A’s to host the Angels in 3-game series starting Tuesday night

Photo credit: @Athletics

By Jerry Feitelberg

The A’s will return home after a splitting a six-game road trip against Baltimore and Tampa Bay. The A’s had an opportunity to gain ground on the New York Yankees for the first spot in the AL Wild Card race. The Yankees lost to Toronto on Saturday and Sunday, and had the A’s beaten the Rays on those days, they would have found themselves in the first spot. Unfortunately the A’s lost to the Rays on Saturday and Sunday. The A’s own a record of 90-60 for the year and have 12 games left to pass the Yanks. They fell 4.5 games behind the Houston Astros for first place in the AL Division, and it is doubtful that the A’s would be able to catch them.

The goal for Bob Melvin and the surprising and swinging A’s is to win every one of the 12 games remaining on the schedule. That task will not be easy as they will play the Angels six times–three at home and three on the road in Anaheim. They finish the home season with three against the Minnesota Twins and go on the road for the final six games. The first three road games are in Seattle, and the last three will be in Anaheim.

The A’s are going to need for the offense and the bullpen to carry the load. The A’s starting rotation has been a work in progress all season. Four of their pitchers have had Tommy John surgery. Starters Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson have spent a couple of stints on the DL.

The A’s have resorted to “bullpenning” to fill the gap in the rotation. Reliever Liam Hendriks has been used to pitch the first inning, and A’s manager Bob Melvin brings in a pitcher such as Daniel Mengden or Chris Bassitt to go at least four or five innings and then turns the game over to the bullpen. Right now the rotation consists of Mike Fiers, Edwin Jackson, Brett Anderson, and Trevor Cahill. Cahill is going to miss a start due to an irritation in his throwing arm. The A’s are hopeful that will be able to make two starts before the end of the season. The other two spots are being bullpenned.

The A’s resume play with a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels Tuesday night at the Oakland Coliseum. The Angels won five of the first seven games played between the two clubs. The A’s won the last two series played and are 6-7 against LAA for the year.

The Angels, managed by Mike Scioscia, also had their pitching rotation ravaged by injuries. Garrett Richards, Blake Wood, Keynan Middleton, and J.C. Ramirez are all lost for the season and have undergone Tommy John surgery. Third baseman Zack Cozart and first baseman Albert Pujols will not play again this year. Cozart had shoulder surgery and Pujols, who will be in Baseball’s Hall of Fame five years after retirement, had knee surgery.

The Angels’ sensational rookie sensation, Shonei Ohtani, probably will not pitch again this year. He is also a candidate for Tommy John surgery. However, he is still playing as he is having a wonderful year at the plate as a hitter. His batting average is .290 with 20 home runs and 55 RBIs. His OPS is .956.

The Angels, while decimated by injury to their pitching and position player, would love nothing better than to play spoilers. They have several players in the lineup that can do damage. Two-time MVP, Mike Trout, lead the Angel offense. Trout is having another excellent season and is a candidate for the MVP honor. He is hitting .318 with 34 homers and 70 RBIs. His OPS is an astounding 1.091. Trout is just 27 years old. Justin Upton has hit 30 dingers, and he has knocked in 84. He is hitting .263. The other outfielder, Kole Calhoun, is having a down year with an average of just .214 but he does have power as he homered 19 times and had driven in 57. The only infielder that fans might know is shortstop Andrelton Simmons.

On Tuesday night, the A’s will send Liam Hendriks to the hill to pitch the first inning. Hendriks has pitched very well in this role as he has allowed just two hits and one run in four appearances. Mengden or Bassitt will come in to start the second inning. The Angels will counter with lefty Tyler Skaggs. Skaggs will be making his first appearance since August 11th when he went on the DL. Skaggs is 2-5 with a 5.32 ERA against the A’s in eight career starts.

On Wednesday, The A’s lefty Brett Anderson will try to return to form. In his last two starts, he has allowed nine runs on 14 hits in just six innings of work. Righty Felix Pena will handle the pitching chores for LAA. In his last eight starts, Pena has a 3.75 ERA and has gone at least six innings in each of his previous six starts.

On Thursday, The A’s Edwin Jackson will be seeking his sixth win the campaign. Since his recall from the minors, Jackson has been a pleasant surprise. His record is 5-3, and the A’s have won 12 of his 15 starts. The Angels will counter with Matt Shoemaker. Since coming off the DL on September 3rd, he has a 3.68 ERA in the three starts he made for LAA.

The A’s know what’s at stake. They have to keep winning if they hope to pass New York. The Yanks have six remaining against Boston, and the Red Sox could help the A’s by beating the Yanks. If the A’s pass the Yanks, they will host the one-game playoff at the Coliseum. If not, they will head to the Big Apple and face the Yanks in Yankee Stadium. The Yanks have built their lineup to take advantage of the dimension down the right field line and the short porch in right field. The A’s will be playing in front of a very hostile crowd, and they cannot let the jitters get to them.

