Cole Irvin once worked for the Los Angeles Angels as a member of their grounds crew, raking the baselines and smoothing the batter’s box during games at Angel Stadium.
On Sunday afternoon, he’ll take the mound against the Angels for the first time in his MLB career, starting for the Athletics in the finale of their four-game series in Oakland, Calif.
Irvin grew up in Yorba Linda, Calif., about 10 miles northeast of Angel Stadium, and spent parts of two seasons on the Angels grounds crew while a student at Servite High School in Anaheim.
“I got to see a lot of things that added to my love of the game,” Irvin told The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2018, a year before making his major-league debut. “It just added to me wanting to be at the top level.”
Irvin, a left-hander, went on to have two outstanding seasons at the University of Oregon sandwiched around Tommy John surgery, and was a fifth-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2016.
Irvin is now in his third season in the majors.
He spent his first two seasons with the Phillies, but accumulated a lofty 6.75 ERA and low strikeout rate (6.9 strikeouts per nine innings). He didn’t impress enough to become part of Philadelphia’s long-term plans and was sent to the A’s on Jan. 30 for future cash considerations.
Irvin (3-6, 3.92 ERA) is still trying to find his footing in Oakland.
He allowed two runs or fewer in five of six starts from April 17 to May 15, getting through five innings in all six outings, but has struggled in his past two appearances.
Most recently, he gave up a season-high 10 hits against the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday, allowing four runs in 4 2/3 innings of the 4-3 loss.
“He’s been up in the zone his last couple of outings. Not his best command,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Just going through a little bit of a two-game rut with command.”
The A’s won the first two games of this four-game series behind solid pitching and defense.
The Angels took advantage of a miscue, however, to score four unearned runs in the fifth inning on Saturday afternoon and held on for a 4-0 win for their first shutout of the season.
The Angels plan to send left-hander Jose Quintana to the mound on Sunday in a bid to split the series.
Quintana (0-3, 7.92 ERA) will be making his second straight start against the A’s. He gave up three runs and six hits over 5 1/3 innings in a no-decision on May 21. The Angels eventually lost 8-4.
Quintana is 2-0 in seven career starts against the A’s with a 3.20 ERA.
The Angels have benefited from several solid starts in a row, most recently getting seven shutout innings from Alex Cobb in the win on Saturday.
Los Angeles manager Joe Maddon is confident that Quintana and the other starters will continue to improve.
“Any of them who hasn’t shown well to this point will,” Maddon said. “We’ve just got to continue to show faith and support in them. If they feel our support, they’re going to pitch well. If they don’t, then they’re not. I think it’s really as simple as that.”
–Field Level Media