OAKLAND – Sean Doolittle wasn’t planning a hasty exit from the Coliseum on Tuesday night.
The lefty’s agenda included pulling up a chair and watching some video, looking for answers for why he’s now given up two home runs that have resulted in late-game heartbreakers for the A’s.
The latest came Tuesday, when Angels catcher Geovany Soto redirected an 0-1 fastball for a two-run homer in the ninth that gave Los Angeles a come-from-behind 5-4 victory over the A’s.
“I’m gonna be here a while tonight looking to see if there’s a pattern,” Doolittle said. “I feel like the stuff is there, the execution just has not been as consistent as I need it to be. Yeah, it is early in the season. But that’s twice already.”
Doolittle’s season has included some highs so far. He’s gotten praise from teammates for a fastball that’s creeping back into the mid-90’s, and for improved secondary pitches. He slammed the door on the Mariners on Sunday for his first save of the season.
But two of his five outings so far have resulted in ninth-inning homers to beat the A’s. The White Sox’s Jimmy Rollins got him on April 5 to break a 4-4 tie.
“We take a lot of pride in what we do,” Doolittle said of his bullpen. “And we were handed a lead (Tuesday) late in the game and I couldn’t get the job done.”
[INSTANT REPLAY: Bullpen blows lead, A's fall to Angels 5-4]
He certainly didn’t shoulder all the blame on this night. The A’s led 4-1 in the eighth when Ryan Madson got ahead of Albert Pujols 0-2 before allowing a two-run double to pull the Angels within one. Madson said he was trying to bury a changeup inside but left it too high in the strike zone.
Ultimately, the A’s would be left to digest the kind of gut-wrencher that was commonplace last season but that they’re trying to distance themselves from in 2016.
There were so many signs pointing to an uplifting victory: Marcus Semien’s two-homer night, Billy Burns’ terrific game from the leadoff spot …
Madson seemed most bummed about Kendall Graveman’s fine six-inning starting effort going down the tubes.
“Grave pitched so well,” he said. “It’s our job to reward him with a win and we weren’t able to bring it home for him.”
How you feel after this one depends on the big-picture perspective you take. Do you draw encouragement from Semien, whose defense continues to round into form and who now is showing the pop that the bottom of the order badly needs? Do you envision Burns’ hell-bent aggression on the base paths Tuesday as a sign that he’s ready to repeat last year’s excellent rookie season? (Sidenote: Don’t be surprised if Coco Crisp starts beside him in left field Wednesday).
And, definitely the most timely question: Do you have faith that the A’s bullpen has the veterans, the pedigree, the track record to get the job done regularly, and that Tuesday was a blip on the radar screen?
The relievers’ excellent work was the talk of the team before Tuesday, bringing a 1.86 ERA into the night despite having thrown the most innings in the majors (29.0).
“It’s always tough,” Semien said. “You want to win every series you can. We haven’t been winning series at home these first two. But it’s nothing we can’t bounce back from.”