OAKLAND, Calif. — Former Thundering Herd starting pitcher Dan Straily not only showed last night he belonged at Major League level, he nearly won his first game as a member of the Oakland A’s.
Straily became the first Marshall player in over eight years to play at baseball’s biggest stage, and the right-hander made the most of his debut as he allowed one run in six innings Friday night against the Toronto Blue Jays at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
But no decision last night for Straily in his first MLB start, as the A’s won 5-4 in 15 innings, the Athletics league-leading 13th walk-off victory of the season.
Straily was in line for the winning decision until the Blue Jay’s Jeff Mathis’ two-out, three-run home run off Athletics closer Ryan Cook erased a 4-1 Oakland lead.
Mathis battled back from an 0-2 count with two out and two on in the top of the ninth and tied the game with a line drive shot to left-center.
It didn't bother Straily that his first major league win sailed over the wall in the ninth. "It happens, that's baseball," Straily told the Oakland media after the game. "The team kept fighting and pulled out a win, that's the most important thing."
Straily, who received a promotion from Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate, the Sacramento River Cats, joined Major League Baseball’s A’s on Thursday.
He pitched six innings while allowing one (earned) run on five hits in his big-league debut, after being scheduled to take the hill for the River Cats originally on Friday.
The West Coast native, from Springfield, Ore., struck out five and walked only one, including striking out the very first batter he faced, Toronto’s Brett Lawrie.
In 144.1 innings pitched this season, Straily has struck out 180 batters. The 180 punch outs appear at three different levels of competition: 108 Ks in 85.1 innings in Double-A (in Texas League with Midland RockHounds), 67 Ks in 53 innings at the Triple-A level (in the Pacific Coast League), and five more in six innings in the majors.
Straily’s six-inning, one-earned run performance goes down as a “quality” start, making it 12 consecutive quality starts over the last two months.
The last time the 23-year-old threw a start not considered a quality start was on May 30, when he allowed five runs in six innings while playing for the RockHounds in Midland.
Since then, the righty has been on fire, boasting a 6-2 record and striking out as many as 13 in one game.
Straily’s only blemish Friday night came in the fourth — with the Athletics holding a 2-0 lead — when Blue Jays first baseman David Cooper won a nine-pitch at-bat with a double to left-center and set up an RBI-sacrifice fly from left fielder Rajai Davis four pitches later.
The earned run over six innings set Straily’s earned run average to 1.50.
After the game, both the Athletic’s general manager Billy Beane and manager Bob Melvin said the A's are casually bouncing around the idea of a six-man rotation at some point to save the wear-and-tear on some of their young pitchers' arms.
That plan, along with a strong opening performance, may indicate a long stay with the A’s for Straily.
It was ironic his first game was against the Toronto Blue Jays, who are managed by John Stafford.
Straily’s former Marshall teammate was the son of the Blue Jays’ field boss, Shane Farrell, and Straily said it was his teammate who taught him to throw the slider, a pitch Straily has used over three years with great success.
Straily became the 12th Major Leaguer who has played for Marshall, and only the third since 1974, joining fellow pitchers Rick Reed (15 seasons, through 2003) and Jeff Montgomery (13 seasons, through 1999).
Without Mathis’ late-game heroics, Straily would have become the first former member of the Herd to win a Major League game since Reed won a 5-4 decision with the Minnesota Twins in September of 2003 just before his retirement.
Straily pitched for the Marshall Thundering Herd in 2008-09 for MU head coach Jeff Waggoner, who was in attendance at the first Marshall player in the majors in nine years.
“Yes, it was really awesome to watch Dan make his first start,” said Waggoner on Friday night from the ballpark, after changing his original plans to attend the Ohio State Fair in Columbus, Ohio on Friday.
“Really enjoying the game and very excited for Dan’s great start,” said Waggoner.
Straily helped the Herd to a runner-up finish in the Conference USA Tournament and a record of 30-30-1 in 2008, and was 9-7 with a 4.27 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 153.2 innings in two seasons at Marshall when he was drafted by Oakland after the 2009 season.
