Puk gets first MLB win, A’s defeat Angels 10-6

Photo credit: @Athletics

By Lewis Rubman

Los Angeles (AL): 6 | 11 | 0
Oakland: 10 | 10 | 0

OAKLAND — Once again, it was youth versus experience when the Angels sent 21 year old rookie José Suárez (2-5, 6.71 ERA), their number one pitching prospect according to Baseball America, to follow opener Luke Bard (1-2, 5.09 ERA) at just under 20, no grey beard himself, in this afternoon’s game. The A’s lefty Brett Anderson (11-9, 4.04 ERA), whose major league tenure dates back to 2009, provided the experience. The A’s were looking for a sweep in this third and concluding episode of the last series in the Coliseum for this year between the two teams.

The Angels already had a run lead when Bard first toed the rubber. With one out in the top of the opening frame, Marcus Semien threw Mike Trout out at first. Minor league call-up umpire Alex Tosi ruled him safe. Although replay seemed to show that the throw had beaten Trout to the bag, the A’s decided not to challenge the call. Albert Pujols followed with a double play ball to Matt Chapman, which the usually sure handed third base man bobbled. It went as a hit. Brian Goodwin also hit a double play ball, but after Olson’s throw to Semien got Goodwin out at second, Anderson didn’t get his foot on the base in time for Semien’s relay to consummate the twin killing at first. Justin Upton then banged a double off the State Farm sign in right center field to score the two remaining baserunners. Finally, Anderson struck out Kole Calhoun to stop the ugliness.

In the bottom half of the inning, Tosi made another controversial call. With Semien on base after having been hit by a pitch and one out, due to Chapman having struck out, Matt Olson hit a hard drive wide of first. Pujols made a good play on it and threw to Bard, covering. Olson made the mistake of sliding head first into the bag, and the young ump called him out, with Semien moving up to third on the play. Oakland challenged, but New York confirmed, the call. Mark Canha drove him in with a single to center on the next pitch. And that’s how Los Angeles was leading when Súarez entered the game as scheduled in the bottom of the second.

The Halos combined little ball and big ball to pad their lead in the third. David Fletcher led off with a bunt single to third. On the next pitch, Trout blasted a 90 mph sinker 455 feet into the upper deck in center field for this 45th homer run and 103rd and 104th RBI of the season.

After five innings of work, Anderson had surrendered five runs, all of them earned, although those he gave up in the first were undeserved. He allowed nine hits, including Trout’s homer in the third, and didn’t walk anyone. For a long while, it looked like he’d take the loss, but things turned out differently.

While Anderson was shaky, allowing a fifth Los Angeles tally in fifth and escaping only by a pick off-caught stealling of Upton, who had driven in the run, Súarez was in command. He set down 11 of the first 14 Athletics he faced before he allowed his first extra base hit, a rule book double to Semien with two down in the sixth.

Until then he had surrendered only two walks and a single.

After Chapman went down swinging to strand Semien at second, ending the fifth, A.J. Puk relieved Anderson, and the game that had been a youthful challenge to baseball middle age became a show case of young talent. Puk looked good. He got the side down in order in the sixth, striking out Calhoun and Rengifo and getting Simmons out on a good play by Chapman. Best of all, given his tendency towards wildness, the A’s rookie threw only two balls in that 11 pitch inning.

Súarez appeared to weaken in the A’s sixth. Olson opened it with a double to right. He moved on to third after Calhoun made an outstanding diving grab on Canha’s drlve to right and stayed there out of respect for Trout’s arm when Profar flied out to medium deep center. Trout’s throw home was off-line, but it was the right decision. Then Davis lined out to short.

Puk’s beautiful sixth was offset in the next inning by Kevan Smith’s lead off homer to left on an 0-2, 90 mph slider. It was his third round tripper of the year and his first hit after an 0 for 30 drought and allowed the Angels to go into the seventh inning break with a 6-1 lead.

The one-two punch of a Sheldon Neuse single and a 390 foot dinger to left by Josh Phegley broke the spell and ended Súarez’s day. He had thrown 5 1/3 innings of five-hit ball, giving up two runs, both earned, on five five hits, and two walks, while striking out two. He ceded his mound duties to Ty Buttrey, who loaded the bases on a single to Semien and walks to the Matts Brother, Chapman and Olson. He walked Canha, too. The score now was 6-4, and Buttrey was in the locker room, having yielded to Miguel del Pozo, who walked Profar on a full count, bringing the A’s to within a run of the Angels.

Luis García took over for del Pozo and got to a full count on Khris Davis, who sent a weak ground to short for the second out of the inning, but, more important, the sixth and tying run of the game for Oakland. This brought Adalaberto Mejía to the mound, while Robbie Grossman waited in the on deck circle to pinch-hit for Pinder. Batting from his strong side, the left, Grossman drove Mejia’s first pitch off the center field fence for a bases clearing two run triple, which gave Oakland its first lead of the afternoon, 8-6.

Ryan Buchter came on for the A’s to start the Angel’s eight. After fanning Goodwin and Upton, he allowed a single to Calhoun and gave way to Lou Trivino, who got Simmons to ground out on highway 523, Chapman to Olson.

Noé Ramírez was brought in to pitch the eighth and keep the Angels in reach of the A’s. He got his first man, Phegley, on a grounder in the shift to Rengifo. But Semien’s hard shot down the third base line got past Fletcher for a double. Ramírez retired Chapman on a pop foul to first and then elected to walk Olson. He followed that with an 88 mph fastball that hit Canha in the arm. Profar then lifted a fly to center field that Trout lost in the sun. The Texas League double plated Semien and gave Profar his third RBI of the day and gave Oakland a 10-6 lead.

Jake Diekman pitched the Angels ninth and set them down in order.

Puk got the win, his first major league decision. The loss went to Butry, which dropped his record to 6-7-2, 4.12 ERA.

The win puts Oakland 8 1/2 games behind Houston in the AL West. More realistically, it puts them ahead of Tampa Bay and Cleveland in the wild card race. The lead over the Rays is a mere percentage point, but it’s nine points and a full game over Cleveland. Tampa Bay has four games left to play against Boston and two against the Yankees. Cleveland still has to play three games on the road against both Minnesota and Washington. Oakland will have to take on the Astros four more times before the season ends. None of the three wild card contenders has it easy, but it’s my guess that the schedule slightly favors the A’s, who have won their season series against both the Rays and the Indians, meaning a tie goes in favor the A’s.

Tomorrow’s night’s game against the Tigers will be proceeded by the completion of the May 19th contest at Detroit, which was suspended because of rain in the middle of the seventh inning. Detroit will take the field as the home team, trailing Oakland, 5-3. After that, it will be Spencer Turnbull (3-14, 4.45 ERA) on the mound for Detroit and Homer Bailey (7-6, 4.80 ERA with Kansas City; 5-2, 5.26 ERA with Oakland; 12-8, 4.96 ERA overall) for the A’s.

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