December 7, 2022

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Pache winning over A's with energy, glove — and flair: 'He's good'

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OAKLAND — Clutch hitting has been the standout quality for Cristian Pache early on in his A’s career. But on Tuesday night, he reminded everyone of the 80-grade defense that got him to the big leagues in the first place.

In the A’s 2-1 victory over the Orioles at the Coliseum, Pache flexed his elite glovework with a pair of highlight-reel catches. Then, he literally flexed his arms following both impressive plays, displaying that same energy that has quickly made him a fan favorite among the Oakland faithful.

Pache’s first defensive gem featured a superb juggling act. Racing 92 feet from his spot in left-center for a deep drive hit by Kelvin Gutiérrez in the second, he leaped at the high wall in right-center and watched the ball hit off his glove. Despite falling to the ground, Pache’s laser focus allowed him to come down with the catch while falling, preventing another Baltimore run from scoring for what was the second out of the inning.

“My mentality was that I needed to catch that ball,” Pache said. “I felt the ball hit my glove and pop out. Thankfully, I was able to hold onto it.”

Six innings later, Pache covered even more ground on a deep fly ball from Austin Hays to lead off the inning. Immediately breaking to his right upon contact, he raced 118 feet for a brilliant catch on the run just before crashing into the short wall in left-center.

Even for the most experienced players, the spacious dimensions of the Coliseum outfield can be tough to navigate. But Pache is as confident as they come. That’s why despite Tuesday being just his second-ever game in Oakland, the 23-year-old center fielder said neither play was difficult for him.

“Once I went after it, I had the confidence that I could catch them,” Pache said. “The last one was a little further away, but I was confident in myself that I would catch it.”

A’s manager Mark Kotsay has often mentioned Pache’s ability to impact the game with just his glove alone. In a ballgame that was tightly contested throughout, both plays to take away hits from Orioles batters — Gutiérrez’s flyout had a .620 xBA (expected batting average), while Hays’ had an .810 xBA — certainly classify as potential game-savers.

“What great concentration,” Kotsay said. “Shows his athleticism once again there, going from right-center all the way back into left-center and catching that ball. Another dynamic play. He does something every night. He’s fun to watch. Defensively, he’s changing games right now.”

The A’s had read all the scouting reports about the many Gold Gloves expected to come Pache’s way in the future. After Tuesday’s performance confirmed that praise, the next question becomes, is there any ball he can’t get to?

“At this point, I don’t think so,” said A’s starter Cole Irvin, who tossed five innings of one-run ball. “It’s pretty fun to watch. I love his flex at the end of every catch. He’s good. Once he gets used to this outfield, it’s going to be even more fun to watch.”

Of course, adding to the flare of it all were the flexes. It turns out the gestures were actually an ode to Dominican musician Rochy RD, whose music is featured as one of Pache’s walk-up songs at the Coliseum.

“A Dominican artist who I admire does it,” Pache said. “I do it because I feel good and my teammates like when I show that emotion. It fires them up as well.”

There have been times in recent baseball history when players who show as much personality as Pache has this season have been viewed with a negative connotation. The A’s, however, carry a rich history of having players who aren’t afraid to demonstrate their celebratory ways. Pache’s joyous and fun style of play is just that next generation.

“I love it,” Kotsay said of Pache’s flexing. “That’s part of allowing guys to be themselves. He’s not disrespecting anyone or the game. He’s showing a level of excitement that we feed off as a team. We’re allowing him to go out and have fun. He’s having fun and making plays.”

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