Other former Marshall players or coaches who spent time in Major League Baseball:
Richard A. “Rick” Reed - P
Marshall baseball 1985
1988-89-90-91 Pittsburgh Pirates/NL - 31 games, 4-7, 4.98 ERA, 124.2 IP, 142 hits, 77 runs, 69 earned, 26 walks and 69 strikeouts
1992-93 Kansas City Royals/AL - 20 games, 3-7, 3.89 ERA, 104.0 IP, 111 hits, 51 runs, 45 earned, 21 walks and 52 strikeouts
1993-94 Oklahoma City 89ers - American Association - Class AAA (Texas/AL)
1993-94 Texas Rangers/AL - 6 games, 2-1, 5.23 ERA, 20.2 IP, 23 hits, 14 runs, 12 earned, 8 walks and 12 strikeouts
1995 Cincinnati Reds/NL - 4 games, 0-0, 5.82 ERA, 17.0 IP, 18 hits, 12 runs, 11 earned, 3 walks and 10 strikeouts
1997-98-99-2000-01 New York Mets/NL - 140 games, 59-36, 3.66 ERA, 888.2 IP, 868 hits, 380 runs, 361 earned, 158 walks and 590 strikeouts
2001-02-03 Minnesota Twins/AL - 72 games, 25-25, 4.47 ERA, 390.2 IP, 439 hits, 214 runs, 194 earned, 69 walks and 235 strikeouts
MAJOR LEAGUES: 15 years, 273 games, 93-76, 4.03 ERA, 1,545.2 IP, 1,601 hits, 748 runs, 692 earned, 285 walks and 970 strikeouts;
Jeffrey T. “Jeff” Montgomery - P
Marshall baseball 1980-81-82-83
1987 Cincinnati Reds/NL - 14 games, 2-2, 6.52 ERA, 19.1 IP, 25 hits, 15 runs, 14 earned, 9 walks and 13 strikeouts
1988-1999 Kansas City Royals/AL - 686 games, 44-50, 3.20 ERA, 304 saves, 849.1 IP, 760 hits, 332 runs, 302 earned, 296 walks and 733 strikeouts
2003 Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame induction
MAJOR LEAGUES: 13 years, 700 games, 46-52, 3.27 ERA, 868.2 IP, 304 saves, 785 hits, 347 runs, 316 earned, 296 walks and 733 strikeouts;
Joseph H. “Joe” Goddard - C
Marshall baseball 1969-70-71
1972 San Diego Padres - 12 games, .200 batting avg. (7-35), 7 hits, 2 doubles, 2 RBI, 5 walks and 9 strikeouts;
Johnny “Gary” Thomas Watson - SS
Marshall baseball 1928-29
Marshall football 1929
Marshall baseball head coach 1943 (1-6)
1930 Detroit Tigers/AL - 4 games .250 batting avg. (3-12) 1 run, 3 hits, 2 doubles, 3 RBI, 3 strikeouts and a walk;
James Russell “Jim” Spotts - INF
Honey Brook, Pa.
Marshall baseball 1925
1930 Philadelphia Phillies/NL - 3 games .000 batting avg. (0-2), one run and one strikeout;
Johnny “Blood” Stuart - Coach
Ohio State University, Class of 1922
Marshall baseball head coach 1927-1932
1922-23-24-25 St. Louis Cardinals/NL - 82 games, 20-18 record, 4.76 ERA, 357.2 IP, 360 hits, 227 runs, 189 earned runs, 156 walks and 124 strikeouts;
Fred Middleton “Penny” Bailey - OF
Mount Hope, W.Va.
Marshall baseball 1909-10-11
Marshall football 1909-10-11
Washington and Lee baseball 1912-1915
1916-18 Boston Braves/NL - 60 games, .185 batting avg., 10 runs, 23 hits, 2 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run, 6 RBI and 3 steals;
Wilbur McCullough”Mayor” Fisher - P/OF
Green Bottom, W.Va.
Marshall baseball 1915-16
Marshall football 1916
1916 Pittsburgh Pirates/NL - 1 game .000 batting avg. (0-1);
Jack Wesley Harper - P
Marshall football 1907-08-09
1915 Philadelphia Athletics/AL - 3 games, 0-0, 3.12 ERA, 8.2 IP, 5 hits, 4 runs, 3 earned, 3 strikeouts and 1 walk;
Archer E. “Arch” Reilly - 3B/Coach
Ohio State University basketball 1911-12-13
Marshall baseball 1915
Marshall basketball head coach 1918-19 (2-5)
Marshall football head coach 1919 (8-0)
Marshall baseball head coach 1920 (8-8)
1917 Pittsburgh Pirates/NL - 1 game (third base), 0-0, one put-out;
Andrew Kemper “Skeeter” Shelton - OF
Marshall football 1904
West Virginia University football 1906-07-08
West Virginia University baseball 1907-08-09 (graduated WVU ’09)
Marshall football head coach 1921-22 (10-6-1)
Marshall baseball head coach 1922-23 (4-13)
1915 New York Yankees/AL - 10 games, .025 batting avg. (1-40), 10 strikeouts and 1.000 fielding (20 put-outs and 2 assists).