River Cats Even Series Behind Chavez's Gem
WEST SACRAMENTO, CA - Recently acquired Jesse Chavez appeared to be an afterthought when he was purchased by the Oakland A's from Toronto on August 24.
But after his eight-inning, scoreless gem against the Reno Aces on Thursday, the right-hander is making a case to get called back to the major leagues to provide some depth to the A's pitching staff. He was perfect through six and two-thirds innings before allowing an infield single to Wladimir Sutil in Thursday's series-tying win.
"You think about [being perfect]. You go up and you go right back in," Chavez said. "If it happens, it happens. I just try to go out there and make a pitch."
Chavez' effectiveness resided in his ability to command both his sinking and cutting fastballs. He didn't allow a ball to leave the infield until the fifth inning. Thursday's outing was the furthest he had been perfect into a game in his career.
In similar situations, the baseball romantic fights the notion to pull a pitcher from the game if he's perfect.
"If I felt like he'd go over hit pitch count, then no. One game's not more important than his career," manager Darren Bush said on weighing the decision to keep Chavez in for the full nine innings had he been perfect.
Originally drafted by Texas in the 42nd round in 200, Chavez has bounced around during his five-year major league career, pitching in relief for the Pirates, Braves, Royals and Blue Jays. He had an 8.44 ERA in nine appearances with Toronto this year before being acquired by Oakland. Whatever the A's saw in Chavez was on full display Thursday.
This year, Chavez had made starts in 17 of his 19 appearances with Triple-A Las Vegas while in the Blue Jays' organization, including an outing as recently as August 21 against Sacramento.
"You get in a rhythm of doing one thing ... so it's kind of tough to get your feet back underneath you," he said of making the adjustment of going from starter to reliever.
The River Cats were able to even their series with the Aces in the opening round of the Pacific Coast League playoffs with Thursday's victory. The two clubs convene in Reno on Friday for the third game of the best-of-three set.
Coming into the game mired in a 0-for-14 slide, Jemile Weeks rebounded by reaching base three times, including the decisive solo home run to dead center in the third inning.
"I knew I got it pretty good. I wasn't sure it was going to go out given the part of the field that it went to," Weeks said.
But the long ball might not have been possible if not for a questionable call by umpire Barry Larson.
Weeks poked a 1-2 offering from Daniel Cabrera down the left field line for an apparent double that Larson called foul. Weeks had already reached second base and was waiting for Jermaine Mitchell to step to the plate before he heard Larson's ruling. He returned to the batters' box and homered to three pitches later to give Sacramento the 1-0 lead.
"I'm sure he made the right call. From where I was standing, I wasn't sure," said Bush, who also coaches third base.
Now tied at 1-1, the series shifts to Reno, where the River Cats are 5-3 this year, although with almost an entirely different roster. Sacramento owns a 10-6 record against the Aces overall.
With Dan Straily's promotion to the A's to replace the injured Brandon McCarthy, Bush announced Travis Banwart will start Friday's game 3, with Brad Peacock in the mix for game four. Bush didn't commit to recent call-up Sonny Gray pitching in a potential fifth game of the series, although it remains a possibility.
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The Bees managed only three hits and shoddy defense led to three unearned runs. A.J. Cole allowed four runs (one earned) in four innings with five strike-outs and two walks. The decisive Game Three of the series will take place on Friday in Appleton, Wisconsin.