For 8 innings it looked like it was Albert Pujols' day, and just a "night of frustration" for the A's hitters. But with one mighty swing off the bench, pinch-hitter John Jaso blasted a "no-doubt" 2-run HR off of Angels' closer Ernesto Frieri that turned a potential 2-1 loss into a 3-1 win -- and a 6-1 road trip so far.
Jesse Chavez was terrific for the 3rd start in a row, lasting 7 IP and allowing 2 runs, just one earned, striking out 9 and not walking a batter. However, he was behind all night. In the 1st, following Kyle Calhoun's single, with one out a passed ball allowed Calhoun to reach 2B and then Pujols bounced a single up the middle to bring in an unearned run.
Chavez' only other blemish was a flat cutter that Pujols lost into the left-center field rock formations in the 3rd inning to give the Angels a 2-0 lead. Meanwhile, Yoenis Cespedes got one back for Oakland when he launched a Hector Santiago changeup over the CF wall in the 4th.
Meanwhile, the #8-#9 tandem of Josh Reddick and Daric Barton didn't disappoint their many critics, each going 0-4 and looking every bit the part. Santiago pitched well (7 IP, 1 ER) and Joe Smith coaxed a scoreless 8th despite hitting Brandon Moss.
Really, though, all the interesting action came in the 9th. Donaldson battled Frieri and finally ripped a single up the middle, Cespedes battled hard before flying to fairly deep CF -- after taking his hand off the bat to request time only to have the request denied. Jaso pinch-hit for Derek Norris and after fouling back a couple fastballs timed one from Frieri and just clocked it.
Jaso is hitting a gaudy .424 for his career at Angels Stadium, the highest average of any player with at least 75 plate appearances. Remember his pinch-hit game winner off of Kevin Jepsen last year?
The bottom of the 9th had its share of drama too. Luke Gregerson got the call for his second save opportunity and wound up working a 1-2-3 inning, but only because out #2 was upheld on replay. Howie Kendrick hit a sharp grounder to Nick Punto that Punto bobbled, picked up and fired to 1B to a stretching Barton maybe 1/100 of a step before Kendrick hit the bag.
Kendrick was initially called out and as best as I could tell after multiple looks he was in fact out, so barely it would be hard to argue the call as "bad" had it been made either way. But given the lack of "clear and conclusive evidence" to overturn the call it stood, and one batter later the A's were in the clubhouse celebrating a win they snatched from the jaws of defeat.
Chavez is the real deal. He now has 22 Ks and 2 BBs in 20 IP to go with a 1.50 ERA. He has this year's "hard luck pitcher" and as a result he is still winless, but he has excelled in each of his 3 starts and it's no fluke: He is throwing the ball extremely well. And the A's have the early season mojo in full throttle.