OAKLAND — With victories tough to come by for the A’s this season, they don’t need their often-ridiculed home ballpark to be working against them.
After a 4-2, 10-inning loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday night, it was tough not to think back on a play in the fifth that you had to see to believe. Josh Reddick scorched a ball deep to right field that seemed destined to score Jed Lowrie from first.
The ball hit the base of the wall, on the fly, and became lodged in a small hole at the bottom of the fence. It was ruled a ground-rule double, Lowrie would be stopped at third and the A’s wouldn’t send another runner across home plate in losing their third consecutive game.
“I’ve never hit a hole-in-one before, even in golf," Reddick said. "I guess this is gonna have to count. it just sucks that it did get stuck. Jed was gonna score.”
Reddick should have been thrilled after a 4-for-4 game in which he reached base five times. Instead, he was surrounded by media after the game being asked about another odd moment that seemingly could only happen at the 52-year-old Coliseum, which has garnered headlines in recent years for flooded dugouts, a mid-game light failure and a mysterious “Rally Possum” that has stalked the bullpens, among other things.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Pirates score twice in 10th, hand A's third straight loss]
Reddick said he’s known about the hole in the right field wall for the past few seasons — that piece of the fence opens up, and the hole is there to accommodate a wheel that allows the fence to open.
“After it happened, I went out there,” he said. “It’s literally a three-inch gap to put a baseball in.”
A’s manager Bob Melvin said he talked to David Rinetti, the A’s vice president of stadium operations who has been with the team for 36 years, about the play.
“Rinetti says that’s never happened before,” Melvin said.
It goes down as another unfortunate footnote in the A’s disappointing season. After the game, Melvin confirmed that catcher Josh Phegley might go on the disabled list with a recurrence of pain in his right knee that’s already landed him on the DL once. Phegley went to bed with no worries Friday night but woke up Saturday morning with considerable soreness.
“We’re trying to figure out what’s going on,” Phegley said. "Just a little confused, I guess. Hopefully we can find some answers.”
The A’s took the field Saturday with a degree of optimism behind left-hander Rich Hill, who made his first start since a strained groin sidelined him May 29. He threw six innings of two-run ball and felt his stuff and command was good, but he was steamed at himself afterward for the two runs he allowed in the fourth, which came right after his teammates had given him a 2-0 lead.
“That’s one thing that doesn’t sit well with me,” Hill said.
As has happened often with the A’s, their lack of offense left the door cracked for their opponent. The Pirates scored twice off Daniel Coulombe in the 10th snap a 2-2 tie. The go-ahead single from David Freese went past third baseman Danny Valencia, a ball to his left that was hit hard but seemed like it perhaps could have at least been stopped from getting through to left field.
“From my angle, it’s really tough to tell. You can’t see side to side,” Melvin said. “I know he’s played a good third base for us and is ready for just about anything.”
On a night Hill threw well enough to be a winner, Melvin wished his offense would have been more up to the task.
“It was good to have to him back,” the manager said. “We just didn’t give him enough run support.”