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Game #4: Angels can’t solve Triggs, A’s salvage split

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Nice tri, angles, but Triggs is tough.

Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s salvaged a split in their season-opening four-game series against the Angels, earning a 5-1 victory in the finale Thursday afternoon.

Andrew Triggs, making his first start of the year, pitched into the 6th for Oakland and allowed just one unearned run. The bullpen gave up only one hit the rest of the way to shut down the Angels’ pesky lineup, and Ryon Healy provided the big blow on offense with a mammoth home run.

Here’s a closer look at the action!

Triggs passes first test

Not only was this Andrew Triggs’ first start of the season, it was just the eighth of his professional career dating back through 2012. He looked good in his brief audition last summer after moving from the bullpen to the rotation, and now it’s time to see how he handles the role over the long haul.

At first Triggs struggled to find the strike zone, and through two innings he’d thrown 42 pitches, issued two walks, and given up some line drives. But he gutted his way through that shaky beginning, and when he finally allowed a run in the 3rd it wasn’t even his fault — a leadoff single, extended to second via an error by Rajai in CF, came around to score on some productive groundouts.

From there, Triggs settled down. He only needed 20 pitches to breeze through the next two frames 1-2-3, and he nearly made it through the 6th before a pair of two-out singles ended his day. He finished with a career-high 91 pitches.

Triggs’ final line doesn’t look dominant — 5⅔ ip, 1 K, 3 BB, 4 hits (all singles) — but he found a way to keep the Angels off the board. A few notes on his outing:

  • According to Gameday, he reached at least 90.0 mph exactly twice: once to his first batter (90.1), and once to his last batter (90.0). Velocity isn’t everything! (There were a couple 89.9’s mixed in too.)
  • The real question against the Angels is what you do with Mike Trout. Triggs beat him the first time up, getting an off-balance swing (and flyout) on an excellent 3-2 slider. Next time up, he walked on five pitches with a runner on third base (fair enough). The third time up, he swung at the first pitch and grounded out routinely to third base. Shutting down Trout is an important first step in shutting down the Angels.
  • As noted in that last bullet point, Triggs went through the lineup three times, which is a key test for a converted reliever who wants to show that he can fool the same hitters multiple times during one long start. That third time through, the Angels went 2-for-6 with a couple line drive singles.
  • Triggs’ first two innings: 6 balls in air, 1 on ground. His final four innings: 9 on ground, 4 in air. He’s best when he’s keeping the ball on the ground.

There’s plenty of room for improvement in Triggs’ 2017 debut, especially in the walk column. But he checked some promising boxes: made it into the 6th on a reasonable pitch count, got better as he went along and got in a groove, stayed strong third time thru the lineup, didn’t let rallies get out of hand, and kept the other team’s best hitter at bay. It’s only one game, but it was a solid one — Triggs and his curve showed all the sines of being the right man for the job.

Outfield defense

It was rainy for parts of this game, and that probably had something to do with the three outfield errors committed by the two teams.

Rajai Davis and Mike Trout each had a ball skip right past them in the 3rd inning while fielding routine singles. Rajai’s provided the extra 90 feet that led to Triggs’ unearned run, and Trout’s tied the game right back up in the bottom of the frame when Adam Rosales scored from first on Marcus Semien’s hit.

Earlier, in the 2nd, Mark Canha misjudged a bounce in RF and had a ball clank off his glove, allowing an extra base on a single. That one didn’t lead to any runs, though.

The errors by Rajai and Canha were the A’s first of the season, but frankly all three of these miscues looked like they could have been the result of the ball skipping extra fast on wet grass. Canha in particular is under the spotlight, between his inexperience and his rust after a lost 2016 season, but I’m not worried about the outfield’s shaky fielding in this one.

Crooked number

After tying the game in the 3rd on Trout’s error, the A’s kept the rally going to notch the only big inning they’d need. Semien had reached third base on the play, and Khris Davis eventually knocked him in with a sac fly to take the lead. But the real dagger came off the bat of Ryon Healy, who smashed a two-run homer deep into the LF bleachers (link to video).

(HitTracker says: 426 feet, 108.1 mph off the bat.)

Interestingly, Tyler Skaggs appeared to make the precise pitch he was going for — he tried to sneak a fastball by Healy and he hit his spot exactly, but Healy just destroyed it. Maybe he wanted it centimeteres farther toward the outside, but it’s not like this was a hanging curve or anything. Healy’s just good, and he really bossed Skaggs around there.

The A’s added some insurance in the 6th. Khris Davis lined a double down the LF chalk, and Trevor Plouffe stayed back on a Skaggs curve and dumped it into center to drive him in. That 5-1 score proved to be the final.

One final note: The A’s have drawn 13 walks so far, and seven of them have gone to Semien and Khrush. Both of those guys posted sub-.310 OBPs last year, and if either or both could start drawing walks and getting on base then they could really take the next step forward as hitters. Stay tuned to this development and let’s see if it continues!

Bullpen: Almost perfect

The A’s pen made the end of this game refreshingly mundane. Liam Hendriks, Santiago Casilla, and Sean Doolittle struck out six of the 11 batters they faced, and the only baserunner they allowed over 3⅓ scoreless frames was a two-out single in the 9th.

Two bullpen highlights: Casilla got Trout on a check-swing groundout, and Doolittle earned a strikeout on a breaking ball against C.J. Cron. Repeat: Doolittle struck someone out on something other than a fastball. Looked like a high slider. He earned three more strikes on sliders both high and low (one swinging, two foul), while operating his fastball around 93-94 mph (sliders were around 80-82).

The A’s pen has now appeared in four games this season.

  1. Mon: They were awesome, throwing three scoreless to save a close win.
  2. Tue: They blew it in the 9th. Whoops!
  3. Wed: They threw 4⅔ of scoreless mopup duty.
  4. Thu: They retired 10 of 11 batters faced to wrap up another win.

Add it up, and that’s three great performances and one bad pitch by Ryan Dull that ruined what would otherwise have been a fourth great performance. Remove Dull’s one poor inning and you get the following combined line: 13 ip, 0 runs, 8 hits, 2 BB, 14 Ks.

* * *

The A’s will now head to Texas to face the Rangers, who are winless so far at 0-3 after being swept by the Indians to start the season. Friday’s matchup (5 p.m. PT) pits Oakland’s Raul Alcantara against familiar face A.J. Griffin. Baseballgirl will have your thread.

P.S. Jose Canseco is once again a part of our world now, and I love absolutely everything about it. He’s going to be so much damn fun this year.