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.