A’s On Wrong Side in Extra Innings for First Time in 2014

By Matthew Harrington

For the first time in 2014, the Oakland Athletics ended up on the wrong side of an extra innings affair. The A’s suffered a walk-off loss 5-4 against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium Wednesday night in their fourth game requiring more than nine innings this season. Despite a 4-1 lead on a three-run home run from right fielder Brandon Moss and a two earned run performance over six-plus innings from starter Tommy Milone, the A’s bullpen failed to hang on to the lead. The Angels comeback, capped by Chris Iannetta’s game-winning blast off Drew Pomeranz in the bottom of the 12th inning, rallied the Halos (7-8)to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Athletics.

Oakland (10-5) appeared to have the game wrapped up after taking a 4-1 lead in the top of the fourth inning on Moss’ second long ball of the season. The left-hander’s no-doubter to right  off Angels starter Tyler Skaggs plated Alberto Callaspo and Derek Norris with two outs in the inning. For Moss, who hit out of the eighth spot against the lefty Skaggs instead of his usual spot in the heart of the order, the dinger marked RBI’s number 13, 14 and 15 of the season, tops on the Athletics and the best mark in the American League. Moss matches fellow AL-er Chris Colabello of the Twins for third place in the major leagues.

Earlier in the top of the fourth inning, Callaspo doubled home Josh Donaldson for a one-out, game-tying double. Callaspo finished the night 1-for-4 after entering play flirting with a .400 batting average, good for the second best mark in the American League behind Chicago’s Alexei Ramirez.

In the previous half inning, the Angels opened the scoring after Erick Aybar lead off the inning with a single to center then scored on Mike Trout’s double with one out.

Milone opened the seventh inning by hitting Iannetta with a pitch that bounced in the dirt before skimming the LA backstop’s toe. After A’s manager Bob Melvin challenged the play, replay evidence proved inconclusive with crew chief Chris Segal rewarding Iannetta first base. The next batter, Collin Cowgill, singled on the first delivery from Millone, prompting Melvin to lift the left-hander in favor of reliever Dan Otero. Milone finished the night with only one strikeout and two free passes in six-plus innings of work.

Otero coaxed Aybar to ground into a fielder’s choice with second baseman Eric Sogard electing to force Cowgill out at second. J.B. Shuck reached base on an error by Callaspo, making just his second career appearance at first base, allowing Iannetta to cross the plate for a 4-2 A’s lead. Otero downed Trout on a full-count swing-and-miss but Albert Pujols wrapped a single up the middle to cut the A’s advantage to one run at 4-3 after Aybar came around to score. Pujols’ base knock was the only Angels base hit in 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position Wednesday evening.

After the A’s went down in order in the top half of the eighth, Otero, Fernando Abad and Ryan Cook combined to pitch a scoreless bottom half. Angels reliever Fernando Salas pitched his first of two scoreless innings to keep the home team down by one entering the ninth.

Luke Gregerson, Melvin’s top candidate in the closer-by-committee approach adopted by the A’s amidst deposed closer Jim Johnson’s struggles, entered the ninth seeking his third save in four opportunities. Instead, the righty blew his second save of the season, allowing back-to-back singles to Trout and Pujols. Gregerson then yielded a run-scoring force out on a failed game-ending double play chance after Howie Kendrick beat out Eric Sogard’s pivot to first to knot the game at four runs apiece.

Angels relief arms Michael Kohn and Yoslan Herrera held Oakland scoreless in an inning each to set up Joe Smith as the winning pitcher in the 12th. Smith (1-0, 5.14 Era) struck out Gentry to open the inning, then plunked shortstop Jed Lowrie with a wild pitch to put the go-ahead run on first. Donaldson, the hero in Tuesday night’s 11 inning A’s win, advanced Lowrie into scoring position but clean-up hitter Yoenis Cespedes struck out to end the inning and the scoring threat. The left fielder went 0-for-6 on the night to join Nick Punto and Sogard as the only members of the A’s starting line-up to be held hitless.

With the A’s bullpen pitching 7 1/3 innings in Tuesday’s barn burner, Melvin used Gregerson to pitch the tenth as well before handing the ball over to lefty Drew Pomeranz in the 11th. Pomeranz (1-1, 2.16 ERA), a starter-turned-reliever, pitched 2 and 2/3 innings Tuesday night before taking the hill in Wednesday’s game. Pomeranz allowed a Pujols single in an otherwise uneventful 11th inning then stayed in the game looking to hold the Halos off the board in the 12th.

Pomeranz started the 12th on strong footing, inducing a David Freese ground out and a Raul Ibanez pop out to retire the first two men to the plate on only eight pitches in the inning. Iannetta ended Pomeranz’s run on the first pitch he saw, rocketing a 91 mph fastball at the belt to center field just right of the 396-foot marker. Center fielder Craig Gentry leapt at the wall to try to pull the game-winning shot back in from the brink, but the ball grazed off the glove’s tip and into the grass at the base of the rock pile in beyond the fence.

For the Angels, Wednesday’s win helped to skew the numbers in their favor at their home turf. In the last 22 meetings at Angel Stadium, the A’s have been victorious a lop-sided 15 times. Oakland wrapped up a nine-game road trip, going 7-2 after sweeping Minnesota and taking two-of-three from Seattle and Los Angeles.

Oakland gets an off-day Thursday to travel home before opening a weekend series at the O.Co Coliseum against the Houston Astros who, after a hot start, once again find themselves in the American League’s basement in the standings. They’ll counter A’s Ace Sonny Gray with Zach Cosart in Friday’s series-opener.