plate a runner, and Luzardo sent another wild pitch to the backstop to bring home one more.
Four grounders and two popups, enhanced by two errors and a walk and two wild pitches, capped off by two flyouts. Somehow that equaled six runs, half of them earned.
- Luzardo: 3 ip, 6 runs (3 earned), 1 K, 2 BB, 5 hits, 64 pitches, 91.5 mph EV
I’m not saying Luzardo was good today. One strikeout, and two swinging strikes, is far below his standards, and on top of that his opponents’ average exit velocity was a bit high. He created some of the bad luck himself by leaving so much to chance. But he deserved better than this result.
And it could have been even worse, if not for Mark Canha making this running grab in the 3rd to turn a two-run double into just a sac fly.
Canha giving full effort for Luzardo pic.twitter.com/PTwvCLO0IC
— A’s on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) May 1, 2021
If you’re still feeling bummed, then click here and listen to Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer compare Luzardo to Johan Santana.
The bullpen quietly cruised the rest of the way, with just a two-run homer off J.B. Wendelken in the 6th. Otherwise the A’s got two scoreless frames from Deolis Guerra, two more from Reymin Guduan, and one from Sergio Romo.
In other news, the A’s won a replay review for the second straight day!
Dark Knight Rises
In 2019, former Cy Young candidate Matt Harvey was on a recovery path that briefly took him through the A’s minor league system. He pitched a few times for Triple-A Las Vegas, but never made it up to Oakland. Now he’s finally back in the majors, and for five innings he wasn’t fazed by the bats swirling around him.
The A’s hit it hard twice in the 1st, but both were loud outs. They hit it hard twice in the 2nd, both outs. They hit it hard a few more times in the 3rd and 4th, all outs. They led off the 5th and 6th with triple-digit exit velocities, both outs. By the end of five, they had two singles and three walks, with nothing to show for any of it.
They finally got a rally going with two outs in the 6th, when their 16th and 11th hardest hits of the day against Harvey went for a single by Chapman and an RBI double by Brown, respectively. That chased Harvey, and Tony Kemp greeted the bullpen by singling in Brown for his first RBI of the year.
From there, Oakland got solo homers from Canha and Ramon Laureano, but it was too little too late. Four runs in four innings isn’t a bad output at all, but it’s not enough when you’re trailing 8-0.
Through 31 innings this year, Harvey now has a 4.06 ERA and 3.46 FIP, and Statcast says he’s doing decently enough. After so many failed reboots, this is the best comeback attempt we’ve seen yet from the Dark Knight.
Why do we fall?
So we can learn to pick ourselves up. The A’s didn’t quite pitch well enough, hit well enough, or field well enough in this game. But by the end they’d at least launched half a comeback to remind us that it was just a bad day, not a permanent shadow, and they aren’t going to let it keep them down for long.