ANAHEIM –- Fans could look at the A’s and shake their heads at a terrific pitching effort gone wasted Thursday.
Oakland held the Angels to one hit, led by an excellent cameo start by Jesse Chavez, and managed to come out on the losing end of a 2-0 game.
But here’s the odd thing about the 2015 A’s so far. There’s no real motivation to direct scorn their way for anything they’ve done. Just like there’s no grounds for falling in love with them either.
Their 8-9 record doesn’t included any dramatic highs or lows. No winning or losing streak of more than two games. Just a steady string of mediocrity that still leaves them a question mark through 17 games.
“It’s been an interesting one,” second baseman Eric Sogard said. “We can’t really get the momentum going and put a few wins together. But it’s the same way with the losses. We’re excited to get back home to our fans, our house, and hopefully get a little winning streak going there.”
Their first road trip of the season, a 10-game odyssey that took them through three cities, naturally came out an even 5-5. But it could have been one game better given how great the pitching was Thursday. And yes, that would have put a significantly different spin on the whole experience.
With a victory, the A’s would have captured this four-game series against the defending A.L. West champs and capped off a winning trip. That would have been a nice reward after a journey that Chavez said put his team through an emotional wringer due to the contentious three-game series with the Kansas City Royals last weekend.
“You don’t want to go home on a loss, on a travel day,” Chavez said. “But the good part is, we’re going home. We’re gonna get back, let this one boil over and get back after it tomorrow.”
The bright side for manager Bob Melvin was the excellent form that Chavez showed. Filling in for Jesse Hahn, expected back soon after a blister on his throwing hand fully heals, Chavez held Angels hitters quiet for six innings. His only mistake – incredibly, Los Angeles’ only hit the entire game – was a two-run homer off the bat of Kole Calhoun in the third inning.
Thursday marked just the fourth time since 1914 that the A’s have lost a game when allowing just one hit. It was the first time it happened since April 14, 1992 at Kansas City.
“It was a sinker that came back,” Chavez said of Calhoun’s homer. “I just tried to criss-cross in and out with him, not let him get his hands extended. The ball was a little bit up. I should have went with a four-seam instead of a two.”
But overall, Chavez was pleased with his first regular-season start since Sept. 17 of last season.
“I didn’t see any velocity loss. That’s my big thing,” Chavez said. “Today was the same from the first pitch, and that was really surprising, and good to see. I had three weeks off of not being extended, and then to go out and throw 90 pitches and have the same stuff, the same bite from the first hitter to the last one, that’s all I wanted to do.”
Chavez, the A’s long reliever by trade, showed Melvin that he’s got an excellent back-up plan should another injury occur or someone in the rotation falter.
A question entering the six-game homestand that begins Friday against Houston remains Ben Zobrist’s status. Out of the lineup the past four games with a sore left knee, he pinch-hit in the ninth Thursday for Sam Fuld and fouled out down the left field line for the final out.
Zobrist said the training staff wanted to see how his knee feels Friday morning. There are still agility and running tests for him to pass before he returns to the lineup.
When he’s back, will he return to the No. 3 spot in the batting order, where Stephen Vogt has produced so well of late. Zobrist will provide a boost no matter where he hits. Will it be enough for the A’s to hit their first hot streak of the season?
“It’s early,” Chavez said. “We’re still feeling each other out. Even though we have great chemistry inside (the clubhouse), we’re still feeling each other out out there.”