OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Chris Bassitt was overcome by tears after pitching the first complete game of his career, releasing his emotions after all he has endured to become a dominant pitcher for the Oakland Athletics — appreciative of all of those who helped him reach this point.
At 32, the A’s ace is as confident and dominant as ever in his eighth major league season.
Bassitt pitched a two-hitter for his first career complete game, Sean Murphy hit a two-run single in the decisive sixth inning and the A’s took advantage after Bay Area traffic kept Shohei Ohtani off the mound for a 5-0 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday night.
“I’m just trying to hold back tears right now. There’s so many people in this organization, they have stuck by my side through so much, and I’m just so grateful, honestly,” Bassitt said, pausing and repeating, “I’m grateful. There’s so many people that pushed me when I was going through so much.”
Bassitt underwent Tommy John surgery in 2016 then worked to regain his place in Oakland’s pitching staff.
In a lighter moment after coming off the mound, Bassitt held up a trident spear to celebrate this triumph, a purchase made by Sean Manaea to fit the whole A’s “Ride the Wave” theme as they try to defend their AL West title.
“He’s kind of like a Scherzer type,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said, comparing Bassitt to three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer. “This guy’s really good, that’s not a fluke by any means. He’s going to be someone to reckon with. He’s the kind of a guy, the guy that we have to learn how to beat in our division, he’s that good.”
Bassitt (5-2) struck out nine and walked one to beat the Angels in back-to-back outings after a win Saturday in Anaheim, allowing just two runs in 7 2/3 innings. He completed this gem in 114 pitches, improving to 1-2 over five starts at home this year.
He allowed a one-out double in the ninth to Justin Upton then recovered to finish it in 2 hours, 59 minutes with Lou Trivino warming up in the bullpen.
“He’s using all his pitches, he’s getting ahead in counts, soft contact, there’s not a lot of hard contact off him. He’s using all his stuff and he’s unpredictable and he’s pitching with a lot of confidence right now,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “This is probably the best stretch of his career.”
Matt Chapman and Elvis Andrus also had run-scoring singles while Tony Kemp added a sacrifice fly in the five-run sixth in an interesting opener to the four-game series.
Everything changed quickly some 2 1/2 hours before first pitch.
Ohtani moved from the mound to designated hitter after his arrival to the ballpark got delayed when he was forced to take BART public transportation because of an accident on the Bay Bridge that held up the team bus.
Manager Joe Maddon inserted Ohtani as designated hitter and went with well-rested Patrick Sandoval, who allowed five five hits over five scoreless innings with four strikeouts and two walks.
“Really good, right? I thought he was outstanding. Short notice,” Maddon said. “That was a great outing to build off of.”
Aaron Slegers (2-2) relieved and gave up Chapman’s RBI single to break up a scoreless game before Murphy gave Bassitt a nice cushion.
Ohtani, who hit his 15th home run Tuesday against Texas, went 0 for 3 with a walk and a strikeout.
Mitch Moreland came off the injured list from a stint with an inflamed rib and had been set to start for Oakland before the Ohtani switch meant the A’s faced a lefty starter rather than a right-hander.
“Just more right-handed bats,” Melvin said. “We had a few more left-handed bats in the lineup for Ohtani.”
The A’s announced they will begin hosting fans at full capacity beginning June 29 against Texas. There will be a fireworks show July 2 after a game against the Red Sox. Thursday’s game drew 5,487.
Angels: The Angels reached the 85% vaccination threshold and Maddon is looking forward to the fact “it makes communicating a lot easier. It’s liberating.”
Maddon also scratched C Kurt Suzuki, who was traveling with Ohtani. The Angels want him to catch the two-way Japanese star Friday night when he pitches instead.
Athletics: LHP Jesús Luzardo, recovering from a hairline fracture in his pitching pinkie sustained playing video games, allowed one hit and struck out one over 1 2/3 innings, throwing 25 pitches as planned in his first rehab start for Triple-A Las Vegas on Thursday night. … LHP A.J. Puk (strained left biceps) — who surrendered a homer in the sixth inning pitching in relief with Las Vegas while striking out three Tuesday night — will likely build up to pitching a couple of innings out of the bullpen before rejoining the A’s, though manager Bob Melvin didn’t yet know the formal plan for Puk’s next step.
The A’s optioned OF Luis Barrera to Triple-A to clear roster room for Moreland’s return.
LHP Sean Manaea (3-2, 4.17 ERA) pitches for the A’s trying to end a five-start winless stretch in which he’s 0-1 and will start opposite Ohtani (1-0, 2.37) making his seventh appearance of the season on the mound. He is 2-1 with a 5.54 ERA in three previous starts against the A’s.
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