Cole Irvin's tenacity on full display in Athletics' loss to Guardians

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Irvin's tenacity on full display in A's loss to Guardians originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The Athletics fell to the Cleveland Guardians 3-1 on Saturday, but starting pitcher Cole Irvin showed what he’s made of with a gritty, six-inning display of perseverance.

The left-handed Irvin (2-1) was sharp at Oakland Coliseum and kept his team in the game, but the offense went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position, proving to be fatal for the A’s as they dropped their second straight contest to Cleveland.

Irvin told reporters after the game that he felt his velocity was lacking, but he had “total command” in the no-decision.

His control combined with a great game called by backup catcher Austin Allen, Irvin said, resulted in just one earned run through six innings. Irvin surrendered six hits with four strikeouts and a pair of walks in his fifth appearance of the season.

“Austin and I worked great today,” Irvin said. “It really kept us in the ballgame. Just how baseball goes sometimes.”

Irvin’s tenacity was on full display through the game’s third and fourth innings, when he got into some trouble. He forced two Guardians flyouts to center fielder Cristian Pache to escape a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the third, then limited the damage to one run in the fourth by coaxing Austin Hedges into an inning-ending double play.

High-leverage situations are nothing Irvin can’t handle, he said after the game, and it’s all thanks to familiarity with being under pressure.

“I think experience has a lot to do with that, being in it a few times and understanding, being OK with letting one run score,” he said. “... Trying to simplify it and not try to stress myself out a little too much. I think I learned a lot last year just in certain situations, pitching with guys on base.”

Irvin added that he feels more relaxed on the mound this season than he did last year and has learned to trust his pitches. So far in 2022, he has posted a 2.93 ERA and has given up just two earned runs in his last three starts. Last season, he was known for pitching with a chip on his shoulder.

Now, things are more zen for the 28-year-old.

“I’m having a lot of fun in the games,” Irvin said. “I’ve slowed the game a little bit for myself.”

A’s manager Mark Kotsay has noticed Irvin’s command of his pitches -- something the no-decision doesn’t necessarily reflect.

“Obviously it’s early, and when we talk about the start of the season you can assess result-based, but ultimately I think he’s utilizing all of his pitches,” Kotsay said. “In terms of efficiency, I still think [he] probably could be better, but at the same time he’s getting outs and he’s pitching well, so we didn’t really want to tinker with much.”

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Irvin exited after six innings, and Oakland was still in it thanks to a game-tying solo home run from Sheldon Neuse in the fifth.

An unlucky error by Nick Allen followed by a two-run Richie Palacios double -- nearly caught by Pache -- in the ninth served the A’s with the fifth loss of their last seven games after they were unable to come back in the bottom half of the inning.

Despite the final score, Irvin continues to grow with each start this season.

“The biggest thing was I kept us in it, and that’s all I can ask for in terms of the start today,” Irvin said.

The A's will look to avoid being swept for the first time this season in the final game of their series against the Guardians on Sunday.