By Morris Phillips
OAKLAND– Well, the A’s could use a couple of improvements.
Replace a broken glass panel on the club level. Get a few more less socially-distanced bodies in the stands. And maybe an extra productive bat or two for the struggling lineup.
Yeah, an extra bat or two.
One day after being shut out by the Angels, the A’s were stymied again unable to bust up a two-run deficit in any of the final six innings of a frustrating 4-2 loss in Sunday’s series finale.
Possibly the low point stretching across all nine frames: the A’s failed to register a knockout blow on Jose Quintana, the Angels starter who entered with no wins and a bloated ERA, but escaped a 37-pitch, third inning and two bases-loaded situations without allowing a hit. Unbeknownst to the A’s, Quintana pitched the inning with a shoulder injury that would force him to depart early.
“Going into the eighth we only had two hits,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Offensively, it’s not enough. The last couple of games we had some opportunities. Just didn’t come through as much as we’d like to.”
The A’s tallied three hits Saturday and four on Sunday. A pair of doubles prevented the club from suffering the rarity of three, consecutive games without an extra-base hit, last done in 1980. For a club that has 70 home runs in 55 games, and regularly comes up with the big hit, the last two games veered too far from the game plan.
Since their captivating 13-game win streak, the A’s are a middling 15-15. If not for the tepid pace of the AL West race thus far, they’d be looking up at the competition. Instead, a 31-24 record still has them in first place, 1 1/2 games ahead of the Astros. A road trip to Seattle and Denver to see the NL Rockies doesn’t seem like a bad idea right now. The A’s home-heavy schedule thus far hasn’t paid dividends; they’re 17-17 at home.
“We feel like we have a couple more wins maybe that we should have at this point,” Melvin said. “It seems like we get to right at a chance to go 10 games over .500, and we’ve been up against that a couple of times and lost.”
Of course, one team’s rough afternoon can be another team’s gem. For the Angels, desperate to survive Mike Trout’s absence, seeing the best of Quintana’s nine starts as an Angel was part of their good news. His injury situation is a concern, but reliever Jose Suarez picked Quintana up with three, flawless innings of relief to secure the win. That gave the Angels a split of the four-game set, critical for a club that has recently underperformed in relation to their lesser paid rivals in the Bay.
“Kind of a nicely intense game, intense series. I loved it,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “We have to know we can win here.”
Three relievers followed Suarez, and they also were effective, combining to strike out four, issue no walks, and scatter–if you will–a pair of hits. The A’s fans–over 10,000 in number for the first time in 2021–fidgeted in the absence of excitement. That, and flinched when Juan Legares’ foul ball took out a chunk of a window panel on the second level restaurant area.
Workers were forced to quickly knock out all the remaining glass when it continued to fall and cause a hazard. Another fable for the encyclopedia of the Coliseum, now 47 seasons and counting, and a bargaining chip for the club, still publicly seeking a new home in Oakland or elsewhere.
Cole Irvin went six innings as the starter for the A’s. Most of that was damage control, and he was effective in that role, departing with the A’s still in reach, down two runs. But the second inning was his downfall, as the Angels took what he offered, a couple of off-speed pitches were hit pretty good, starting with his 74 mph curveball that Jared Walsh deposited over the right field wall, and his 77 mph curve that Phil Gosselin got a hold of for a RBI single.
In between those two, David Fletcher doubled home a pair of runs on a 82 mph slider. Not surprisingly, those three pitches were among the four slowest Irvin threw in the inning.
“I just need to get on my fastball a little bit sooner,” Irvin said. “Sean (Murphy) and I talked in between innings and we got back on the fastball. It’s just stuff that is maybe a learning experience.”
The A’s start a three-game series in Seattle on Memorial Day with James Kaprelian trying to make it three straight in a matchup with Logan Gilbert at 1:10pm.