OAKLAND – Handing a three-run lead over to the bullpen seemed like a sealed deal for the A’s on Tuesday night.
Then Ryan Madson gave up two runs in the eighth and Sean Doolittle coughed up Geovany Soto’s two-run shot in the ninth. Just like that, what seemed a sure victory turned into a 5-4 A’s defeat to the Los Angeles Angels.
Doolittle (1-2) took over in the ninth and issued a one-out walk to pinch hitter C.J. Cron. Then he piped an 0-1 fastball to Soto, who sent a two-run go-ahead homer rocketing over the wall in left-center.
After sweeping the Mariners last weekend, the A’s came home and now find themselves trying to avoid the broom in Wednesday afternoon’s series finale.
The loss spoiled an excellent start by Kendall Graveman and a two-homer night from A’s shortstop Marcus Semien.
Starting pitching report:
Graveman delivered the latest solid effort from the A’s rotation. He held the Angels to one run over six innings. Throughout spring training, the A’s rotation appeared a concern beyond ace Sonny Gray. And while the starters initially weren’t eating up enough innings, there’s no arguing with this – Oakland’s 2.88 rotation ERA is the best in the American League.
Graveman (1-1) drove his pitch count up early but delivered a quality start for the A’s. He allowed his only run in the second, when Pujols drew a leadoff walk and eventually scored on Andrelton Simmons’ double play grounder. Graveman held the Angels to four hits, and he walked two and struck out three. Key to his success was keeping A’s killer Mike Trout in check. The Angels No. 3 hitter went 0-for-3 against Graveman and finished 0-for-4 overall.
Doolittle surrendered his second game-changing homer of the young season. He also allowed a go-ahead homer to Jimmy Rollins in the ninth inning of an April 5 loss.
John Axford delivered a scoreless seventh in relief of Graveman before things got adventurous in the eighth. Ryan Madson struck out Trout and got to 0-2 on Pujols with two runners aboard. Then he caught too much plate on an offspeed pitch and Pujols pulled a double to the wall in left to bring the Angels within a run at 4-3.
At the plate:
Billy Burns made his impact felt immediately, reaching base in his first three plate appearances, stealing two bases and scoring two runs. Semien hit a solo homer in the third and added another in the seventh off Hector Santiago.
In the field:
The A’s didn’t commit an error.
A crowd of 13,492 was on hand.
Eric Surkamp (0-0, 4.15) continues his bid to maintain the fifth starter spot in Wednesday’s 12:35 matinee to close this three-game series. The Angels send Matt Shoemaker (0-1, 18.00) to the hill.