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JP Sears spins quality start as A’s win fifth straight game

JP Sears spins quality start as A’s win fifth straight game

OAKLAND — There were a trio of occasions on Friday night where the Marlins seemed poised to scratch across, at the minimum, a run or two against JP Sears. All three times, Sears, with a little help from his defense, slammed the door en route to turning in one of his finer starts of the year.

On a relatively lively evening at the Oakland Coliseum, Sears tossed 6 1/3 shutout innings, Brent Rooker hit his sixth home run, Lucas Erceg recorded his second save and the Athletics (16-17) bested the Marlins, 3-1, to win their fifth straight game.

“JP’s done a nice job of controlling the emotions,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said. “He’s done a nice job of recognizing when it gets to spiraling that he needs to focus on making and executing a pitch and getting an out.”

The outing was a bounceback for Sears, who allowed seven earned runs, tied for the most he’s surrendered in a single start, to the Orioles across 6 1/3 innings in his last appearance.

If there was a theme for Sears on Friday night, it was his ability to get into and out of trouble. Thrice, the Marlins put a runner in scoring position against Sears. In each instance, Sears escaped without allowing a run.

Sears’ first act came in the second inning when Jazz Chisholm Jr. hit a one-out triple to center field with the help of Esteury Ruiz misplaying the hop. Despite the potential first run of the game sitting 90 feet away, Sears got out of trouble by striking out Emmanuel Rivera and getting Otto Lopez to ground out.

The southpaw worked out of an even trickier jam in the following inning. The Marlins put runners at the corners with one out after Vidal Bruján doubled, then stole third as Myers drew a walk. With men at first and third, Sears induced a tailor-made 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Bryan De La Cruz to end another threat.

After tossing a perfect fourth, Sears wiggled his way out of more danger in the fifth. Bruján, again, put himself in scoring position by roping a two-out single and swiping second base. Nick Fortes slapped a line drive that appeared destined for the left-field grass, but Darrell Hernaiz perfectly timed his leap to snag Fortes’ screamer and keep the Marlins out of the run column. In total, the Marlins were hitless in five at-bats against Sears with a runner in scoring position.

“It wasn’t the best pitch, so whenever he hit it, I thought it was going to be a double and a run,” Sears said. “So, whenever you see a guy make a play like that, that’s huge for momentum. It keeps you in the game, keeps you positive the whole time and feeling good.”

Added Rooker: “Super impressive outing for him tonight, which is what we’ve come to expect from him. We’re super comfortable when he’s out there. We have all the faith in the world in him, and he’s going to continue to have a good year.”

Sears wasn’t the only pitcher donning the green and gold to strand Marlins on base. In the eighth inning with two outs and two on, Lucas Erceg was called upon to keep the Marlins off the scoreboard. Erceg had a dubious beginning, plunking Josh Bell to load the bases, then starting his at-bat against Tim Anderson with a pair of pitches outside the zone.

With the bases full and Anderson, a former batting champion, sitting on a 2-0 count, Erceg responded with three straight strikes to end the inning, freezing Anderson on a slider to punch him out looking. The Marlins threatened in the ninth, scoring a run off Erceg and bringing the tying run to the plate, but Erceg managed to record the save.

As far as the scoring, Rooker put the A’s on the scoreboard with a no-doubt, 440-foot two-run shot — his sixth homer of the year — that flirted with landing in the skyboxes, providing a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning. Oakland tacked on another run in the fifth inning as Ruiz legged out a two-out infield single hit to the six hole, expanding the lead to 3-0.

The biggest news in the baseball world developed roughly five minutes prior to first pitch as ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that two-time All-Star Luis Arraez, the Marlins’ original listed leadoff hitter, had been traded to the Padres as part of a blockbuster deal. Sears’ first batter, then, became Dane Myers, who he struck out on five pitches to begin his night.

“It can be disruptive, but I think (Marlins manager) Skip (Schumaker) handled it very, very well,” Kotsay said. “He’s been in the game a long time. Delivering those messages is never easy, but it was nice to see his teammates get a chance to say what they needed to. In terms of preparation, we’re all professional here. Those things happen. I’m sure it didn’t distract them from the game.

Brett Harris, Oakland’s No. 9 prospect per MLB Pipeline who was called up prior to Friday’s game, went hitless in three at-bats with two strikeouts in his debut.


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