At the end of a physically, mentally, and emotionally grueling homestand, the A's just didn't have enough left in the tank to pull off yet another miraculous come-from-behind victory, dropping the series finale to the Angels 5-4. If only they could have accomplished a non-miraculous play in the first 8 innings, the tale might have ended differently. However in the larger view, a series win and nice bounceback from an atrocious road trip isn't so bad.
The tale of missed opportunities started right in the first inning. The A's had Angels' starter CJ Wilson at 30 pitches. He managed to load the bases on two walks and a Yoenis Cespedes infield single, getting two outs along the way. Nate Freiman stepped up to the plate, and got all of a Wilson curveball on the second pitch. Unfortunately the screaming liner ended up in Mike Trout's glove. And so it would go the entire afternoon, with Wilson getting himself into jams, working out of them, and the Angels doing just enough to scrape by.
Three of the Angels' runs were on solo shots, all given up by A's starter Tommy Milone: Howie Kendrick in the second (aided by swirling winds), then homers by Trout and Mark Trumbo in the 6th.
The A's did have an answer to Kendrick's home run. Cespedes was hit by a pitch and then knocked in by a Josh Donaldson double (psst...he may be the best 3B in the American League right now) as he ran through third-base coach Mike Gallego's stop sign. Freiman banged Donaldson in with another double, and it looked like Wilson was ticketed for a short afternoon and the overworked Angels bullpen would be thrown to the wolves. Alas, it was not to be.
In total, the A's left 13 men on base, including four combined in the 8th and 9th innings. Still, they might have had a chance to win had they not made some defensive mistakes.
In the top of the 5th, after a leadoff Hamilton single, Howie Kendrick hit a tailor-made double play ball. Instead of letting it go to the sure-handed Adam Rosales, Milone tried to make a play on the ball and deflected it to the left side. No play, everybody safe. Somebody needs to stop our pitchers from fielding. Between Brett Anderson stabbing at line drives with his bare hand and spraining his ankle on mild jumps, Bartolo Colon straining his fat fielding routine bunts, Parker not being able to cover first in time, and now Milone making ill-advised stabs at the ball...Greg Maddux they ain't. To his credit, Milone almost worked out of it but new arch-nemesis J.B. Shuck struck again to drive in Hamilton.
In the 8th, Cespedes was backing up to the warning track to catch a deep but relatively routine flyball off the bat of Trout. Unfortunately, he just plain slipped and fell, and Trout ended up at third. Rather than bases empty, two outs, it's Trout at third, one out, and Pujols at the plate. Pujols' sacrifice fly drove in the all-important insurance run. Pat Neshek managed to walk Trumbo, allow a single to Hamilton, and a single to Erick Aybar. In a play that I personally have never seen before, Reddick flashed that gold glove, cleanly fielding Aybar's single and throwing a bullet to get Hamilton going to third base before Trumbo could score from second, ending the inning. That single would have put the score at 6-2 with virtually any other right fielder, and that's why Reddick has retained his everyday job through this abysmal stretch of hitting.
In the bottom of the 8th inning, the A's were down 5-2. Fans of most baseball teams might have lost hope. However, those lucky enough to be in the walk-off capital of baseball were just relishing the chance at MOAR PIE. True to form, the comeback train started rolling. Freiman was hit by a pitch. After Reddick reached on a fielder's choice, newcomer Luke Montz, whose major league experience consisted of 10 games in 2008, belted a double to score Reddick. Rosales drove in Montz with a single. 5-4. John Jaso, pinch-hitting for Derek Norris (who grounded into a double play to end the 6th inning...aaarggghhh) drew a walk off of Angels closer Ernesto Frieri. The red-hot Seth Smith stepped to the plate with 2 on, 2 out...and struck out swinging.
With Cespedes leading off the 9th, A's fans were all aware of the possibility that he could tie the game in the 9th inning for the third time in four games. I think that comes out to a WPA of a zillion. Frieri knew that as well, and wanted no part of Yoenis Cespedes, who absolutely murdered his pitch on Monday night to send the game into extras (and extras, and extras). With his pitch count running high and his fatigue apparent, he threw a pitch two feet inside in what was undoubtedly an intentional beanball. I'm sure that Cespedes' stare down of the aforementioned 9th inning RBI factored into that decision. However, the A's had the tying run on base, no outs, Donaldson and Moss coming up. This is a good thing. Well, it's a good thing until the guy on first steals a base with time to spare, overslides the bag, and is tagged out. Between the drop and the overslide, Cespedes had a rough game.
There were a couple surprises from the Angels today. Mark Trumbo had a helluva game on defense in right field dealing with the wind and the sun, taking good routes to balls and making some nice catches on the warning track. Hopefully this is just a freak occurrence. Another startling development from the Angels: Josh Hamilton went 2-4 from the DH spot.
On the A's side, new guy Luke Montz, displayed power to all fields, just missing extra bases (or more) on two loud outs and finally connecting on the 8th-inning double. His reward? Getting pinch-hit for by Sogard with 2 on, 2 out, bottom of the 9th.
Still...look at that 8th inning again. Freiman, Reddick, Montz, Rosales. This is what depth gets you, my friends; the A's had a chance to win a game against a loaded Angels squad with half a lineup consisting of a AA player, a guy hitting worse than said AA player (to be fair Reddick did reach base three times today), a 10-year minor leaguer, and a guy who has lost position battles to Eric Sogard and Cliff Pennington. And they lost because their best player, the only one who would unquestionably start on every major league team, made a couple of bad plays. Shit happens.
Off day tomorrow, travel to the Bronx for the weekend series.