OAKLAND — His team absorbed a lopsided defeat that played out over three-and-a-half hours, but Andrew Triggs’ own personal frustrations Friday night struck quickly.
The A’s starter went after a foul ball off the bat of Xander Bogaerts, with one out in the top of the first, and felt something grab in his lower back. His night would end after just one inning of the A’s 16-2 drubbing at the hands of the Red Sox.
There’s a game within the game for players like Triggs. At this point of the A’s wayward season, he’s fighting to open eyes, to show he’s a pitcher worthy of consideration for next year’s roster. He was doing well to state his case after entering the A’s injury-riddled rotation as a fill-in.
That’s why Triggs, who finally got his first big league call this season at age 27, hopes the back tightness that forced him from Friday’s game is a short-term road block.
“I felt it the first time a few weeks ago, we were able to get it quieted down,” Triggs said. “It was just progressively getting tighter and tighter there. As far as finishing pitches, it wasn’t where I wanted to be. It was just frustrating to put the bullpen in a situation like that.”
It’s hardly the first time the A’s relief corps has been called into early, unexpected duty this season. Injuries have forced this pitching staff into frequent scramble mode. The A’s have used 25 pitchers total this season, tied for fifth most in Oakland history. With rosters having expanded Thursday, it’s not out of the question the A’s reach the club record of 30 that they set last year.
They may need to call on reinforcements sooner than expected, even though management doesn’t want to rob Triple-A Nashville of too many pitchers as the Sounds prepare for the Pacific Coast League playoffs. With Daniel Mengden taking the ball for Oakland on Saturday, Kendall Graveman on Sunday and Ross Detwiler likely Monday, the A’s could need to call up a starter if Sean Manaea (who left his last start with his own back issues) isn’t ready to go Tuesday.
Right-hander Jharel Cotton would be one option to start that day, as he’d be on his normal four days’ rest from his last start for Nashville.
Graveman is the only healthy pitcher remaining from Oakland’s season-opening rotation.
After Friday’s game, Melvin expressed hope that Triggs wouldn’t be out long.
“He’s pitched well and he’s trying to make a name for himself in the rotation, and we’ve left him in there for a reason,” Melvin said. “Hopefully it’s not too long before he’s back.”
Long reliever Zach Neal was called upon on short notice once Triggs left. He got alerted to Triggs’ back issues during the bottom of the first, so he got a bit of warmup time in the bullpen before taking the mound to begin the second.
Neal held the Red Sox to one run over his first three innings. But with the score 2-2 in the fifth, Boston’s hitters blitzed Neal after he retired the first two batters of the inning. He surrendered four consecutive hits before Melvin called on Daniel Coulombe, and Neal wound up charged with all four runs that inning as the Sox went up 6-2 and never looked back.
“It’s just a testament to the kind of team they are,” Neal said. “It’s almost like they flip a switch a little bit. They start having better at-bats. They’re the best offensive team in the American League, and they showed that for sure.”
Joey Wendle entered as a pinch hitter for the A’s in the eighth and notched his first major league hit, a solid single to left-center. He had the ball sealed in a plastic bag as a keepsake afterward, and was happy to achieve that feat with his wife Lindsey in attendance, along with his brother, brother-in-law, sister-in-law and Lindsey’s parents.
The playing field looked about as you’d expect following a Raider game having been played at the Coliseum on Thursday night. Head groundskeeper Clay Wood and his staff worked long hours to get the field in baseball shape, and that meant neither team was able to take batting practice.
Melvin praised the work of the grounds crew. Asked if he watched any of the Raider game the night before, Melvin quipped: “I saw a little bit of it. I turned my HD off so I can't see the divot marks and how the field's getting beat up.”
Red Sox manager John Farrell walked the field with Melvin earlier in the day and said the work of the grounds crew was “remarkable” to get the field into playable shape.