When Cole Irvin first broke into the big leagues in 2019, the Philadelphia Phillies used him mostly out of the bullpen.
Three years later, the lefty is a polished starter, pitching deep into games for the Athletics.
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The one thing Irvin doesn't have is a complete game and he pitched well enough Monday night to go the distance in the A's 5-1 win over Toronto Blue Jays at the Coliseum.
Irvin went eight dominant innings in his Fourth of July start, allowing just four hits and one earned run. He didn't walk any Blue Jays hitters and struck out four. And he did all of it on an economical 95 pitches.
With a four-run cushion, first-year A's manager Mark Kotsay could have given Irvin a chance to finish the job but he told reporters after the game that he never considered it.
"I didn't," Kotsay said. "I thought Cole, his eight innings gave our team the best chance to win and at that point, the decision comes to give our team the best chance to win. I felt that was getting a new arm in there, a fresh look. He had been through that lineup, was coming on his fourth time and for me, at that point, if I get some traffic, I've got to go out and get somebody. I'd rather have [Zach] Jackson a clean inning to start there."
Jackson gave up a leadoff double in the top of the ninth but retired the next three Blue Jays batters to secure the win ahead of the fireworks show at the Coliseum.
"100 percent wanted to finish it," Irvin told reporters after the game "There's no hiding that. But Kots did give me the seventh in New York that I asked for so I understand it. But I wanted to finish the ninth. I felt strong enough to. But that's the way it goes sometimes and you got to respect decisions. And you know, at the time, I was a little pissed off but in the same breath, I'm glad Jackson got in there and was able to finish it. He's been working on some things so I'm glad he had a successful outing too."
While Irvin was setting down the Blue Jays, the offense did just enough to give him a lead to protect.
Stephen Vogt started the scoring in the bottom of the first with a sacrifice fly and Elvis Andrus pushed the lead to 3-0 with a two-run double.
After Toronto got one run back in the fourth inning, Ramón Laureano crushed his fifth homer of the season in the fifth inning. An inning later, Vogt went deep in front of the home fans for the first time this season.
"Offense came out and we were aggressive," Kotsay told reporters. "That double by Elvis really got things going and we continued to put some at-bats [together] and we added on runs. That's something we haven't been able to do and gave Cole a little bit of room and Cole threw a great game."
Irvin now has gone eight innings three times in his career. He's never gone the distance but he'll have two more chances before the All-Star break to do so.