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Apr 29, 2024 7:45 am

Pirates aim to ride strong pitching into opener vs. A’s

Bailey Falter

Two teams that took much different modes of transportation to the same site meet up in Oakland, Calif., on Monday night when the Athletics entertain the Pittsburgh Pirates in the opener of a three-game series.

The infrequent interleague rivals met in Pittsburgh last June, with Oakland rebounding from a 5-4 series-opening loss to take two of three. The wins came as the result of a total of 20 runs by baseball’s lowest-scoring team in 2023.

This time around, the Pirates enter the series on a nice pitching roll, having limited the Giants to a total of nine runs in a three-game series across the San Francisco Bay.

Following Sunday’s 3-2 defeat and 2-1 series setback, the Pirates enjoyed the rare pleasure of not having to change hotels before their next road series. Instead, they scheduled buses for the 20-mile, day-of-game drive to Oakland.

Interestingly, the Pirates tentatively scheduled one player to fly into Oakland — catcher Yasmani Grandal — following a rehab stint with Triple-A Indianapolis. That was to follow planned back-to-back starts in Omaha over the weekend — a prerequisite of his before making his 2024 big-league debut — but three straight games were rained out, postponing the potential promotion.

Grandal, a free-agent signee in the offseason, has yet to play for the Pirates because of plantar fasciitis in his left foot.

Weather permitting, Grandal tentatively is scheduled to join the team in Pittsburgh at the end of the week.

“He has felt pretty strongly, and we agree and support it,” Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said of the consecutive-day trial runs in the minors. “You have strange weather; you just have to adjust. We’ll pick it up (Tuesday) where we left off. We’ll get him back in the games as soon as we can, as safely as we can.”

California native Bailey Falter (2-1, 3.33 ERA) is slated to get the ball for the Pirates in the series opener. The left-hander hopes to follow in the footsteps of Quinn Priester, Martin Perez and Jared Jones, the trio of Pittsburgh starters that allowed just three earned runs and 13 hits in 17 innings in San Francisco.

Falter allowed just one run and three hits while striking out eight in seven innings of a 2-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday.

The fourth-year veteran has faced the A’s just once in his career, that coming in relief for the Philadelphia Phillies in the third game of the 2022 season. He took the loss in a 7-5 defeat, allowing two runs and four hits in 2 1/3 innings.

The A’s are expected to counter with right-hander Joe Boyle (1-4, 7.06), who has faced only two National League teams — the San Diego Padres and Washington Nationals — in his two seasons in the majors.

The 24-year-old started losses on Oakland’s just-completed 4-6 trip, one that ended in a cross-country flight back to California while the Pirates were relaxing in their San Francisco hotel. The A’s faced the best of the American League so far this season on the trip — the Cleveland Guardians, New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles.

The flight was a happy one for the A’s, who completed a 2-1 series win at Baltimore on Sunday with a come-from-behind, 7-6 triumph.

“It obviously shows our grit,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said. “These guys have been battling all year. To come here against a playoff team, against a team that is top of the division in the East, and show that fight, show that resilience … Everybody contributed in some way, shape or form.”

Boyle has lasted a total of just nine innings and surrendered nine runs combined in his past two starts.

–Field Level Media

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