Mason Miller

Miller dominates Judge, Soto to seal A's shutout win over Yankees

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After appearing only in 10 games last season due to a right UCL sprain that sidelined him for three months, the right-handed Mason Miller has been electric through seven appearances as the Athletics’ shut-down closer for the 2024 MLB season.

Oakland’s former No. 1-ranked pitching prospect continued to shine Monday, as he sealed the A's 2-0 victory over the New York Yankees by striking out Anthony Volpe, Juan Soto and Aaron Judge -- three of MLB’s most feared bats -- in order in the ninth.

Miller averaged 101.8 mph on eight fastballs and 87.4 mph on six sliders, earning him 12 whiffs on 14 pitches -- he simply was unfazed in his Yankee Stadium debut.

“I mean, walking around before the game, yeah, it's definitely got a different air about it, for sure,” Miller said after pitching at Yankee Stadium for the first time. “But getting in the game, it’s me and the guy in the box. You know, obviously, three really talented hitters and a really talented team, so to lock it down like that was great.”

While his fastball peaked at 103.3 mph on Monday, Miller preserved his season total of hits allowed at six over nine innings.

Miller has emerged as a reliable arm in the A’s bullpen. Oakland manager Mark Kotsay acknowledged the 25-year-old’s dominance and adaptability, considering Miller originally was slated to be a starter when the A’s selected him 97th in the 2021 MLB Draft.

“I mean, the kid from day one in this role has embraced it,” Kotsay told reporters after the A’s win. “He’s got the stuff to be a back-end guy. He’s starting to prove it right now. There’s a lot of confidence when he takes that mound behind him, as well. 

“It’s a good sign for a young pitcher coming to Yankee Stadium to get his first save [there], and, you know, go one-two-three.”

Miller’s outing capped off Oakland’s first shutout win at New York since 2013 and an overall clinic by the A’s pitching staff.

Oakland’s starter on Monday, righty JP Sears, only allowed three hits over six scoreless innings against his former employer, sprinkling in seven strikeouts. He was followed by right-handed reliever Lucas Erceg, who earned the win preceding Miller, after tossing two clean innings.

“It was a gem -- you don’t get that often,” Kotsay added. “And JP going through that lineup [and] getting through six innings was a great job. He had seven strikeouts today which shows the power of the changeup and mixing speeds, and using the fastball. Up in the zone, he got some swing-and-misses with that pitch today.

“Lucas going two innings -- coming into the series, we hadn’t been able to use him or Mason. So, the game plan was if we could get the ball to both those guys at the end with the lead, we felt good.”

Combined, Oakland’s trio on the hill limited New York’s tall offense -- No. 5 in league-wide OBP (.333) -- merely to three hits and two walks.

The A’s offense wasn’t much better, only carrying three hits into a 0-0 ninth-inning tie. That was until Oakland’s Zack Gelof launched a game-winning 377-foot home run to right-center off left-handed New York reliever Victor González during a 2-2 count, scoring himself and Abraham Toro, who reached first with an infield single during the previous at-bat.

Gelof helped the A’s recover from a Cleveland Guardians weekend sweep. But Gelof needed to get back on track just as urgently, too. 

“Obviously, Zack’s been grinding and hasn’t had the success he started out with last year,” Kotsay shared. “But a big day for him. Again, dropping him down in the order just trying to get him comfortable [and] relaxed. You know, he has had his issues with lefties as well, so to see him go oppo’ on a really good lefty is a good sign”.

The 24-year-old Gelof, who hit .303 against righties and .167 against lefties in 2023, is hitting a disappointing .205 on the season with nearly three times as many strikeouts (30) than hits (11). 

But a homer in his Yankee Stadium debut marks an ideal time to turn a page.

“Man, it’s awesome,” Gelof enthused on “A’s Postgame Live” to Carlos Ramírez and Shooty Babitt. “There’s no place I’d rather be -- just a stellar game to be a part of, honestly. Great pitching performances from our guys, and I put a good swing on it and to get the win at Yankee Stadium is pretty cool.”

Kotsay has emphasized Oakland’s need for a big-time play. Well, the A’s got two of them Monday with Gelof’s homer and Miller’s statement one-two-three inning.

Oakland’s win couldn’t have made the road team happier.

The same cannot be said for New York manager Aaron Boone, as the 51-year-old rightfully was irritated after being wrongly ejected in the top of the first inning by home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt after he mistook a fan’s words for the Yankee's.

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