Cotton and the Longball
Jharel Cotton is still going through growing pains and we need to remember to be patient with him and the rest of the young staff this season. Cotton managed to show a great deal of potential while simultaneously getting godawful results, surrendering 7 runs in the first 4 innings and also striking out 7.
Cotton looked absolutely masterful for his first 6 pitches, striking out Escobar and Calhoun with ease and using all of his pitches flawlessly. I know it’s only 6 pitches, but it’s probably the best 6 consecutive pitches we’ve seen all year...which made it all the more surprising when Pujols absolutely blasted a changeup to left field and gave the Angels a first inning lead.
We saw a terrific defensive play from both Alonso and Cotton in the 2nd. Alonso ranged well back and to his right to field a bouncer, then made a perfect throw to Cotton who beat the speedy Cameron Maybin to the bag by inches. It was an all-around perfectly executed play...which made it all the more surprising when Ben Revere hit a ball to deep right field and tied the game, 2-2. It was honestly not a terrible pitch by Cotton, but the same can’t be said when he immediately allowed back-to-back singles to Cliff Pennington and Maldonado, and then a 3-run home run to Yunel Escobar to make it 5-2 Angels. It was puzzling to watch - Cotton looked masterful, until he looked like absolute garbage. His pitches had tons of movement and he was consistently throwing them for strikes, but he just wasn’t fooling anyone and any pitch that missed its location even a bit was getting crushed. Those four hits in the 2nd, all with two outs, really hurt. It seemed like a combination of the Angels hitters being ready for the changeup (they were swinging behind fastballs), and Cotton throwing too many pitches in the zone where their aggression would pay off.
Cameron Maybin opened the 4th with a double to left center that looked like it was possibly catchable for either of the Davises. This was followed by a Ben Revere sharp single and a Cliff Pennington bloop to make it 6-2 with a couple runners on, still 0 outs. A bunt advanced the runners to second and third and a groundout scored Revere to make it 7-2.
Cotton ultimately pitched 5 innings before being pulled for Josh Smith, who was called up last week after the Doolittle injury. Smith had a very quick 1-2-3 inning in the 6th, and then again in the 7th. He threw a good 8th as well, aside from a walk. Ultimately, Smith got through all 3 innings on 33 pitches and showed good control, though the Angels hitters made some easy outs early in their at-bats. Coulombe hit a batter in the 9th but otherwise got the outs.
Yonder Can Only Carry So Hard
In the bottom of the 1st, back when the game was completely in reach and Pujols had just homered, Rajai Davis took an uncharacteristic walk and promptly tripled his season stolen base count, snagging second and then third against catcher Martín Maldonado’s mighty arm. I guess the hamstring is doing better. With a leadoff runner at third, even the A’s couldn’t blow this, right? Jed Lowrie promptly struck out on a pitch a foot outside and Khris Davis lined out to the third baseman. We geared up for a classic teAse, but AL MVP Yonder Alonso came up to bat and decided he would join Rajai Davis in padding his stats. Alwx Meyer made a mistake and threw a fastball right down the middle and Alonso burned the 98mph pitch to hit his 10th home run of the year and put the A’s up 2-1.
The A’s managed to load the bases with 2 outs in the bottom of the 3rd thanks to a couple of walks, but Ryon Healy had an ugly at-bat and couldn’t get the big hit the team needed. They showed on screen that he’s now 1-10 in his career with the bases loaded, with 6 strikeouts. This failure with runners on base would prove to be the theme of the night for Oakland.
The only other A’s offense came with Yonder Alonso’s ELEVENTH home run of the year in the 6th, his second of the game. 7-3 Angels.
The A’s got a runner in scoring position in the 4th, 6th, 8th, and 9th, but failed to score any of them. Joyce and Maxwell singled to follow Alonso’s home run but were stranded. Healy and Plouffe were left waiting in the 8th, the inning where we saw Canha’s first at-bat back at the major league level (an oppo warning track fly ball). The A’s were actually moderately patient and walked 7 times, but just couldn’t do anything at all with their opportunities.
Rosales and Rajai Davis both walked to lead off the 9th inning, and things threatened to get interesting. Bud Norris came in and faced Jed Lowrie, who hit a line drive…right into Cliff Pennington’s glove, who then threw to second base to get Rosales before he could tag up. Double play. Khris Davis grounded out weakly and that was the ballgame.
I officially regret my comment in the initial game thread about accepting a 7-2 game where the outcome was never in doubt. The final game of the series is tomorrow at 12:35.