ANAHEIM – Through inning after inning of offensive futility, the Oakland A’s had a weapon biding his time on the bench.
John Jaso eats up opposing pitchers at Angel Stadium, and that theme continued Monday night when he delivered a pinch-hit two-run homer in the top of the ninth that lifted the A’s to a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels in the opener of a three-game series.
Jaso came in hitting .415 with five home runs and 20 RBI in 19 games at Angel Stadium. That’s his highest career batting average of any ballpark in the American League. He wasn’t in the lineup as manager Bob Melvin penciled in a righty-dominated batting order against Angels lefty Hector Santiago.
But Jaso was called upon to hit for Derek Norris with one out and a runner aboard in the ninth off. He hammered a 1-2 pitch from closer Ernesto Frieri into the right field seats for the A’s first pinch-hit homer since Sept. 27 of last season.
The drama continued in the bottom of the ninth. With one out, A’s second baseman Nick Punto mishandled Howie Kendrick’s grounder but got the out at first on a bang-bang play. The home fans erupted in applause when the replay was shown on the video board, thinking it would be overturned. It wasn’t. David Freese flied out to right to end it.
The good times continue for the A’s on this nine-game road trip, as they’ve won six of their first seven and improved to an Americna League-best 9-4.
Starting pitching report
Three starts in, Jesse Chavez has adjusted incredibly well from the bullpen to the A’s rotation. He allowed an unearned run in the first and Albert Pujols’ 496th career homer in the third. But he settled in after that and lasted seven innings, giving up just four hits and striking out nine with no walks.
On his final pitch, No. 100 on the night, Chavez struck out Hank Conger looking, finishing with a flurry. His ERA is 1.35. Who knows? One of these days the A’s might even reward him with a victory of his own. He has yet to get a decision.
Oakland’s starters have now allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of the first 13 games, the longest season-opening streak for the team since the 1981 squad had a 16-gamer.
Jim Johnson relieved Chavez to start the eighth and delivered a scoreless inning. He gave up Kole Calhoun’s one-out double but that was it. Luke Gregerson turned in a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save.
At the plate
Before Jaso provided the thunder, the A’s managed just five hits trhough eight innings and were doing little to take advantage of Chavez’s stellar outing. They entered the game hitting just .156 (10 for 64) against left-handers. That’s a small sample size considering they’d faced only one other southpaw starter this season, and that came back on April 3.
But nonetheless it was an uninspiring effort against Santiago. They get another lefty Wednesday in Tyler Skaggs and will also face lefties at home against Houston over the weekend.
Yoenis Cespedes smacked a long homer to right-center in the fourth to get the A’s on the board, his second homer in as many days.
But Oakland couldn’t break through when it had some other chances later in the game. They stranded a runner at second in the sixth as Josh Donaldson struck out to end that threat. In the seventh, they had runners on the corners with two outs. Josh Reddick turned a 3-0 count into an eventual inning-ending foul popout. He’s hitting .103.
In the field
Derek Norris let a low pitch squeak past him for a passed ball in the first inning, and that was big when Albert Pujols poked a single to center that scored Kole Calhoun from second for the game’s first run. Also that inning, first baseman Daric Barton skipped an throw to second base for an error on a force attempt. Barton made a nice scoop of Jed Lowrie’s throw in the dirt in the next inning, but he’s made a few defensive miscues that begin to call into question the argument that his glove alone is worth starting him.
37,120 was the announced attendance at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.
It’s Dan Straily (1-1, 2.77) vs. Garrett Richards (2-0, 0.75) in Tuesday’s 7:05 p.m. contest. Straily carries a 5.82 ERA against the Angels in six career starts.