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Game #68: A’s early lead holds up against Angels

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It got slightly more interesting than expected

Los Angeles Angels v Oakland Athletics Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

After three innings it appeared the Oakland A’s might be on the way to a blowout victory, but by the end their bullpen was wrapping up a save.

The A’s held on to beat the Los Angeles Angels on Monday in their series opener at the Coliseum, but it got closer than expected after a big early lead. Oakland jumped out to a seven-run advantage, but finished with an 8-5 win that saw the Halos bring the tying run to the plate.

*** Click here to revisit tonight’s Game Thread! ***

The Angels put up the first run of the game with a solo homer in the 2nd inning, and the A’s responded in the bottom half with a dinger of their own. However, Sean Murphy hit his with a runner on base, so Oakland pulled ahead 2-1.

Then Oakland unloaded in the 3rd. They sent 11 batters to the plate, and by the end of it five runs had scored and starter Dylan Bundy had been yanked for a reliever. This was Bundy’s second start against the A’s this year, and both times he was knocked out after exactly 2⅓ innings.

It began like so many other A’s rallies this year, with a Mark Canha HBP. It was one of five HBPs by the two teams combined tonight — not because of any kind of beanball war, as none looked even remotely intentional, just some wildness on the mound. For Canha, it was his MLB-leading 13th time being pegged this season.

Next up was Tony Kemp, who continued his breakout year by ripping an RBI double into the RF corner. He advanced to third on the play when the outfielder juggled the ball on the way in, and then Matt Olson sent him home with a sac fly.

Oakland was up 4-1, and with one out on the board they were only getting started. Jed Lowrie walked, and Matt Chapman smoked a 108.3 mph rocket for a double. With runners on second and third, Mitch Moreland only needed to make some contact to earn another RBI, and he did so by pulling a grounder into a heavy infield shift. But somehow the ball skipped right under a glove and into right field for an unlikely single, and Moreland got two RBI instead.

Bundy exited, and Murphy greeted the new reliever by ripping a single, his second piece of triple-digit exit velocity tonight. Then the Halos finally recorded the second out of the inning, on a forceout by the eighth batter of the frame Seth Brown.

But they weren’t able to complete a double play on Brown’s grounder, so the inning kept going and Elvis Andrus singled home another run to make it 7-1. It’s the fourth straight game that Andrus has driven in a run.

By that point the A’s had batted around. Canha came up again and walked, his second time on base that inning without ever swinging the bat. But Kemp struck out to mercifully end the frame.

The game was now entering the 4th inning, and Oakland had a big lead with the opposing starter out of the game. For good measure they added another run in the 5th — Murphy was hit by a pitch, and Chad Pinder (pinch-hitting for Brown) doubled him home. It was the second time the Angels had pegged a batter and then paid for it by watching him come around to score.

It was now 8-1 A’s. Game over right?

Comeback attempt

Not quite!

Starter Sean Manaea kept the Angels off the board for the most part, but it wasn’t easy. The lefty wasn’t quite his sharpest, walking the first batter of the day and allowing a ton of hard contact, but he navigated through constant trouble on the bases and allowed only a solo homer.

  • Manaea: 5⅔ ip, 1 run, 5 Ks, 1 BB, 1 HR, 9 hits, 104 pitches, 94.7 mph EV

The problem was he didn’t quite make it through the 6th inning, which meant the bullpen would need to record 10 outs on a night when the Halos were making noise and seemed perpetually on the verge of breaking through.

They finally did just that against Burch Smith in the 7th inning. This time it was the A’s who pegged a batter to start a rally, and with two outs on the board, a single, double, walk, and single quickly piled up three runs. Sergio Romo replaced Smith and allowed another single, narrowing the lead to 8-5.

That final RBI hit off Romo was by David Fletcher, who went 4-for-5. Since the beginning of 2020, he’s batting .412 in 18 games against the A’s, and since the start of 2019 it’s .367 in 35 games.

After posting a crooked number in the 7th, the Angels threatened again in the 8th. Two runners reached base, bringing the tying run to the plate with two out, but Jake Diekman got out of it with a strikeout. Lou Trivino nailed down a perfect 9th to seal it.

It wasn’t as tense as some games we’ve seen this year, but it definitely got tighter than it seemed like it would. After five innings it was unraveling into a laugher, but it turned out to be no joke when both of Oakland’s closers were needed to punch in for duty.

Pinder HBP

The A’s came away with the win but took some bumps along the way. Four of the five HBPs tonight were of Oakland hitters, including Murphy twice, and behind the plate on defense he also received a backswing to the helmet.

But the worst blow was taken by Pinder. He tried to duck out of the way of a pitch in the 7th, but in doing so he knocked his helmet out of place, and the ball appeared to peg him directly in the back of the head. He exited the game, but for now the good news is he has not entered concussion protocol.

Pinder will be reevaluated Tuesday.

Just keep hitting

The A’s lineup keeps rolling, and everybody is hot. They reached base 19 times tonight, including a non-solo homer and three doubles, and with runners in scoring position they collected two hits and a sac fly. And they put together a Big Inning featuring 11 batters and five runs. Keep doing that and you’ll win a lot of games, even when the pitching staff isn’t perfect.