DETROIT — The first thing you’ll probably notice about A’s left-hander Zach Logue is that he doesn’t throw all that hard. The second thing you’ll notice is how little that lack of velocity matters.
The deception is there. The movement is unmistakable. Don’t believe it? Ask the Tigers, who were left scratching their heads following Oakland’s 9-0 victory on Wednesday at Comerica Park.
“He was good. His fastball is deceptive,” said Detroit first baseman Spencer Torkelson, who finished 0-for-3 with a strikeout. “… It plays up a little bit, and when you’ve got one at the top of the zone, it seems like it keeps going up.”
“I certainly don’t think he was technically, by-the-book overpowering by any means; however, I thought he pitched really well,” said catcher Tucker Barnhart, who also went 0-for-3. “… I think that there’s so much velocity and so much overpowering stuff in baseball right now, that he’s an outlier in a good way. It worked for him tonight. He’s been pitching the ball well.”
Logue brought a little bit of everything to the mound, stymieing Detroit over seven shutout frames as the A’s offense broke out behind him. The 26-year-old allowed five hits (four singles), fanned six and didn’t walk a batter as Oakland –losers of nine straight heading into Detroit — assured itself a series win with its third victory in four games of the five-game series.
“We didn’t have multiple at-bats in a row that were productive,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “It looked like we could get a few things going, and then he was in complete control.”
When Logue’s opponents did make contact, it was typically soft, a tip of the cap to the deception contained in the sidearm delivery that saw him garner 16 swings and misses on the night, more than three times as many as any of the eight other pitchers who saw action in the contest.
Logue pulled this off while only topping out at 91.3 mph on the gun.
“I just kind of tried to take the mentality of I don’t care who’s at the plate,” he said. “I know I don’t have 95 [mph] in the tank or anything like that, but I’m going to come after you, and I’m going to try to throw strikes.”
Having maxed out previously at five innings this season, Logue admitted that his legs were “definitely tired” heading out to the mound for the seventh, so he put a bow on the night by sitting down the side in order on just 10 pitches, coaxing Barnhart into a groundout to cap his 97-pitch outing.
“Zach got in a great groove,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said. “… Just a great performance from him. He helped the bullpen out. We’re in this stretch of 15 games in 13 days, and he couldn’t have done more for our club today than he did.”
Meanwhile, his teammates worked hard to give him some breathing room to keep attacking, scoring one run in the first, two in the second and three in the third to open up the game. Backed by a 3-for-5, two-RBI night from Christian Bethancourt and two-RBI games from Sean Murphy and Kevin Smith, the A’s took a seven-run lead into the ninth before adding two more for the heck of it, enjoying every bit of the outburst.
Entering Wednesday, Oakland had scored three runs or fewer in eight of nine May games and been shut out in three of those, so the offensive eruption had to feel good.
“[The early lead helps] 100 percent. It makes my job a heck of a lot easier,” Logue said. “They did a great job getting early runs. It helps me relax a little bit. I can just go out there and throw strikes and let them hit it.”