OAKLAND -- A day after playing the hero with a walk-off single, Josh Donaldson committed a costly error in the 11th as the A’s lost 5-4 to the Angels in Wednesday’s matinee series finale.
A.J. Griffin allowed two runs on just one hit in six strong innings and the A’s got two-run home runs from Coco Crisp and Yoenis Cespedes, both in the third inning. But Grant Balfour blew his third save of the season when Josh Hamilton took him deep in the ninth.
With the loss, the A’s division lead decreased to six games over the Texas Rangers, who take on the Tampa Bay Rays Wednesday night. Oakland’s magic number to clinch a second straight AL West title remains six.
[RELATED: MLB standings]
Starting pitching report
A.J. Griffin, who entered Wednesday’s start with a league-leading 34 home runs allowed, was victimized by an early two-run shot off the bat of Mike Trout. But he didn’t allow another hit over his six innings of work.
Griffin’s outing got off to an ominous start when he walked Angels leadoff man J.B. Shuck, who came around to score after Trout sent Griffin’s 3-2 fastball over the wall in left for his third home run of the series.
The Angels went down in order against Griffin in the second and third innings and the right-hander got stronger as the game went on and he started working with a lead, which the A’s offense gave him in the bottom of the third.
The lone blemish on Griffin’s pitching line after the ugly first inning was a two-out walk to Mark Trumbo in the fourth. He struck out Josh Hamilton before the walk to Trumbo and added two more strikeouts in a 1-2-3 fifth.
He capped the one-hit performance with consecutive strikeouts to end the sixth. Erick Aybar chased an 0-2 curveball and Trout went after a 3-2 fastball that registered just 89 miles per hour on the radar gun but was located high enough that the 2012 Rookie of the Year swung through it.
In allowing just Trout's two-run home run over six innings, Griffin lower his ERA from 3.81 to 3.78. He walked two, struck out six and lost his 15th win when Grant Balfour blew a 4-2 lead in the ninth inning. A’s manager Bob Melvin turned the game over to his relievers in the seventh with Griffin having thrown just 90 pitches, 54 of which were strikes.
Dan Otero relieved Griffin and delivered two scoreless innings to bridge the gap to closer Grant Balfour.
Balfour blew his third save opportunity of the season, though. He allowed a leadoff single to Aybar before Trout hit a ball the other way that looked capable of tying the game. It died just shy of the warning track in right and settled into Josh Reddick’s glove, but it only set the stage for Hamilton to follow with a drive over the right-field wall on an 0-1 fastball that tied the game.
Jesse Chavez took over for Balfour to start the 10th inning and delivered a 1-2-3 frame. He came back out for the 11th but was greeted by a Shuck double. Aybar followed with a sacrifice bunt that Donaldson misplayed for a costly error. Chavez kept his composure and got Trout to hit a weak fly ball to right that wasn’t deep enough to score Shuck, but with Hamilton due up Melvin called on left-hander Jerry Blevins, who struck out the former Rangers star for the seventh time in 11 at-bats in a crucial spot Tuesday night.
Hamilton won the battle this time, though, lofting a fly ball to left that was plenty deep enough for Shuck to tag up and score the go-ahead run, which was unearned due to Donaldson’s error.
Pat Neshek relieved Blevins and walked Mark Trumbo before giving way to Brett Anderson, who ended the inning by getting Kole Calhoun to ground into a force out to Donaldson at third.
At the plate
Josh Donaldson provided the A’s with their only baserunner in the first two innings when he was hit by a Jason Vargas pitch, prompting a warning from home plate umpire Jerry Meals.
But the A’s flashed their power in the third inning. Reddick led off with a single and scored on Coco Crisp’s 20th home run of the season, which came on a 3-2 changeup. After a Donaldson fly out, Jed Lowrie singled and came around to score when Yoenis Cespedes launched a ball to dead center that Trout watched sail over his head for the Cuban slugger’s 24th big fly of his sophomore campaign.
The A’s started a rally in the fourth when Alberto Callaspo led off with an infield single and moved up to second on Daric Barton’s one-out base on balls. But Crisp’s fly ball to shallow right was ruled an infield fly, much to the ire of Melvin, and the A’s didn’t get on the board.
The A’s bats were kept quiet until the eighth, when Cespedes hit a leadoff single. Derek Norris followed with a deep drive down the left-field line, but Shuck left his feet to make an amazing diving catch as he crash-landed on the dirt warning track and killed a potential rally.
After a 1-2-3 ninth, Donaldson led off the 10th inning with a walk and moved up to second when Cespedes hit a one-out drive that Trout caught just ahead of the 400-foot marker in dead center. Pinch-hitter Stephen Vogt struck out to strand Donaldson in scoring position, though.
Brandon Moss led off the 11th inning with a towering fly ball off Angels closer Ernesto Frieri, but there was too much loft and too little drive off the bat. Eric Sogard followed with another loud out, as Trout had to range back and battle the sun to catch his sharp line drive to center. Reddick followed with a pop up to shallow right to end the game.
The A’s finished with eight hits, including two home runs, and left seven men on base in the loss.
In the field
A day after perfectly executing a spectacular diving catch in right, Reddick made a similarly difficult grab on Grant Green’s sinking liner to open the third, then proceeded to make routine catches for the next two outs of the inning.
With a runner on second, Donaldson first broke back, then charged Aybar’s sacrifice bunt in the 11th but could not make the rushed play and was charged with his 15th error of the season.
The A’s announced a crowd of 20,260 fans. It’s unclear if Lew Wolff approved of that turnout.
The A’s close out their homestand with a four-game series against the Minnesota Twins, starting Thursday at 7:05 p.m., when RHP Dan Straily (10-7, 4.11 ERA) will oppose RHP Kevin Correia (9-12, 4.31 ERA).