By Morris Phillips
Nerves were written all over the first major league appearance for Raul Alcantara.
Alcantara, the sixth pitcher to make his first big league start for the A’s this season, walked a batter, hit three more, and was charged with a balk, belying the excellent stats he compiled in his brief stint with AAA Nashville. Plenty frustrating, and aided by some questionable calls by home plate umpire Vic Carapazza, Alcantara’s afternoon started with some pretty good pitches. Then things deteriorated quickly.
With one out, and an 0-2 count against Mike Trout, Alcantara plunked the slugger, allowing his first baserunner. Albert Pujols, doing his professional hitter thing, calmly deliver a single to center. Again on a 0-2 count, C.J. Cron singled to load the bases. Alcantara then plunked Jefry Marte, walked Andrelton Simmons and allowed a run-scoring, sacrifice fly to Nick Buss putting the Angels up 3-0.
In the second, Alcantara allowed a homer to Kole Calhoun. In the third, Simmons doubled, then moved to third on Carapazza’s questionable balk call, and scored on Buss’ second run-scoring sacrifice fly.
Needless to say, very few pitchers have experienced a big league debut like Alcantara. In fact, he became just the second A’s pitcher–and the first in 86 seasons–to hit three batters and commit a balk. Still, the guy who compiled a 1.18 ERA in Nashville, striking out 24, and walking just three over eight starts bears watching according to manager Bob Melvin.
“Toward the end of his outing we saw the stuff that we think we’re going to see, and he got better as he went along,” Melvin said. “Sometimes nerves hit you in your first outing, especially when a couple of things transpire.”
Through an interpreter, Alcantara denied nerves, saying “I was trying to make perfect pitches.”
Down 5-2 when Alcantara departed, the A’s would fall behind 8-2 in the fifth before rallying. With three runs in the fourth, a single run in the fifth, and another impressive opposite field blast from Khris Davis in the seventh, the A’s made a game of it, crawling within 8-7.
But with the game on the line, a pair of sloppy errors allowed the Angels to add on in the ninth and win 10-7. Having won just 11 times in their last 35 ballgames, it was more of the same for the A’s, but a few interesting happenings outside of Alcantara’s debut took this one outside the mundane.
Angels’ starter Jered Weaver was hit by a ball off the bat of Danny Valencia in the third, taking a shot to his hip and buttocks that he said wasn’t serious, but caused some numbness. But just one day after the entire Angels’ organization was frightened by starter Matt Shoemaker being hit in the head by a batted ball in Seattle, it was definitely alarming.
Shoemaker remains in Seattle where he was operated on overnight after suffering a small skull fracture. He was speaking after the surgery, and seems on track to return to Souther California at the end of the week. Out of caution, as much as ineffectiveness, Weaver lasted just four innings on Monday.
Despite the abbreviated start, Weaver became the third pitcher to compile 2,000 innings pitched in an Angels uniform, joining Nolan Ryan and Chuck Finley.
Sean Doolittle pitched the seventh inning, his first appearance for the A’s since June 25 after battling shoulder issues. Joey Wendle, the A’s starter at second base, picked up his first RBI in the big leagues in the fourth.
Sonny Gray, Chris Bassitt and Felix Doubront–three fifths of the A’s rotation at the beginning of the season made appearances before the game, all doing soft tossing in the field in the hopes they can at some point resume throwing off the mound. None of three are expected to pitch again this season.
The A’s will face Angels’ starter Ricky Nolasco in the series second game on Tuesday evening. Ross Detwiler was scratched from the start when he was ushered into Monday’s game in relief of Alcantara in the fourth. Zach Neal will instead make the start for the A’s on Tuesday.