ANAHEIM –- For most of the night, a ball sailing over the fence meant good things for the A’s.
They were primed for an encouraging start to this five-game road trip Friday. Then Mike Trout launched a ball deep over the center field wall to tie it in the eighth off Evan Scribner. Two batters later, Kole Calhoun sent another homer rocketing over the wall off Scribner, this one to right.
Just like that, a one-run A’s lead turned into a 5-4 A’s defeat to the Los Angeles Angels. Oakland is showing signs of improvement in different areas of late. The bullpen’s vulnerability to the occasional implosion is still an issue however.
The A’s had built a 4-3 lead on a trio of homers. Brett Lawrie and Josh Phegley went deep in back-to-back at-bats in the fourth to put the A’s up 2-1. Trailing 3-2, they got a boost from Josh Reddick’s 10th homer, a two-run shot in the seventh that put them back up 4-3.
Jesse Chavez provided a shutdown inning in the bottom half and that set it up for the 1-2 bullpen combo manager Bob Melvin likes in the late innings – Scribner and closer Tyler Clippard.
Things didn’t go according to script, and the A’s were left to stomach their Major League-worst 17th one-run loss of the season.
Starting pitching report
One has to wonder what Jesse Chavez must do to collect some victories. He threw seven innings of three-run ball and was in line for a victory until Scribner served up the two eighth-inning long balls. The Angels took a 1-0 lead on Efren Navarro’s RBI single in the second. Then, they jumped ahead 3-2 on Calhoun’s two-run single in the sixth. But Chavez buckled down and delivered his eighth start of six innings or more. His ERA is an excellent 2.64, but his record remains 2-6.
Trout led off the bottom of the eighth, and Scribner got ahead of him 1-2. But he caught too much plate with an off-speed pitch, and Trout pounded it deep over the wall in center. Calhoun connected on a 1-0 pitch for the eventual game winner.
At the plate
The A’s threatened against Angels closer Huston Street in the ninth. They put two runners on with two outs, but Street closed it out by getting Reddick to fly out to center.
The A’s struggles against left-handed starters are well-documented, but they came in having won two of the past three games started by an opposing lefty. In the fourth, Brett Lawrie and Josh Phegley hit back-to-back home runs to left off of Hector Santiago. It was an encouraging sign considering that Oakland entered the night with just nine homers off lefties, second-fewest in the A.L. Those blasts gave them a 2-1 lead.
They had little else to show for it until the seventh, when they trailed 3-2. Mark Canha singled with two outs off reliever Fernando Salas, then Reddick lit into a 1-1 fastball and crushed it over the right field wall for a two-run homer that put the A’s back up.
In the field
Lawrie’s defense factored prominently in helping Chavez end the sixth inning after the Angels took the lead. With a man on first, Johnny Giavotella chopped a high bouncer along the third base line. Rather than let it go foul, Lawrie took a risk by fielding it bare-handed and firing a throw across the diamond. The call was out, though replays showed Giavotella seemed to beat the throw. Because manager Mike Scioscia had burned his challenge earlier, his only recourse was to argue with first base ump Chris Conroy and try to request a replay review. Scioscia wound up with his first ejection of the season.
With two outs in that inning, Lawrie raced over to the railing by the home dugout and made a lunging catch to retire Matt Joyce and end the inning.
A crowd of 42,113 showed up for the opener of this three-game series.
Kendall Graveman (3-2, 4.83) is 2-0 with a 2.55 ERA in four starts since returning from the minors. He’ll take the ball in Saturday’s 7:05 p.m. game, with the Angels throwing another lefty in C.J. Wilson (3-5, 3.92).